Monday, June 25, 2012

The Worst Writing/Publishing Advice I Ever Did Get

It seems like every author I know is blogging about the best and worst writing advice they ever got. My colleague Stant Litore just published his in a very cool blog at ZOMBIE BIBLE, and I thought I would do the same here. Only difference with my little piece is that I am including publishing advice as well as some other gossipy juicy tidbits.

1. If you write five good stories in your life, that's a lot.

Source: Creative writing prof at MFA school. What a douche.

2. It's image that propels a novel, not plot.

Source: Creative writing prof at MFA school. I actually did my thesis on this huge pile of steaming MFA-writing-style dog shit. Ok, there's some veracity to it, but if you don't have a plot in your novel, than you might as well, ummmmm, teach at an MFA program for a living.

3. If it isn't literary it's sub-par.

Source: MFA school in general. For the most part I write in the hard-boiled genre and my sentences are at least as good as some stuck up literary stiff who wouldn't know a plot if it got undressed in front of him.

4. "When I begin to read violence in a novel, I toss the book across the room."

Source: That's a direct quote by an MFA prof of mine who spoke with a faux French accent and had written one novel about working as a used car salesman like thirty-five years ago, and nothing ever since. That's because he considers himself such a great writer that putting words on a page, not to mention words that convey violence, is beneath him. Again, total fucking douche.

5. "You can write on the side while you work for your family business."

Source: I can't tell you but it's a direct quote. Enough said about that topic...But sill, if I were to translate it would be, "You can be miserable and trapped like the rest of us or you can write and have a great life."

6.  "You will never get another major deal again."

Source: A local independent bookstore owner who is supposed to be a pillar of society. Two months later I proceeded to sell a couple hundred thousand copies of The Innocent, The Remains, and Godchild, which lead to my signing a "very nice deal" in an 8 book acquisition with Thomas & Mercer at Amazon Publishing (and yes my agent had other offers from some of the traditional Big Six houses which we turned down. Gladly!). I was definitely thinking of that bookstore owner while hanging out at the T&M publishing party in NYC during the BEA two weeks ago, along side some reporters from The New York Times,  the Wall Street Journal, etc.

7. "Write one true sentence."

Source: Ernest Hemingway. Papa I love you man, and if it weren't for you I probably would have done the family business thing the unmentionable source wanted me to do. But you lost me on this one...

8. Once you strike the major deal, you got it made.

Source: other writers, most of them from MFA school. Most times, after you sign the major deal and secure the first portion of the advance, you find yourself in trouble. You have no idea how to market yourself so you leave it up the marketing team. Usually, you end up selling nothing. Getting the major deal doesn't mean you've got it made. It means  they are giving you a chance to sell some books. Writing isn't only an art. It's a business. Don't blow your chance to be a success.

9. E-Books are a fad.

 Source: That bookstore owner....Ha, ha, hahahahaha....

10. Social media doesn't sell books. Traditional book signings sell books.

Source: Some author who still listens to cassette tapes in his car and who still misses Borders Books.

11. You need an MFA in Writing.

Source: MFA teachers who depend upon you for their paycheck.

All this said, what's the best advice I ever received?

1. Write what you like to read.

Source: Vincent Zandri, bestselling noir author.



  1. Awesome post. And so damn true. :)

  2. Bad ass. Well done.

  3. I'm sensing a theme here...

    My college has added an MFA program in Creative Writing -- funny, it happened the year I've been away. Actually not so funny, because I fought hard against it. Sigh. Because the world needs more preshus snowflakes, I guess.

    Don't worry, I won't have to teach in it. Despite out-publishing my entire department in both fiction and non-fiction, I am not considered "writing" faculty. Heaven forfend someone like me should teach those students anything. I might do something reckless like suggest they [gasp!] tell a story. And have characters that aren't privileged white suburbanites -- aw, but that's fantasy, right?

  4. I agree almost one hundred percent with you, with the exception of your rub on writing while also engaging in the family business. Many of us can't afford to write full time, it's kind of hard to set up the computer under a bridge and steal electricity. That said, most MFA graduates and teachers seem to live in a fantasy world, though they don't write fantasy. They seem to feel that only "literary fiction" is good, even if most people don't want to read literary fiction. Most good science fiction is written by people with some background in science, fantasy by people with a love of mythology and history, technothrillers by people with a military or intelligence background, and on and on. And many don't even have a formal education in these areas, they learn them on their own time.

  5. This reply section is really messed up. My entire post just disappeared into the ether.

  6. Doug, both your replies came through...well done...True that we can't all make a living, and I've been in that place many times. It's just that, if I had concentrated on "writing on the side" I wouldn't have put in the required hours...

  7. Kate, Don't worry, you are feared by the MFA faculty. Stay far away and write and be famous, which is where you're heading...No MFA prod ever liked another author who actually writes and published all the time...

  8. Lot of bullshit perpetuated by MFAs, I can see. Hopefully the democratization of the medium eBooks is bringing will make this kind of stupid elitism obsolete.

  9. I agree on you that you need an MFA in Writing is an awful advice. You really don’t need it to write yourself any paper, whether it is a novel, thesis, dissertation, or even a simple school term paper. You can write well, as long as you know what you are doing. Just be prepare and plan things in advance so that you won’t encounter problems in the future.