Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Don't be a Blockhead.

During my time as a writer, I've suffered only a few bouts of writers block. It has never been a consuming issue with me, but when it did arise it was generally due to some mild depression on my part. Recently I did struggle with writers block and couldn't figure out what was keeping me from finishing a project. Finally, I recognized the problem and have been working through it to finish the job. I won't get into the details, but as soon as I came to grips with the issue I was able to start working again.

One of the things that I did was to set the problematic project aside as the main focus of my work and tackle the second part of a contractual obligation for which I have a lot of enthusiasm that was not tinged by the problems that was causing me to balk on the other one. By doing that I went from producing anywhere from zero to a few hundred words per day to working at a fine clip that has me ending my writing day with anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 words.

For me, 5,000 words of fiction is a very good day. I've been doing that often as I labor on the new
book. But compared to some writers, that's a rather anemic output. I always like to tell young writers about Lester Dent. He was one of the great pulp writers of his day, and could produce an entire 60,000 to 70,000-word novel over the course of a weekend. Similarly, Georges Simenon could churn out exceptionally fine detective novels at a clip equal to that.

I don't see myself ever being on a par with fellows like Dent or Simenon in the production of fiction. These men were both driven and had a strange form of devotion and discipline to their work ethic. I'd like to be able to achieve that level of writing, but all I can do is try.

There are some writers these days who match the output of guys like Dent and Simenon. These fellows are products of the self-publishing fad. The more successful of them have no talent at writing fiction, but seem quite adept at marketing and salesmanship. They're  like the more odious of the shysters and Amway crooks, and nothing at all like the honest working class writers such as the gentlemen I've cited.


Lawrence Roy Aiken said...

I'm curious to see how much better the Dent and Simenon are to the self-pubbers. I don't doubt Dent and Co. are better; I just want to see by what magnitude of degree and how they do it.

I've noticed most (if not all) of the self-pub writers follow the formula as Dent and his peers did. Instead of using that formula as a proper guide for sequencing scenes with actual characters, however, the self-pubbers print the formula outline and change the names: "The monsters showed up. They killed a lot of people. People were sad. The hero got mad. He pulled out his 757-caliber Fartknocker Gesundheit Special Forces-issue Longbarrel Plinker with a range of 3.5 AU and a stopping power of 9.75 WTFs and blew those fuckers clear into the next book. The one woman in the entire universe (as far as the narrative is concerned) gives him ass for his troubles. The End." It occurs to me that one can easily stand above this crowd by taking an extra five to fifteen minutes tweaking. Time is money, though, so here we are. Damned if some of those people wouldn't benefit from writer's block, though. Us, too.

James Robert Smith said...

The self-pubbers don't hold a candle to someone like Simenon. Dent...on his worst days...maybe not so much as his work was a product of his day and largely dated.

Simenon obviously--after 200+ novels--repeated himself a bit. But he wrote really good fiction that holds up decades after it was written. The self-pubbers crap will still be crap in ten years...the only difference is no one will read it, at all.

Also...there is no such thing as high art among the self-pubbers (love that term). Just rubber-stamped garbage.