In the last few weeks I’ve had the honor of giving four different authors and artisans blurbs. Blurbs help sell a work. Or at least give it that little helpful “boost”. It’s a nice feeling. It isn’t the first time I’ve done it, and it probably won’t be the last. The purpose of this post, however, is that a younger author contacted me concerning the number of print credits I have. Which would be 350 at the moment (give or take a few; probably more, and I really don’t include stapled-up fanzines and all that). I do need to sit down one of these days and fix up my webpage a bit, but when you live a high-octane life like I do, you’re lucky if you have time to get down a single paragraph in the period of a week. Some weeks, of course, are much better than others. Time is a major factor, and there are only 24 hours in a day. Some writers are fast at what they do, but then they have that luxury. Unfortunately, I do not. Some churn out crap. I try not.
With so many of these micro-presses self-publishing each other to each other these days, with eBooks officially taking center stage as we head into the second decade of the new millennium, and with magazines both large and small coming and going at the speed of an asteroid, it’s really hard to tell what or who will be in in the next twenty years.
This leads me back to my conversation with the younger feller. Oh, but you have 350 publishing credits. Rocket fuel, my man. Rocket fuel. Yeah, but that ought to get you some kind of book contract right on the spot. Rocket fuel, my man. Rocket fuel. But you have a short story collection finally. Rocket fuel, my man. Rocket fuel. Here I am, age 35, and I will tell you that this is only a tiny stepping stone for many other things to come in the fiction field. Which, if you were not a stubborn bastard like me, you’d quit tomorrow. Because only a mental case or a true agoraphobe would be involved in a game like this, especially in a generation where books are just not as important and attention spans are at an all-time low. Come, let me slap you in advance.
I remember first getting into the written word when I was 21, making the transition from art, because I desired a little more. I feel I came into this game late, because the entirety of my twenties was spent partying and traveling and experiencing life to the fullest. I never really sat down and concentrated the way I do now in my later years. Yes, the experience and reading paid off — that, along with the Vanity Press errors I made years back; yikes! — but even that means diddly squat when it comes down to a 20 to 80 dollar payday. Newbies gladly sell their souls as if they were verb modifiers. There are rumored to be at least 100,000 aspiring writers of genre fiction out there. Now that’s a pretty round number for the ones that go on at it, so stand in line. I may have all these appearances, a new collection, another on the way, but at the end of the day it’s just rocket fuel…
It’s safe to say that where the last three to five years were spent making short stories, the next three to five will be spent crafting novellas and novelettes. What about that 200,000 word novel? Where’s that big epic book? Rocket fuel, my man. Rocket fuel. Writing is a lifelong craft, and practice makes perfect. Kind of the same way a store clerk eventually grows to supervising manager or maybe head foreman. That’s just how it is, and that “is” often happens in old age. Sometimes trenches are meant to be dug, tested, pioneered. I would have to honestly say that I am not ready for that perfect 200,000 word novel — that serious book — for at least another ten good years. Which is why right now I need the rocket fuel, and the small stuff, the paved road, to show me what I’m worth later in life.
Everybody wants to be the next big thing. Look at yourself in the mirror and find your true self, and you’ll know that it doesn’t take words to breathe truth into who you are. If somebody asked Lawrence Dagstine for a “How To” book on writing science fiction, I might recommend Orson Scott Card. If somebody wanted a “How To” book on writing horror, I’d probably point you in the direction of Mort Castle. Workshops and boot camps are fantastic; too bad I can’t leave the East Coast. But if you really wanted the underbelly of the beast, the task of the artform at hand itself, then I’d recommend John Gardner. As this gentleman in the link below has demonstrated so modestly.
Advice on Writing:
Simplicity and writing do not go hand in hand (Po Bronson knows), as should be the case with any creative endeavor. There is the process of getting your thoughts down in so many hours per day. There is the process of outlining and research. You have tone and structure. Dialogue and characterization. Theme and summation. Depth, motive, conflict. Consistency and plotting (one of my weak points, I feel). Beginning, middle, and end. Showing and not telling. Jeez, I could go on forever. Or I could just go and write. I can hear that young man harping now… But Lawrence, when are you going to give us our Narnia? Eventually, my man. Eventually…
Summertime will be approaching soon. Many are probably wondering what the hell is the other purpose for this entry. What is the purpose of anything? Well, I’ll be busy writing those lengthier works, the ones you anticipate, pimping, marketing, sipping on pina coladas and laying in the sun. Things are going to slow down a bit. Consider this an early draft for my departure from the public sphere. I’m going to go live life and scream. And I’m going to write, whether I get some invite or not. Write. Eat. Sleep. Sun. Chocolate pudding, Rice Krispie treats, and banana cream pie. Why? Because if you want the next generation Narnia, then I owe at least that much to you…
Mr. Lawrence Dagstine
P.S.: I, too, would probably work in a closet for some peace of mind…lmao.