Archives for April 2012

G. K. C. on Oscar Wilde

I remember a venerable man with a very long beard who seemed to live at one of these clubs. At intervals he would hold up his hand as if for silence and preface his remarks by saying, ‘A Thought.’ And then he would say something that sounded as if a cow had suddenly spoken in a drawing-room. I remember once a silent and much-enduring man (I rather think it was my friend Mr. Edgar Jepson, the novelist) who could bear it no longer and cried with a sort of expiring gasp, ‘But, Good God, man, you don’t call that a thought, do you?’

But that was pretty much the quality of the thought of such thinkers, especially of the freethinkers. Out of this social situation arises one sort of exception to the rule. Intelligence does exist even in the Intelligentsia. It does sometimes happen that a man of real talent has a weakness for flattery, even the flattery of fools. He would rather say something that silly people think clever than something which only clever people could perceive to be true.

Oscar Wilde was a man of this type. When he said somewhere that an immoral woman is the sort of woman a man never gets tired of, he used a phrase so baseless as to be perfectly pointless. Everybody knows that a man may get tired of a whole procession of immoral women, especially if he is an immoral man. That was ‘a Thought’; otherwise something to be uttered, with uplifted hand, to people who could not think at all.

In their poor muddled minds there was some vague connection between wit and cynicism; so they never applauded him so warmly as a wit, as when he was cynical without being witty. But when he said, ‘A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing,’ he made a statement (in excellent epigrammatic form) which really meant something. But it would have meant his own immediate dethronement if it could have been understood by those who only enthroned him for being cynical.

—G. K. Chesterton, The Thing

Mary Sisson on the risks in publishing

Some wise words on weighing risk vs. reward in publishing:

My attitude is to look at what happens if you make the wrong choice.

If you self-publish and you do something wrong, you can fix it. If the entire self-publishing industry implodes, you still have the rights to your work, so you can still go sell it to a traditional publisher.

If you go traditional and something goes wrong, you are completely screwed. You’ve signed away your rights, you don’t have control over how your work is marketed, etc., etc. If your publisher goes under, it’s going to take a long time and a lot of legal work for you to be able to re-sell that work, assuming you ever can. Is it worth to you to take that kind of risk in return for some editing and cover art?

Mary Sisson

Jerrold Mundis on the flow of writing

It’s a rare occasion when the words just flow without interruption. More often they flow for thirty seconds, five or ten minutes at a time. Then you stop and think, stare at the page or the screen, look out the window, or whatever it is that you do, and then write for another thirty seconds, five or ten minutes. Once in a while, you’ll catch fire and in a white heat type as fast as you can for an hour or two, even three or four. That has happened to me — maybe ten or fifteen times over the past twenty-five years. For most writers, nearly every day it’s a matter of hills and valleys, with pauses in between.

—Jerrold Mundis, Break Writer’s Block Now!

Another bit from the same book that particularly struck me:

The average full-time writer puts in four to four-and-a-half hours a day, five days a week; the average part-time writer puts in one to two hours a day, five or six days a week. . . . Writing is energy-intensive. Overreaching invites burnout and block.


Reject yourself! (Mark Twain on quality control)

There are at least two schools of thought about editing and revision in self-publishing.

One (exemplified, perhaps, by Dean Wesley Smith) says that you should write as much content as you can and publish it as soon as it’s done. This results, I suspect, from taking Heinlein’s Rules far too seriously. Folks, they’re not the Gospel according to St. Robert; they’re one man’s opinion, and a very unusual man he was. ‘You must refrain from rewriting except to editorial order’ is fatal advice for a self-published writer, because, in the nature of things, that editorial order will never come. (It did Heinlein great harm, too, in his later years, when his editors stopped trying to argue with him.)

The second school of thought, which I have seen well expressed by Joel Friedlander, is that you ought to take every bit as much care with editing and revision as if you were a conscientious publisher printing someone else’s work. [Read more…]

John C. Wright on being a famous writer

. . . my name is known everywhere my books are read. I mean everywhere, as far away as my basement and occasionally in my living room. My fame is such that there are members of my family who recognize my name after only a few reminders.

John C. Wright


Extruded Books: a cautionary tale

For some thirty years now, I have been following the commercial publishing industry, particularly in its various New York mutations, and trying (for commercial reasons of my own) to figure out why apparently intelligent people would do business in such cockeyed ways. I don’t pretend to have figured out the whole story, but I have pieced together a good deal of evidence, and I believe I can point out the major turnings in the road that led publishers to the pass they are in today. Rather than bore you, my 3.6 Loyal Readers, with dry details and rubbishy statistics, I shall shamelessly exploit my status as a spinner of tall tales to set forth the data under cover of a fictitious example. All names have been changed to protect the manifestly guilty; so let me introduce you to Nathan Extruded, founder and publisher of Extruded Books. [Read more…]

G. B. S. on publishers

I finished my first book seventy-six years ago. I offered it to every publisher on the English-speaking earth I had ever heard of. Their refusals were unanimous: and it did not get into print until, fifty years later, publishers would publish anything that had my name on it.

I object to publishers: the one service they have done me is to teach me to do without them. They combine commercial rascality with artistic touchiness and pettishness, without being either good business men or fine judges of literature. All that is necessary in the production of a book is an author and a bookseller, without the intermediate parasite.

—George Bernard Shaw

G. K. C. on religious truth

It is perpetually said that because there are a hundred religions claiming to be true, it is therefore impossible that one of them should really be true. The argument would appear on the face of it to be illogical, if any one nowadays troubled about logic. It would be as reasonable to say that because some people thought the earth was flat, and others (rather less incorrectly) imagined it was round, and because anybody is free to say that it is triangular or hexagonal, or a rhomboid, therefore it has no shape at all; or its shape can never be discovered; and, anyhow, modern science must be wrong in saying it is an oblate spheroid. The world must be some shape, and it must be that shape and no other; and it is not self-evident that nobody can possibly hit on the right one. What so obviously applies to the material shape of the world equally applies to the moral shape of the universe. The man who describes it may not be right; but it is no argument against his rightness that a number of other people must be wrong.

—G. K. Chesterton, ‘On Liberties and Lotteries’

Jonas Saul on words

Words are your paint. Use all the colors.

Jonas Saul

Disk Vader

For those benighted souls who haven’t yet seen it (and I was one of you, five minutes ago):

The Imperial March from Star Wars — played on two 3.5-inch floppy drives!