I’ve wanted to write fiction since I was in the first grade. I didn’t realize I wanted to be serious about writing fiction until about 12th grade. I don’t know how or why but, once I realized that, college became an uninteresting prospect.
If I look back on it now, I think maybe I knew then what I definitely believe now, which is you can’t be taught how to write.
You can be taught how not to write. You can be taught grammar. You can be taught the difference between plot and story—not enough would-be writers learn this—and you can be taught sentence construction, but can anyone teach you to write dialog? Can anyone teach you character? Can anyone teach you how to pace a story?
No, I don’t believe they can. You want to learn those things? Write.
I think the same can be said, to some extent, for journalism. You can absolutely be taught journalism; it’s a specific, structured form of writing that requires an aptitude for research and adherence to an ethical standard.
But it’s still a narrative, or at least it should be. There are still characters. There’s still a plot, though perhaps not a linear one. It’s still, in its basest form, a story. So those elements of writing still come into play.
More than that, no one can teach you the people skills needed to be a good journalist. I firmly believe that. Oftentimes people tell reporters things they know they shouldn’t, for good reason or a bad one,
That doesn’t happen by accident; that’s the reporter doing that.
There’s also something called journalistic instinct. Knowing what’s a story and why it’s a story; sorry, you’re not learning that in school.
So, the bottom line is, whether it’s fiction or reporting, a writer writes, and you get to be a writer by writing.
That’s why I’ll have a book out by the time you read this.
Here’s the thing though; it’s an ebook, at least for now. That was never part of the plan. I think that’s why I don’t know how excited I am.
I’ve published a few short stories before, a few online and one in print. I always considered the print one the biggest achievement but, looking back, is that the best story I’ve got out there? I don’t know.
And there are two other factors at play. First, as we discussed here several weeks ago, the market for the kind of fiction I write, this New Pulp, is, at least at present, quite small. So small, in fact, there’s no major house publishing it because it’s too niche a genre—and set of subgenres.
But that’s the other thing, why aren’t big houses, or any print houses, really, doing this sort of thing? Because it’s too small an audience and their print product is getting whacked by ebook sales as
So, the reality is, my book is going to be as properly situated as it can be; right there on Amazon amongst its fellows in the subgenre.
Saying that, I’m still going to want a print copy when it’s available even if no one else does. And I think that’s why I’ve felt less excited than I thought I would at the prospect of finally breaking through with a piece of long-form fiction; it’s not happening the way I envisioned it.
But, you know what? It is happening, it’s exactly the kind of book I always wanted to write and I got there exactly the way I wanted to get there.
When I think about things that way, this is pretty exciting.
Anyone who knows me well as a writer knows all I’ve ever wanted from my fiction was for someone to read it—after buying it, let’s be honest—get to the end and think to themselves, or dare I hope say to someone else, “yeah, that was a good one.” I’ve said that’s what I wanted for years and, as I sit here with a book about to hit the market, it still is.
That first Amazon review; maybe that’s when it will hit me.
I did it?