Okay, from reading the comments lately, I’m sensing that in my effort to express myself and be emphatic, my last post concerning Pool’s suspended status may have come across as angry. I need to be clear here. I’m not angry. I don’t blame my Romance readers or feel bullied by them. I made what I believe was a sound decision and if it was motivated mainly by the thought of losing readers and, by extension, future funds, well, that’s why I call writing my job and not my hobby.
Look, it’s like this: Say I owned an ice cream shop. There’s a lot of ice cream shops in the world, a lot of ice cream shops just in my city. Most of them are bigger than me and have the advantage of brand-recognition. I, of course, do not feel threatened by this, because I know I serve up my own flavors that the big ice cream shops in general do not supply. They serve vanilla, chocolate, strawberry…maybe a salted caramel cone once in a while, or a strawberry cheesecake ripple, or funky berry blend, but for the most part, their customers know what they’re going to get and the big shop delivers and that’s why they’re the biggest and best known.
That’s cool (get it? Ice cream), because I serve the flavors you don’t get anywhere else. I’m talking maple-bacon sundae, pumpkin and white chocolate chip, cinnamon and chili-pepper swirl, lingonberry and banana. And these are great flavors and most of my customers love them, but they are not for everyone. And this is a business and it has expenses like every other business, including but certainly not limited to putting something in my fridge at home besides ice cream, and that means that as much fun as I have blending up flavors and even trying them out on my family and friends, if the majority of my customers don’t like a certain flavor, I don’t put it out there. My honey-roasted mealworm ripple tastes amazing, but it’s not what most people expect, and if I can keep those customers merely by offering sweet corn and jalapeno instead, that’s what I’ll do. They’re still trying something outside their comfort zone, I’m still not serving up plain vanilla, everyone’s happy!
I hope that’s cleared that up, because I like a friendly atmosphere and I truly believe my readers are some of the most open-minded people in the world. They’d have to be, wouldn’t they?
So! Moving on to the real reason for today’s post!
I write books for a living, and because I write books for a living, I have a number of relatives, friends and casual acquaintances who keep their eyes open on the internet for any helpful advice aimed at people who want to write books for a living. In fact, because two of my sisters and my father write, and because we all live in the same household, hardly a day goes by that one of us doesn’t get a thought-provoking little something forwarded to us or posted to our timeline or physically placed in our reluctant hands.
A short time ago, my sister got two of these gems in one day—the first, a list of common mistakes new writers make, and the other a checklist of things an author should always try to do first before resorting to using a flashback. We discussed these lists for a good hour, first with each other and then the other writing members of the family, and we reached one ultimate consensus: There is a lot of advice directed at new authors out there on that internet, but an unfair percentage of it is bollocks. Well-meaning bollocks, mostly, but some big old hairy dangling bollocks nonetheless.
At the same time, my own advice until now has also been a musky heap of jockstrap filler, well-intentioned as I am. I am still so astonished and tickled that people even read my books that I can’t even begin to wrap my head around telling people how to write them. And since I want to avoid giving the same stupid checklists of dos and don’ts, up until now, my advice has consisted mainly of stuff like finding your voice, learning the craft and not expecting to get famous overnight. I’m sure most of you recognize that as being simultaneously great advice and also completely useless.
Recently, I was once again asked about my own creative process and what advice I would give to new writers, and it got me thinking about my answer in a whole new way. Not necessarily about what advice I’d give, but more about why I wouldn’t give the advice that’s already out there. And because I am trying, like, so hard to blog more regularly, I have decided to blow this simple subject out into an eight-week symposium I shall call “R. Lee Smith’s Simple Eight-Week Symposium on the Art of Storytelling,” subtitled, “WAT R WERDS?”
I hope you all brought your textbook.
I will be posting lessons every Wednesday or, as it shall henceforth be known, Writer’s Workshop Wednesday, beginning with Lesson One: Rules for Beginning Writers (and why you should break them). Hope to see you all there!