WORDS FROM THE WISE/PART 20 – Lynda E. Rucker & Simon Kurt Unsworth
(It’s all about the Work)
Lynda E.Rucker/Simon Kurt Unsworth
We’ve got a double whammy for you this month, two emerging raconteurs of the macabre. Lynda Rucker and Simon Kurt Unsworth are both on the cusp of obtaining their own eternal mantles in mainstream horror – but success wasn’t easy to come by for either of them, it took a lot of hard work and perseverance.
Here’s their Words from the Wise…
The question posed to each author is – “A young author comes to you seeking advice. They’re riddled with insecurities and completely overwhelmed by the publishing industry. What are your Words from the Wise?”
LR – Well, if you’re a beginning writer, the first thing I would say is that if you’re worrying about the publishing industry, you’re putting the cart way in front of the horse. Throughout your writing career, it’s first and foremost about the work, the story, and the words on the page—not the publishing industry, not literary squabbles or personal feuds, not social media, not whatever you’re hearing about what’s hot in your genre right now.
It’s all about the work. This is the most important piece of advice I would give to anyone, at any stage of their writing career.
Don’t get distracted. By any of it. The writers who become great are not the ones who worried about what editors were buying this year or anything else like that. This sounds horribly pretentious, and I kind of want to slap myself for saying it, but it’s true: you have to find and follow your own vision wherever it takes you.
As for the publishing industry, one of the best pieces of advice I got early on was from Jeanne Cavelos, who runs the Odyssey Writing Workshop and used to be a senior editor at Dell. She said you should think of writing and publishing as wearing two different hats, and when you’re writing, you slap your writing hat on and you don’t even think about publishing, you ignore it completely. And then when it comes time to publish, then and only then should you put on your publishing hat and start thinking about things like marketing and become a hard-nosed business person. (Or, I would add to that, finding an agent to be your hard-nosed business person, because that is not something that comes naturally to most of us writers, and that’s okay.)
Keep at it. If what you write is even a little bit unconventional or not the flavor-of-the-month, it might take you a lot longer to get where you’re going than you could ever imagine. Writing is hard. Rising above the slush and getting an editor’s attention is really hard, especially in the first few years when you’re a nobody. People write a lot of words, a lot of short stories, a lot of novels before they hit on something that gets published…and then sometimes a whole lot more before anyone pays any attention.
Just because you aren’t getting published quickly or aren’t getting attention quickly doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re doing it wrong. In fact, it might mean that you’re doing it very, very right—you’re telling the stories that only you can tell in a way that only you can tell them, and if that’s the case, it might take the editors and readers a little bit longer to catch up to you.
SKU – So, you’re riddled with insecurities? Full of doubt? You feel overwhelmed by the publishing industry? Good.
You should be insecure and doubtful, because to be secure and sure is to be smug and complacent and stop evolving. The trick is to not let the doubts and insecurity overwhelm you or prevent you from so starting in the first place, and there’s a simple way to do this. Are you ready to hear it? Are you listening closely? Good, because here is comes: write. Keep writing, and then write some more.
The first thing you write will be terrible, the second a little better, the third a little better again until eventually, hopefully, you’ll start to be a good writer, but don’t ever feel that you’re as good as you can be because every time you write something you should be stretching to be better.
Listen to criticism that’s helpfully given, value your rejections and listen to the reasons why you’ve been rejected when they’re offered, learn how to judge when a thing is done, and stop tinkering with it right there and then. Remember that it’s okay to disagree with your editor’s suggestions for improvements if you’re sure that they won’t actually improve anything, be polite and support your fellow writers, and write.
And then write some more.