I’m speaking at a mystery writer’s group this Saturday. I’ve said it before, but speaking at these kind of events is always a strange experience. The people are always nice. The events are almost always fun, but I still can’t get over that I’m an invited speaker.
I imagine that one day I’ll get used to the idea, but I’m not there yet. In my head, I’m still just a guy who writers stories. The only difference now is that I get paid for it, and this gives me an aura of authority because, hey, I’m a professional, right? I must know what I’m talking about.
I’m among the prominent members of my writer’s workshop. I forget this sometimes too. That’s only a problem when newer members take my comments as gospel. Because I’m published, aren’t I? I must know what I’m talking about.
It doesn’t work like that. As far as I can tell, being a professional writer is 90 percent luck, 9 percent hard work, and 1 percent talent. Truthfully, I might be overestimating the talent part.
I’m not being modest. I’m a good writer, but Stephanie Meyer made millions writing a fairly standard vampire teen love story. Not passing judgment, but it’s true, gang. What hits and what misses is anybody’s guess. In hindsight, it’s easy to say Harry Potter was a surefire hit, but it’s just as easy to imagine an alternate universe where Harry never made much more than a small splash in a highly competative field.
Like most everyone, I am unimpressed by the great majority of published fiction, including many well-established, very popular writers. I also have favorite writers who I find absolutely wonderful who languish in obscurity. I’m fairly sure that there are plenty of people out there who think my writing is sub par at best. They’re probably not bothering to visit this site and read this blog, but just because I don’t see them doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
I’m happy to give advice, offer my point of view. But, no matter how successful I might get, I’m still just guessing, still shooting in the dark, still hoping that if I write a story about robot detectives and Cthulhu’s less obnoxious cousin that there are enough people out there willing to pay to read it. But I can never really know until after the fact.
I lament the overwhelming dominance of series fiction in my field and the lack of originality in science fiction / fantasy in general, but I also know that this is a necessary evil. Nobody (and I do mean nobody) knows what will strike a chord with an audience, and once something does, for whatever reason, it isn’t easy to give that up, to risk starting over. I know because every time one of my new novels comes out, I get a bit nervous, even if I play it cool.
The one thing I do give myself credit (and fault myself for too at the same time) is my willingness to experiment, to try different stuff. It’s allowed me to explore and grow as a writer in a way most writers can’t, but it’s also given my career a few ups and downs. I do think that if I wrote sequels or a series, my publishing career would be stronger. But I also know that by writing different ideas, I was able to get multiple movie options which really, really add a beautiful heft to my paychecks. So while not writing sequels has (probably) hindered my publishing career, it’s also helped it. And if even one of those movies takes off, I’ll get a level of exposure that will vault me into the public eye in a way every writer dreams.
If a movie gets made, I’m golden.
But this was never my plan, and I never would’ve predicted that my novels about redneck vampires, robot detectives, and reluctant immortals would find any interest in Hollywood. My success is random, part of a gamble I never even intended. And it could go away tomorrow. Yeah, it’s a tough biz.
So I can give advice on writing technique. I can relate my own personal publishing experience. I can tell you what I like (Godzilla), what I dislike (Frank Miller), my biggest influences (Ducktales), what trends I find disenheartening (zombies), and what trends I find overrated (vampires in high school), and what trends I love (the current boom of wonderful animated films). And you can take it for what it’s worth.
Which, if I may be honest, probably isn’t much. Then again, I’m not sure anyone’s is.
But at the very least, I’ll endeavor to offer what insight I can, and I’ll try to be engaging while doing so. And if you’re looking for a slime monster reference or a robot joke along the way, you could do a lot worse.
Book me at your next event today. I’m an adequate juggler, and I can make balloon dogs. I can also talk about Batman for hours and discuss the various plot holes in the Terminator movies.
Let’s see a party clown do that.
Writing the good write, Fighting the good fight,