Wednesday, July 13, 2011

How to Write Mid List Fiction # 2

Rusch is talking about production writing. I borrow the term from weaving. When you go to an art fair and find handmade scarves for $50, you are looking at the work of a production weaver. Rather than make elaborate and difficult works, which will cost a lot and may not sell, she makes many works quickly: scarves, table runners, napkins. This is not bad work. Often it's lovely. But it's designed to be turned out quickly and to sell at an affordable price.

There are production potters and silversmiths. I have a lot of work by both. The point is to do work that is predictable and can be turned out quickly. Experiments take time and may fail and have to be redone. You do them to learn. But if every piece is an experiment, you are going to lose money.

Rusch excludes "literary" writers, the people who live off grants and teaching, from her discussion; and she excludes writers with day jobs, and writers who do well enough to publish a book every few years. As far as I know, Harper Lee has been living off To Kill a Mockingbird since 1960.

I think she underestimates the number of writers who can live off one book a year. That is the normal production rate for the mystery writers I read. This is time enough to revise and think about style, unless you are slow as I am.

But she is talking about production rates that amaze me: four to six books a year!

I can't argue with her advice to production writers. I can't imagine wanting to be one. I try to make everything I write an experiment of one kind or another. If I think I've written this particular story before, I toss it. I revise. I worry about style, constantly tinkering with words.

I have never come close to making a living as a writer. I once told an editor that what I made from writing kept me in conventions and Laura Ashley skirts. It's pocket money.

So, why do I write? To entertain myself. To deal with life. To impress my friends and relatives. To gain praise and pocket money. I would like undying fame, but will keep on without it.


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