I have been corresponding these past couple of days with an aspiring writer who followed the Harry Turtledove interview to my teaching page, and saw that I sometimes take students for one on one mentoring. He’s newly out of university and hasn’t written seriously before; he’s been researching how one goes about developing a novel, but is afraid of diving in, writing 50K, and ending up with something that can’t be turned into publishable work. That’s the part that’s really stopping him, the What if I spend six or twelve months of my life writing this thing, and it turns out it can’t be polished to a professional level?
These are the economics of art: especially when you’re new, you do it on spec, for love. You put in the time and you don’t know if it will ever pay. You have to hope the process is in some way gratifying, that the artistic growth feels good, that there are discoveries that pay for the lost time, sleep, and social opportunities.
So I’ve told him that some first-timers write salable books, some write fixable drafts, and some write books that may have been really good learning experiences, but otherwise oughtn’t to see the light of day. And I’ve asked him if he’s afraid he won’t enjoy the process of writing something he may well have to trunk. It seems like a good place to start. What do you all think?
A few days ago I drafted up a post about how I thought I’d start posting word counts for the current project: at that point, I was up to 20725, which meant I’d written 1200ish words over the long weekend. I have about another chapter in hand but not all of it has been typed; I’ll report again soon.