41. Just because somebody else did it first doesn't mean that
somebody else did it better. At the same time, just because you think
you're going to do it better doesn't mean you necessarily will. Be just
as objective with reworkings of old stories as you'd try to be with
totally new ones. You actually need to work harder when you're dealing
with the familiar.
42. You are not the next Stephen King. You are not the next Emma
Bull. You are not the next anyone. You are the very first you.
Comparisons are wonderful things, because they tell people whether
you're working in a style or genre that they enjoy ('If you like Warren
Ellis, try...'). But don't let comparisons turn into a prison. You are
always allowed to bust out with something new and amazing and blow the
roof right off the goddamn nightclub.
43. Your ass is for sitting on, not for talking out of. If your
characters are supposed to be gun experts, talk to some people who shoot
guns. Read some books about guns. If the books don't make sense to
you, hand your manuscript pages to someone who knows guns and say
'please fix.' My original draft of Newsflesh literally included
'INSERT VIROLOGY HERE,' because when I wrote that chapter, I hadn't
finished designing my virus. I finished my virus, double-checked my
epidemiology, went back, and finished that scene. If you don't know
what you're talking about, learn enough to fake it.
44. You don't have to like your characters. You just have to
stay true to your characters. I may not appreciate the fact that Shaun
insults Mahir's wife on a daily basis, but it's what the character would
do, and I'm not going to change him just because I don't approve of his
behavior. Some people will assume you approve of everything your
characters do. Try to learn tolerance. Also, don't punch them.
45. You are brilliant and you are a hack. Sometimes you're going
to be both in the same day. Embrace these two sides of your soul.
Then bash their heads together until they start playing nice with each
other, because nobody likes the golden goddess whose every word is a
honeyed pearl, and nobody likes that other girl, either.
36. You're going to get ideas from wherever it is you get ideas.
There's no magic well. There's no 'proper source.' They'll come when
they come, and you can't force them to show up if you're not ready to
have them. The 'what if...' moment is one of the most amazing things
there is, and when it happens, you'll be the king of all creation,
you'll be so fucking cool that nobody can stop you from conquering the
planet...but you can't make it come. Just expose yourself to the world,
and wait, and see what happens.
37. Don't buy into your own hype. There will always be people
ready to tell you that you're so awesome you should be elected President
on the basis of sheer badass. There will always be people ready to
tell you that you're brilliant, that your books are the best things ever
written, that they can't imagine why you aren't winning every award in
the industry. That's okay. Those are not bad people. They're good for
your career, and frankly, they're probably telling the truth; everybody
has the one author that can do (almost) no wrong, or the one book
that's absolutely perfect as it is. Still, those six, or sixty, or six
hundred people? Are just six, or sixty, or six hundred people. If you
let yourself believe them, you're going to hurt yourself in ways that I
can't even begin to describe.
38. At the same time, don't sit around telling yourself how
horrible you are, and don't let a few bad reviews shatter your sense of
self. Look at the negative feedback as critically as you can, and if
everyone is saying the same things, try to figure out whether that's
something you can fix -- whether it's something you're willing to
fix. I'm not going to stop writing horror just because there will
always be people who hate horror. At the same time, if multiple horror
reviewers are going 'zombies, you're doin' it wrong,' I should probably
reassess. Don't buy the bad hype any more unreservedly than you buy the
39. Jealousy is useful; it motivates you to work harder.
Jealousy is toxic; the world is not innately fair. Acknowledge your
jealousy, take a deep breath, and let it go. You're going to find
yourself with a lot more room to work if you can do that, and you're
going to be a much happier person.
40. Talk to other writers about what works for them. Half the
things on this list may be pure crap from your perspective; that's okay,
because in order to decide that they were crap, you had to think about
them. You have put thought into what kind of writer you want to be, and
how you want to work. That's fantastic. Listen to everyone, and
decide for yourself what you want to take to heart.
31. Measuring your output against someone else's output is a game
with no winners at all. Maybe you write fast. Maybe you write slow.
Maybe you're somewhere in the middle. I can write an obscene number of
pages on a good day, and finish it off with a song and maybe a sonnet or
two. Another friend of mine considers herself to be doing amazingly
well if she finishes three pages in eight hours. Neither of us is doing
anything wrong. Some of the best books ever written took years to
finish; so did some of the worst. Write at your own pace, and know what
that pace is.
32. Deadlines are your friends. Learn how to work to them. If
you ever start publishing, you're going to be getting a lot of
deadlines, and you won't necessarily have any real say in the matter.
It's best if it's not a shock to the system.
33. Learn to be gracious to everyone who helps you. Thank your
proofers. Thank your editors. Thank your agent. Thank your readers.
They're doing you a favor. You're also doing them a favor -- you're
letting them play with your kids -- so don't be servile, but do be
34. The only people you owe your work to are your agent, your editor, and your publishing house. Don't let anyone pressure you.
35. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a break from
time to time. I pretty much write every day of my life -- I'm a junkie,
and I admit it -- but there are days where the writing takes an hour in
the morning, and is then set aside completely, in favor of seeing
Flogging Molly perform. Sometimes, my 'writing' for the day consists of
jotting notes in my planner (also known as 'Seanan's second brain'). I
need those pauses to reset myself, and sometimes, to find new books in
the world around me. Don't hate yourself for needing to breathe.