So we don’t need to reinvent the wheel

Brian Hodge is brilliant. His short stories and novels have long been favorites of mine. I had the privilege of autographing next to Brian at a WFC some thirty years ago. He’s a genuinely nice guy as well as a talented writer. He proves his talent and his nicety once again in his essay “The Infrastructure of the Gods: 11 Signposts for Going All the Way” in Writers on Writing: An Author’s Guide Vol 1 from Crystal Lake Publishing (August 2015). Brian speaks the truth when he says “Bottom line publishing is not a zero-sum game. Somebody else’s success does not come at the expense of your own. If anything, it’s proof of what’s possible, because somebody just did it.”

Brian continues his advice for writers with signposts 7-11 of “The Infrastructure of the Gods: 11 Signposts for Going All the Way” in Writers on Writing: An Author’s Guide Vol 2 (November 2015). Bottom line: If you want to play the game, first learn the rules and then play nice.

Lucy A. Snyder is a fine short story writer and an excellent teacher of the art and craft. In “Well, that Escalated Quickly”, Lucy talks about her own struggles to organize and conduct classes that matter. She is open and honest about her own processes and self-doubts. I found her essay interesting, but academic.

Daniel I. Russell’s “Submit (to Psychology) for Acceptance” tackles the psychological reasons for submitting to anthologies, magazines, and contests. Writers, like everyone else, exhibit self-serving biases and self-handicapping behaviors. We all display an internal or external locus of control in our writing and in our acknowledgements of acceptance and rejection. An external locus of control can lead to learned helplessness as an “out for failure.” Russell suggests that writers should “know thyself” and what makes us act and react the way we do as a way to write better and stay in the game.

Paul Kane talks about crafting conflict between heroes and villains. Theresa Derwin talks about building characters from real-life observations. Jonathan Winn talks about overcoming the dreaded writer’s block. Mark Allan Gunnells discusses the short story. James Everington talks about first drafts and the art of revision.

It’s always helpful to learn how other writers do it, and to realize that you’re not alone. Writing is a solitary profession, but all good writers build on what other’s writers have achieved. Not only do we need to read fiction voraciously (good and bad fiction alike), but we need to read about what other writers have learned so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel and we can pick up where other writers leave off.




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