Ferrett Steinmetz and Kameron Hurley are clever people who say clever things. They are also excellent writers and have, to use a cliche, aid their dues.
I recently read interviews with them in two great magazines, Uncanny and Apex, and here are some of the things they had to say about writing in general.
Ferrett Steinmetz is the author of many a short story. These days I am reading his book FLEX, and suggest you do the same.
The world does not want you to be a writer. It wants you to waste your life on laundry and picking up medications and chores.
I have a technique I call “Write without hope.” I spit in the face of self–esteem; you don’t have to feel good, you have to get the words on the page.
Because when I write, I often think, “This is crazy, this is over the edge, this is awful, nobody’s ever going to buy this.” (Especially when I’m typing phrases like, “The Goddess’s cunt is black as ebon.”) And I push all that aside, telling myself that it doesn’t matter how bad the story is objectively, what matters is that I make it as good as I possibly can.
And the thing is? That story is often way better than I think it is. I thought this story was unsalable. I thought “Sauerkraut Station” was unsalable — 16,000 words of a girl making sauerkraut in space — and that was my Nebula nomination.
So keep writing, kids. Don’t hate yourself; hate the story. And if you don’t revise that blasted tale until it’s as good as you can make it, the story wins.
To get published, you have to be so goddamned ruthless with yourself. I’d be, “Eh, that description will do,” and then eighteen people would tell me they didn’t feel rooted in the story’s location. I’d be, “Oh, that dialogue doesn’t matter” — and it mattered.
A story is not one success. It’s a hundred successes — you get the dialogue right, you get the prose right, you get the plot right, you get the tone right, you get the ending right, and so forth. And if you’re lucky, you get maybe forty, fifty of those right — and that’s a good story.
But you have to be merciless. You have to hammer every aspect of your story and make it as good as you can. Because you’re going to fail on so many levels, you cannot afford to slack on the shit you can do better.
The quotes above are from an interview with Ferrett in Apex magazine.
She is the author of The Mirror Empire, which you should, of course, buy.
I’ve spent the last five years actively studying plot and structure, not just in novels and short fiction, but in film and television and games as well. It wasn’t writing that I needed to learn so much as storytelling. And that, perhaps, gets to the heart of the problem with so many approaches to writing. We try and teach writing like it’s pretty words and grammar. But we’re concentrating on the wrong things. No one cares how pretty your words are if you aren’t telling a good story.
But most of the time I recognize that in order to get any sort of recognition anymore, I need to work harder. I need to tell better stories. And that’s not something I’m going to learn from a book, or an MFA, or a single workshop. For me, that’s a lifetime of dogged learning and shouting and not giving up. The work is the payoff. The work is the end goal.
The quotes above are taken from an article by Kameron in Uncanny Magazine, I Don’t Care About Your MFA: On Writing vs. Storytelling
Like I said. Clever people, those two.