Thursday, 13 February 2014
"MAKE ACCEPTABLE PRODUCT" - A Transcript Of Nile Gaiman's InspiringSpeech For Writers
"I never expected to find myself giving advice to a bunch of art school graduates and senior citizens in a rented hall in some budget hotel for $30 a head. Hell, I've never even stayed at Travelodge. But that's writing for you and I'm not so proud I'll turn down a free buffet.
I learned to write by writing. When I started out, I tended to do anything that felt like an adventure and to stop when it felt like work. Then I wised up and realized the bits that felt like work were also the bits that paid: because they were work.
Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong in life and love and health and when things get rough, this is what you should do:
Make acceptable product.
I'm serious. Husband runs off with a politician? Make acceptable product. Leg crushed and eaten by mutant boa constrictor? Make acceptable product. Cat explodes? Make acceptable product!
(Actually, come to think of it, you'd probably want to approach a well-known news source with that first one, with a view towards remuneration. I imagine something like that would pay very well)
What do I mean by Acceptable Product?
I'm talking about books whose entire ethos, plot and, ideally, conclusion are apparent on the cover from twenty feet away in the bookshop. A military space opera featuring a starship captain with a ludicrously high kill rate yet who's inexplicably conflicted, say, or an easily-identified mythical figure living in modern New York. Fiction that's worth the cover price, that'll entertain but won't leave the reader emotionally traumatized after the last page. That stuff.
Sure, you could make 'good art'. But I guarantee you now you will fail. Utterly fail, to the point fifteen years from now you'll look a talentless failure--a ludicrous waste--in front of your family and peers.
And even in the unlikely event you succeeded the amount of time and effort you put into chasing that golden goose could have generated five indifferent read-and-forget novels those no-marks on Goodreads will think is Tolstoy anyhow.
So why bother? Critical acclaim won't pay the mortgage, guys. Stack 'em high, sell 'em cheap.
The urge, starting out, is to copy, to imitate the writing 'voices' of your literary heroes. Where writers go wrong is in deviating from that ideal. The highway is clearly marked out for you. Only a fool would ignore it.
We're in a transitional world right now. I've talked to people at the top of the publishing food chain and no one knows what the landscape will look like in two years time, let alone a decade. Under the new sun of e-publishing the old rules are crumbling and no one knows what the new rules are. So stick with the herd. Safety in numbers, mate.
And now go. Make interesting mistakes. Make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Experiment. Break the rules.
Just don't come crying to me when you're working at fucking Arbys."
UPDATE: Huh! Looks like someone's gone and done a cynical pastiche...