My Jedi Master, John Scalzi, has posted 10 Things Teenage Writers Should Know About Writing,
where he explains why all teenage writers tend to be awful
at writing—despite the fact that most teenage writers think they
themselves are brilliant. (Full disclosure: When I was a teenager
writer, I thought I was brilliant. While I was probably objectively
better than most of the other teenage writers I was
competing against, this is not the same as being good. It is in fact
the same as being the least awful.)
What struck me about this piece was that one of the crimes Master Scalzi attributes to teenage faux writers also applies
to me: "You need to write everyday."
I don't write everyday. Well, that's not true, I blog or post or write
a Geek Trivia almost every weekday, and if you throw in e-mail, I do
write almost daily. But that crap doesn't count. I don't write fictionevery day. Honestly, I don't write fiction every quarter. I fall on the wrong side of J. Michael Straczynski's (He of Babylon 5 fame) line of demarcation between good writers and bad: Output.
"You can divide
writers into all kinds of categories: prose vs. script, mainstream vs.
genre, established vs. beginner, sane vs. insane (the former being
substantially smaller than the latter), but all of those are just
subsets of the one primary distinction, those who Get It Done and those
I don't get it done. That has to change. First, because you can't be a
writer if you don't write. Second, because I'll never be a good writer if I don't write more often.
While Geek Trivia
isn't doing me any favors on the fiction front, I have gotten
marginally better at quasi-snarky half-assed niche nonfiction articles
over the last five years strictly because I have to write one almost
every week, and having to find new and better stuff to write about
makes me work the mental muscles involved. The weekly deadline (and a
hardass editor whom I respect who really does demand I get stuff to her
in a timely manner) keeps me grinding away.
The same is true of my biweekly duties as a Gamemaster of an RPG
campaign. (Yes, the Geek forum alias is not merely for show.) Since I
run the game, the game can't happen without me. Since I don't want to
disappoint my players (who are a fiendishly game-addicted lot), I have
to write two scenarios a month. This helps me work out some
plot-creation muscles, but the responsibility involved is what keeps me
All of which is to say, I need a regular fiction deadline. I need some
group of people who expect me to produce on a regular basis in order to
force myself beyond all my insecurities and actually write some damn
fiction. I've toyed with a fiction-blog
before, but never actually went through with it. While it's a great
vehicle for simply archiving and soliciting feedback on my work, Master Scalzi disdains of fiction blogging
as a method of actually getting a writing career off the ground. That's
not a reason to toss aside the notion, merely of leavening
expectations. However, as past experience illustrates, a blog is
accountable only to myself, and I can avoid writing for myself pretty
I may actually have to bite the bullet and join the local writers group. Now, I have some really bad memories of writers groups
from high school and college. I need to be around serious writers with
no sense of mercy, so I can get the crap rightfully kicked out of my
work and shame myself into doing better. I have no idea if the local group meets the criteria, but their next meetup is in five days, so I guess I can find out pretty soon.
All of which is to say, I'll probably attend the writers group. If I
like it, I'll start attending the monthly meetings and producing
fiction work in concert. If this comes to pass, I'll file the work in a
standalone blog, which means the creative writing portion of this blog
will likely move to a new location (yeah, like anyone will notice).
Fair warning, though. Changes may be in the works for Trivial Pursuits.
Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger — amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can also follow him on his personal blog.