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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Hints from the World of Writing – The Odds Against

Speak to anybody, and they will tell you that the chances of having your novel published are slim to nothing for most authors. So why on earth persevere in this long-shot business?
There are a couple of good reasons for you sticking to it. Remember the laws of probability that spell out that life is full of random surprises – both good and bad – as we saw in our earlier post on The Drunkard's Walk. And in that same post we saw fifty examples of iconic writers who were  rejected – some of them many times – before finally being published.
The lesson from this is that randomness plays a part in your future as a writer. And if probability is involved, then another lesson can be learned: that probability might be helped by you doing a few things.
What kind of things can you do that would increase your chances of randomness falling your way?
For starters, don't give up – finish that novel. As Blake Snyder puts it in Save the Cat!:
Congratulations! You've followed my advice, you've done the prep, you've hit your marks like a pro, and you've finally written THE END... You are amazing! ... Finishing a screenplay separates you from five out of 10 would-be screenwriters who only talk about writing their movie ideas. You have increased your odds of success immeasurably by doing the work.
Another thing you can do to nudge the gods of randomness into your positive zone is to pay attention  to your craft, by reading what others are doing, and seeing if they have any hints for writers like yourself.
A good choice to find the cream of the crop among all such hints and bits of advice, is to read the best blogs as set out in the top 25 writing blogs by Blog Rank. Blog Rank ranks blogs in several categories using 20 different factors, including RSS membership, Technorati ranking, and incoming links.

Getting to the day when you can type THE END on the last page of your novel requires discipline, and here you might find some hints in this blog, about the daily routines of dozens of writers. The blog entries contain good snippets of the working habits of successful writers, with details of the hours they work, the way they write, and their little rituals which mean so much to them and which spur them on.
Here are a few of the writers whose habits are examined: Simone de Beauvoir (workd from 10 until one, then from 5 to 9); W.H. Auden; Robert Caro (works seven days a week, and publishes once every ten years on average); Stephen King; C.S. Lewis; Gustave Flaubert (worked from 1 p.m. to 1 a.m.); Gunter Grass (writes 5 to 7 pages a day for first draft and less for later  drafts); Anthony Trollope (set a target of 250 words every quarter of an hour); Fanz Kafka; Saul Bellow; John Updike (3 or 4 hours each morning).
Now for some other writers: Ernest Hemingway (6a.m. to noon, and stop at a place that you know what is going to happen next); Truman Capote (wrote first draft in pencil in longhand, and a revision, also in longhand); J.M. Coetzee (at least an hour morning very day of the week); Roald Dahl  (10 to noon, and 4 to 6); Isaac Asimov (7:30 a.m. until 10 p.m.); Elmore Leonard (9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.).
Timothy Hallidan has some advice on his website for writers, encouraging them to finish their novels:
I’ve been writing novels (and teaching about writing novels) for twenty years, and one thing I’ve learned is how to finish.  I’d estimate that 98% of all the novels people begin are never completed.  Every person who abandons a book feels that he or she has a good reason, but my experience suggests that most of those books could have been finished – the writer just came up against something he or she couldn’t handle.
And finally click here for 25 best books on writing for writers.
Have fun, and keep on writing – who knows what the gods of randomness might do one day for you.

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