Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake
jaylake

Ask me no more lies, I'll tell you no more questions

Here's the first set of answers from the ask me a question post. Feel free to pop over there and add to the fun.




kradical: So what is your take on the Hawley-Smoot Tarrif?

Other than the fact that I can't spell, without it American history would not have an event as giggle-inducing as Europe's Diet of Worms.




eljaydaly: Ooh! I've got a question for you!

I'm trying to puzzle out some mechanics. When you were a wee puppy starting out, when you first decided that the way to go was to write a story a week, what did you do about the editing? If I understand correctly, you're wary about revision because of its tendency to file away uniqueness of voice. But I've also read that of the stories you write, some percentage of the worthwhile ones need rewriting or editing. (Please forgive me if I've misinterpreted something or have otherwise managed to marry apples and oranges.)

So. Is it better to write a story a week, give it a shave and a haircut, and send it out the door for rejection (which is getting so very old)? Or is it better to write a story a week, let it sit for a few weeks, look at it again, rewrite it, revise it, rewrite it, then send it out, assuming that other stories-a-week are being created during the editing time?

I can manage a story a week. I can't manage a
good story a week.

You've pretty much got it on the nose about my underlying philosophy. I don't think anyone would argue that improving my self-editing skills isn't important, but honestly that's not the rainbow I'm chasing. One the underlying points of the story-a-week rubric is that practice will improve you. This is just as true of editing as it is of writing.

If you have the time, patience and maturity for self-editing (I myself am lacking in all three of those qualities), then letting it steep for revision is an excellent thing. Essentially stories would age through the process, so that you could produce a draft a week, and a finished piece a week, or perhaps every two weeks.

Remember, even now a decent percentage of my drafts are below my standards. When I first launched down that path in 2000/2001, I set my goal at 50% throwaway, 25% salvagable, 25% usable. I'm probably at 25/25/50 now, or even a little better, but that's with a lot of practice.




snickelish: I'm a semi-new reader (waves hi), and I've been wanting to ask you: you've said somewhere that nowadays you tend not to do much rewriting on your short stories (you may have mentioned novels, too - I can't remember). So, at what point did you start feeling that you were able to write the right story, the first time? And what were you doing before that?

Basically, I'd like a whole post on revision, please, from the man who tells me to write 52 stories a year - something *I* write in a week is in no shape to see the light of day, let me tell you.

In your spare time, of course. :)


:: waves back ::

I can do a post on revision sometime soon -- might be interrupted by Norwescon and next week's trip to Omaha. Feel free to remind me, though, if it doesn't turn up by Tuesday or so.

I've always thought I could write the right story, the first time. I was just wrong for a very long time. I'm still not right nearly as often as I'd like -- my rejections continue to exceed my acceptances -- but it's that sense of confidence that keeps me plowing forward. I may err on the side of too much forward motion and insufficient introspection, but I've seen far too many writers disappear up their own existenz for a while, or permanently, caught in an endless loop of revision and self-criticism.

I wrote my way out of it, in other words, buoyed by an idiot optimism that eventually was justified.




houseboatonstyx: Okay, here's a question.

Every so often on a Usenet forum or fmwriters.com or such, someone makes a post like, "I've made four story submissions in the last four years and none of them worked! Obviously my writing is hopeless and I should just give up!"

I usually post a vague answer like, "Some quite successful writers talk about sending the same story out many times blah blah." I've never named names or given LJ urls. Would you want your name or a link posted outside LJ? Or even at someone else's LJ blog that doesn't read yours?


You obviously have a very good idea how I'd take that complaint head on. Feel free to post my name or this LJ anywhere it pleases you. I view this blog as a combination of mental scratch pad for my thought process and public soap box for my bloviating. That it seems to help some folks with their writing is an excellent bonus.

For the record, my most-submitted story went out 21 times before it sold, and I have over 1,000 rejections now across the past six years, with over 1,200 submissions and over 200 sales.




mucoviscidosis: Maybe you explained this one already: are you a full-time writer now, or do you still retain a "dayjob" for bill-paying or other purposes?

I am fully entrenched in a day job. I need regular income to stave off my ulcers, and I need benefits for the_child and her mother. Even if my book contracts were 10X larger than they are, I would continue to work, specifically for the health insurance.

(Hence my frequent trips to Omaha, a recurring feature here on this blog to the amusement of several.)




criada: [question redacted]

Welcome, and I'm glad you find it interesting and useful.




karindira: [question redacted]

There's only one way to find out.
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