So You Want to Write? One Author's Perspective



how do you succeed at writing fiction I have novels in various categories with mostly science fiction translated into more than 20 languages around the world I'm going to share with you a few capsule pieces of advice that I may expand upon later first off it's important to remember that fiction writing storytelling is the only absolutely verified form of magic magic is the creation of subjective realities in other people's heads in some magical cultures where the people really believe that pointing a stick and mumbling certain words by powerful men could cause death people die because they convince themselves so thoroughly now nobody's asking you to convince somebody to die but it's important to remember how far back this tradition goes the shamans who and bars who would tell stories by the campfire captivating people they were fed and they passed on the genes that enabled themselves to be fed the genes that enable in all cultures storytellers to survive so we're going to teach you a little few skills about how to utilize this inherited cultural and genetic trait first off you live a member of a civilization that has more than just liars and reality twisters and storytellers creating their incantations and also has science and technology and these have worked hand in hand the technology has given a storytelling media movies and television but underrated is the fact that we now across this world have several billion skilled technicians called readers whose eyes can scan chains of little squiggles and turn those squiggles into stars spanning explosions deep human insights philosophical wonder just in the English language there are about a billion skilled technicians who are waiting for your product that will then decrypt from the squiggles into marbles inside their own heads so how do you create these incantations well you have to learn how to be able to express yourself in the language that you're born in in my case English you have to learn all the proper skills from being able to string those words together but I'm not going to go into the details of plot craftsmanship all those things at least not today save that for another time what I'd like to get is the perspective of what your relationship with the reader is and I'm going to be blunt about it your relationship with the reader is sadomasochistic and you're supposed to be the sadist let me explain what you want is for people to come up to you at conventions on the street emailing you fan letters saying darn you darn you I levels got fired because of you it's what you want it's the greatest compliment that an offer can get I almost got fired because of you I almost lost my job I almost flunked out of a class because you kept me up all night reading when I should have been sleeping what I should have been resting when I should have been doing my homework profession preparing that report when I should have been feeding the cat when I should have been feeding my kids when I should have been making love the image you want to strive for is thousands of readers out there looking at your book engrossed and a sultry voice over corner saying honey and their reaction being husband and that's what you are aiming for you want the reader to be so engrossed that when they find out who done it in your book they'll scream and rage tear the book can have throw it out the window and dive after it so how do you get to the point where you can get that kind of incantation so that your customers get that response that masochistic self-loathing because they got engrossed they got suckered in do you honestly believe that they won't buy your next book if you achieve that well at the end of every one of my books you'll find at least fifty names of people who I circulated the manuscript to now I'm professional now I know a lot more about writing than I used to especially with my first novel I circulated that one to sixty or seventy people to get the criticism I needed to get better but 3040 critics nowadays even though I'm a professional why do I do that well if I can get nothing else from these pre readers I try to find out where they were able to put the book down even if they're enjoying it where they were able to put the book down in order to feed the cat in order to feed the kids to do the homework if more than two people put it down at the same place I'll tighten that scene and you get that sort of feedback by circulating it you also find out what the problems are in people understanding of the story because if you're an accomplished writer if you're a professional you're still pushing yourself you're still pushing it your skills still trying more ambitious and challenging things so circulating your manuscript and getting the criticism is not only good for a beginning author but it's also great when you're more advanced now you find out where people didn't understand what you were saying where where people were or or where they thought it was repetitious if more than one person notices a problem then it is a problem and it's your job to fix it often they will offer advice on how to fix it take that with a three-foot Pole sometimes the advice is good but it's your job to come up with the solution in your unique artistic way so seek the criticism criticism is the only known antidote to error and if you are too shy to get criticism then this is a problem that you have to overcome because otherwise the path forward will be a hundred times as hard now where can you get this criticism we're going to find this coterie of readers who can help you move along well I did a number of tricks I joined local workshops at a local bookstore had a clipboard where they were taking names of people who were looking for workshops when they got a dozen they called them up all up and said why don't you use our bookstore to hold your workshop but for everybody you might ask the local bookstore another technique I used was until creative writing classes at Community College's now very often especially toward the end I could have taught the class better than the teacher sometimes the teachers of these classes aren't very good they don't know very much and they'll even teaching wrong things but if you are taking a creative writing class you get a couple of very useful things one is a weekly headline next week come in with ten pages of a story or a chapter you do that for ten weeks you've got a hundred pages another thing you get out of it is you get into the rhythm of circulating manuscripts among your other classmates and reading them offering critiques getting critiques back now very often your classmates in these creative writing courses won't know science fiction they won't know the genre that you like sometimes they are quite frankly clueless but you will learn to be able to tell when their confusion at a certain point in the story is useful feedback when they are letting you know something's wrong here even if they can't pin it down the other thing you can get out of this kind of thing class is two or three people who are the best in the class collect them click their names start your own workshop then there are things online the new era you can join critters org which is a workshop co-op for people exchanging manuscripts and criticizing each other you can publish your fanfiction at on one of the fanfic sites so there are lots of ways to get the criticism that you need it's the food and drink then get you going on your path and next time I'll talk about some of the other tricks in this wonderful shamanistic magical in can Tory profession

