A Look Inside the Mind of a Professor of Creative Writing

Truly, professors of creative writing perform a great service. Without their noble efforts, the next generation of literary phenoms would have a difficult time making their name in the literary game. However, you might be surprised by what thoughts run through their heads.

Without further ado, here’s a list of eight thoughts your creative writing professor would never share publicly:

1. You know, come to think of it, I really do think a monkey on a typewriter could write something better.

2. Yeah, a totally illiterate nation seems like a good idea right about now.

3. That’s an interesting sex scene. Obvious virgin.

4. Another story about high school melodrama. I wish they taught them better. Vertical not horizontal.

5. Oh. A disaffected young man in my classroom. I wonder who he will rip off? Bukowski? Hunter S. Thompson? Chuck Palahniuk? Tao Lin? Maybe he’ll be really cerebral and rip off Kerouac!

6. So, it’s a given that the bro with the backwards baseball cap will write in the style of Tucker Max, right?

7. I may not be Raymond Carver, but hey, it could be worse, I could be as bad as my students.

8. I hate my life. Why didn’t I get an MBA?

Literary Agents: Are They Worth Querying If You’re An Aspiring Writer?

Since I started working with aspiring writers in December of last year (with my old project that’s currently on hiatus, The Adept Writer, a literary journal designed to promote the work of aspiring writers), I’ve seen a lot of writing from unknown writers. The quality of the work has varied. A writer like Russell Zintel of the University of New Hampshire really impressed me with the quality of his poetry. One fan of the website wrote in to say that he was the next Tao Lin. Maybe.

I met an aspiring writer named Zubair Simonson about six weeks ago. I have some advertising for the website on my briefcase (I admit it looks funny, but it gets the word out.) He noticed it, and after our brief conversation, he sent me the first chapter of his novel. It knocked me out.

After I read Zubair’s chapter, we set up a meeting to discuss his prospects. He asked me if he should query literary agents. Zubair had previously self-published one book that received unanimously great reviews from those who read it, but like most self-published authors, very few people had read his book.

My concern was Zubair’s platform. He had done a few smart projects in film and web TV as an actor and director, but they were not in Hollywood or even in an independent studio, but homemade movies with friends. He blogged for a religious organization, but his name was not huge in that sphere. He had a self-published book that anyone who read loved, but almost no one had read it.

Still, I told Zubair that he should query a literary agent.

Any aspiring writer should query a literary agent. The worst that could happen is nothing. 

Now certainly many literary agents will refuse taking on a client that has no platform. If you haven’t been published in big literary journals, if you don’t have an MFA, if you’re not known in some other sphere, even if your work is dynamic, you will still probably get passed on; however, why adopt a loser’s mentality and not even try?

When you’re an aspiring writer, you need to go for the throat. You need to make things happen. Yes, most likely, if you don’t have a platform, if you don’t have an MFA, if you haven’t published in big literary journals or won contests, and if your work is mediocre or poorly edited, you don’t really have much of a chance. Still, if you work to accomplish as much as you can within where you’re at, then it’s certainly worth a shot. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. 

Stereotypical Writers

I think it’s about time for another fun, satirical post.

Any writer privileged enough to know a few (or more) other writers is bound to have run into one (or more, if you’re particularly unlucky) of these stereotypical writers.

You know these types. They include:

The Drunken Asshole – Misanthropic and near always drunk, they idolize Charles Bukowski and Hunter S. Thompson, blatantly ripping them off in all their writing.

The Goddamn English Major – While able to compose excellent, technically perfect works of literature, their writing is always about the most mundane topics…like the core of an apple. They’re snooty to boot. They will not shut up about the classics and about how modern fiction has no “weight.”

The Procrastinator – They could actually be a good writer, but they always make some sort of drama in their life. When you ask them what they’ve written lately, they go on for about an hour making justifications for why they’re not writing.

Mr. or Ms. Successful Writer – I’m published. Did you see my latest piece in X journal that you’ve never heard of? Did you know that X press that you’ve never heard of put out my latest book? These types are mildly successful, but judging by their major ego you would assume they’re as successful as Michael Chabon. Avoid these types at literary events at all costs.

The Angry Editor – Quite unsuccessful in their own literary pursuits, they become an editor not to help other writers, but to break them down. They use their position as a means of exacting revenge on the gods of the page.

The One Percenter – They usually have little literary talent, but plenty of connections and always come with a sordid past…and present. Their writing is only mildly entertaining, but because the world is not fair, they get huge advances. You’re not likely to run into them unless you’re popping bottles at the club or know how to cut lines with an AmEx card.

The Hipster – Their writing is nothing but a string of references that the poor, unwashed masses are too stupid to get. You’ll find these types frowning in coffee shops, frowning at indie shows, and swearing that they will be the next Tao Lin when they go home for the holidays.

 

Did I miss any walking stereotypes? Please feel free to comment below. If you found this post funny, please share this post on your social media feeds.

A Critical Mistake to Avoid When Writing Short Fiction

Don’t treat short fiction as a novel.

Whatever you do—DON’T treat short fiction as a novel.

What I mean is this: when you are writing short fiction, it takes a different approach than if you’re working on a novel. The key is brevity. You have to say just as much as you would in a novel, but you have to do so succinctly.

A good rule of thumb when writing any piece of short fiction: stick to as brief a period of time as possible. The story can take place in fifteen minutes in one location. It doesn’t have to be wildly ambitious.

Of course, rules are meant to be broken…once you’ve achieved mastery. There are short fiction writers like Isaac Bashevis Singer whose short stories read like mini-novels in the depth and complexity of their plot. In my opinion, Singer was one of the best short fiction writers. He could get away with flouting that rule; once you grow as a writer, by putting in much time and effort, you can too.

However, for now, as an aspiring writer, I suggest adhering to the following acronym:

Keep

It

Simple

Stupid

And I guarantee that your short fiction will be a lot easier to write and have a much greater chance of getting published by a literary magazine.

Do you have any other tips for short fiction writers? Feel free to leave a comment!

The Top Ten Excuses You Can Use to Justify Not Writing

Hey everyone! Summer vacation is over. The Literary Game is back!

I’ll be getting back to posting serious, content-rich posts geared towards help aspiring writers edit their work, publish their work, and stay sane…tomorrow.

Today, I’m going to have a bit of fun.

We all sometimes slack on our writing. If any other writers try to guilt trip you about it, here’s a list of top ten excuses you can use to justify not writing:

10. I can’t write because my eyes are blurry from staring at rejection letters all night long…and crying.

9. I can’t write because I need an MFA first, because, like, all writers have to have one, right?

8. I can’t write because I sprained my finger…from typing.

7. I can’t write because there’s a Doctor Who marathon today, my D&D group meets tomorrow, and that old copy of Metroid is coming in the mail in two days.

6. I can’t write because I have to live first. I’ll write in a few years after I’ve amassed enough experience. Ladies, I’m single, I work at Starbucks, and my mother says I’m a snappy dresser.

5. I can’t write because I like totally love you. Do you know I’m on molly right now? And I love you.

4. My C.O. said I can’t write until after I get off probation.

3. I can’t write until I’m drunk. All writers are drunks, right? I read that in a Bukowski novel, I think. I’m only nineteen, so it’ll just be two years until I can legally become an alcoholic…and a writer.

2. I can’t write until I get famous. What’s the point when the advances are so small? The plan is to go viral first by rapping NWA songs in my tighty whities and uploading them to YouTube. I swear I’ll start writing after Dr. Dre gives me daps.

1. I can’t write until I get good, which can’t happen until I get my work edited by this dude who runs a blog on WordPress.