Sometimes I get some intimation of what people think about writers – and it’s not quite what one may expect.
Here’s a question from a poster on a Message Board about sff:
is everyone a potentual writer?
Is it jus me or r there many would-be writers out there, it occuered to me that many people could think up a good story and be a good enouth writer to get it published but many do not have the connexions needed am I right.
And here is part of my somewhat acerbic reply:
I am an Australian, but I have lived most of my adult life (since I was 24) in Malaysia, which has no sff publishers, or fan clubs, or spec fic writing classes. I never went to a sff con. I never met another fiction writer, editor, publisher, I hardly ever met someone who read sff! I wasn’t on the internet and exchanged no emails, nor read webpages by any of those people. In fact, I was a real innocent abroad. I never even attended a course on how to write.
All I did was read and write and hone my skills. ALOT. The book that got me an agent was about number seven or eight, I think. ONE MILLION WRITTEN WORDS LATER. At least. (I started at 13, after all)
And finally I sent off my work. I had no idea how to write a query letter or what one should say when one submitted work. But I do know how to be polite, and I had enough common sense to know what is relevant and what is not. And I READ ALOT of the kind of books I was writing – fantasy.
I got a copy of the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, ran my finger down the pages of agents, came to the first one that said they took fantasy, and wrote a letter.
I don’t have the letter in front of me, but it said something along the lines of: “I enclose the first 3 chapters of a fantasy novel entitled X, of Y number of words. If you are interested in reading the remainder with a view to representing me, the book is already complete and I would be delighted to send the whole MS. I have only had non-fiction articles published prior to this. ” (I did not send samples of these articles, or say what they were or where they were published. They were irrelevant.)
I sent it off and waited. And in due course the agent read the whole MS and took me on.
Contacts? Connections? What contacts? What connections? I had none!
Do you tell your doctor – “well, anyone can be a doctor, can’t they? We just don’t all have the contacts to get into Medical School.” Have I got news for you. The ability to stick a bandaid on a cut does not mean you have the potential to be a doctor. The ability to write a few words on paper doesn’t give you the potential to be a published novelist.
Maybe I am being silly, but if someone were to say to my face – “Well, you are only published because you had connections! Anyone at all can do what you do.” – I would feel insulted and be very very rude to such a person. How dare they say – or even think – that the years and years of work I put into learning my trade, into writing and reading and learning, before I was finally published, didn’t count for anything? That ‘anyone’ can do this? That all you need to get published are ‘connections’.
Was I a bit hard on the poor fellow? As I say, it is extraordinary how many people think writing is easy, and there is some kind of conspiracy that keeps all but those “in the know” from being published.