27 thoughts on “So You Want to Write? One Author's Perspective

  1. He left out the most important part of successful writing. It's the same as whats most important for a sprinter, mathematician, VS model or NBA center—genetics.

  2. He left out the most important part of successful writing. It's the same as whats most important for a sprinter, mathematician, VS model or NBA center—genetics.

  3. So now we know where E.L James success came from?

    P.S. that silver phallus in the background did not hurt either

  4. No, I don't care to disrupt my readers' home life; that is moronic. I merely wish to entertain myself, and if others are also entertained, fine.

  5. That was a fantastic talk. Lots of great things to think about. Wonderful thoughts and clear presentation. I will use this, especially the advice about readers, in my own work. KYM

  6. I like to give let my friends read my stories first. My only problem is that one of my friends is awfully mean in her critiques (she doesn't tell you what's good, only what's bad and uses words like awful, horrible etc.) and I don't feel that she's helping me to progress in any way. Does anyone know if I'm supposed to accept her comments (that never seem to change, no matter how hard I try) or should I just stop letting her critique my stuff? Maybe I'm just very bad at writing?

  7. is this a sign language course or a reading course?

    just playing of course…good advice from a successful author. all points taken, thank you sir.

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  9. I'm sorry, but to turn off advances from your wife/partner due to a book is ridiculous. There's no book that good, unless your wife is a hag.

  10. I thought you said (about the Shamans) 'They were fat'. I had to watch it like 5 times omg xD I found that way too funny. Great advice by the way – thanks!! :')

  11. @ZachClooney Because the actual knowledge of what to do is easy. Everyone can learn it in one afternoon. The tough part is execution.

  12. "Want the reader to be so engrossed" Yet he rambles on for half the movie before actually getting to a point.

  13. Thanks for the amazing advice, it really gave me the push I needed 😀

  14. "Comments are a Point Of View given by ther writer, so we do not need other comments telling us what that POV should be, or it is not our's!"

  15. Thanks! GREAT ADVICE! The person below me doesn't have the storyteller gene. I'm going to write a better story because of this.

  16. "Finding out where people are able to put the book down." I like that. You're always looking for the basic things, what people didn't understand, where your story didn't flow. But making your book so good that people jump out of the window after it? I loved it. Especially the part about the sultry voice and the "Humuna, humuna…"

  17. Brin is telling the truth about Creative Writing classes. Most tutors have never been successful writers. But even Brin's "advice" is here are all obvious stuff. He does not give away much.

  18. Vale a pena ouvir. A magia das histórias como a unica foram de "magia" e a forma como melhorar um manuscrito procurando pontos no enredo que possam atrasar a leitura e que permite que o "feitiço" que quebre.

  19. I've always enjoyed Dr. Brin's books. I'm glad he shared insights into how he kept me so engrossed! Also, I think it's great he mentioned Critters. It's a wonderful source for manuscript feedback.

    I'll second taigakirdape's opinion of The Uplift War and raise him the entire Uplift series. They're my absolute favorite science fiction books!

    Very enjoyable and informative video.

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