GIFT or CURSE? A piece about WRITING, PUBLISHING and UNIVERSITY

 

Contains some coarse language.

Plan? What plan? Talk to the architect if you want a plan! Yep, that’s right – if you came here for advice, you are sadly mistaken, cuz here, you will find anything but…

…Going to a university after college/high school/whatever it’s called, is all well and good, but are there repercussions to this as well?

As a person who wanted to work professionally in the writing field, I found out the hard way that employer’s do not take people seriously who do not have valid credentials in the field they wish to enter. Now, by writing, I meant a professional, who worked on pieces from prose to poetry, through to novels and screenplays. Yes, I suffer from delusions of grandeur, but a dream is a dream until it is proven to be 100% unachievable, and I am yet to reach that unfortunate stage.

But, why a writer? So many people these days want to be teachers and shrinks and work in PR. Well, I could that writing has always been a guilty pleasure of mine, but I think that Australian author Michael Hyde, who was my lecturer for my introduction to Creative Writing class during my first semester of University put it best. Now, I hope to write this properly, but it has been a couple years since he explained this, so I might not be entirely accurate in my words – if he happens to read this he’ll probably shake his head at me. Dr. Hyde (yes, doctor, not mister!) explained how he was once teaching at this school. There was a student who could write very well, but to impress his friends he did his best not to focus on writing as much as he did sports and drinking, and other usual Aussie bloke stuff. Anyway, this literary competition is held at the school, and Dr. Hyde asks this student to submit his piece. For further encouragement, he explains how women like writers – they find men who write absolutely irresistible. The student is quite unsure; his friends laugh at him, believing writing to be the kind of thing done by losers and nerds – not by stereotypical Aussie blokes. Anyway, after much convincing the student decides to enter his piece into the competition – and wins! But, the morale of the story has not yet come to pass…the following morning, Dr. Hyde is walking down a corridor – and he sees the young woman who every man in the entire school had been lusting over embracing the student who had won the competition – yes, the same student Dr. Hyde had encouraged to enter. So, walking over to them, Dr. Hyde whispers into the ear of the student ‘told yer so.’ So, there you have it…the reason why I want to write – to gain the attention of all the foxy ladies.

Besides, in regards to other avenues of study…in relation to PR, 1) I’m no good at communicating with the general public, and 2) I’m no good at communicating with my relations, so how the hell could I ever be any good at Public Relations? And as for teaching – often has good opportunities for economic compensation, but other than that…besides, students usually freak the hell out of me, so it’s one of those thanks but no thanks ventures. Some people are scared to fly. Some people are frightened of the dark. I’m terrified to students. Moving on…

…Between the ages of thirteen and fifteen during some of my spare time I completed three short story collections, each containing six pieces. However, by the end the word ‘short’ may have very well been the last word I would have used to describe them, with the shortest piece indeed being 7 pages in length, whilst the largest was 102, and the average was 60; not exactly the definition of the term ‘short’ now, are they?

Unfortunately for me, at the time I had no literary agent, and only a very small per cent of Australian publishers are willing to accept unsolicited content; Penguin and their subsidiary Puffin, Allen and Unwin (at the time at least), Text Publishing, just to name a few. However, these publishers may say ‘we will accept unsolicited material’, but never is there a clause that expresses ‘we will publish unsolicited material.’ I learnt very quickly that every single publishing house had a problem with short stories; unless you were a known quantity in the industry, then this notion did not apply. I remember reading on the MacMillan page that they did not publish short stories, yet in the exact same month I read that known Australian author Andy Griffiths, most notable for his ‘Just’ franchise, had another of his short story collections published by their company! So, the rules are rules, unless you are a published author, in which case none actually apply to you.

Unfortunately for me, on the first occasion I happened to submit something, I mentioned my age, which at the time was 14. After almost half a year, in which I had given up waiting for this particular publishing house and had sent pieces to a couple others, I was notified in the mail whether or not I was successful. Of course I wasn’t, as depicted by the general tone of the paragraph. Did they supply a reason? Yes, amazingly enough…they explained how a 14 year old writer could never be taken seriously in the industry, and if one is writing short stories aimed for a young, adolescent audience, then they cannot be members of that readership – they need to be older, and more experienced in age and life, for nobody would ever want to read the work of a teenager. Safe to say I never mentioned my age in a cover letter again.

Anyway, long story short (pun included?) I contacted a literary agency, and after a few months was able to successfully converse with one of their employees about how short stories were not a popular market – in which I found out that they actually are! True, short stories never sell as many copies as novels, but they are especially well enjoyed by younger audiences because of their general length. It’s that publishers do not want to take the risk with a short story collection. On occasion, these collections have gone belly up for publishers, which is why they are after something more – a novel. Luckily enough for me, at the time I had an idea for a science fiction novel which I had been developing for some time.

Of course, something always gets in the way, right? Well, in this instance it was plain ol’ me…I finished the novel in December of 2009 after working on it for roughly six whole years. I took one look at my finished product and thought ‘what a piece of shit.’ Okay, honestly, it may not have been all that bad, but there was more I wanted to develop within the story in regards to the centralised characters and the lead antagonists. Additionally, I leant a lot whilst writing the story. The one thing I took away with me from high school was this; it don’t matter if you are writing a story set in the past, present or the future, if you do not have themes, or if you do not discuss pertinent issues that are reminiscent of today’s society, you will not gain a very broad readership. So, what are strong themes or issues transpiring today? Well, there is gay marriage, war, especially the one in the Middle East, racism and terrorism. There is love and sexism and rights for women. Safe to say, one can develop a piece with futuristic themes and such, but only the writer will really be privy to such a fantasy. The reader needs something that they can understand and clearly relate to, else you ain’t gonna succeed.

Additionally, I thought another aspect of writing on my lonesome, which Michael Hyde further discussed in his second lecture. What is this you might wonder? Well, at the beginning of my first novel (the term ‘beginning’ is loosely used – basically means the entire first half) I dominated my characters. I ruled over them with an iron fist! I wanted each and every one of them to live up to the notions and developments that I had conceived in my mind, and nothing was gonna get in my way from having them end up the way I wanted them to. However, by the second half of the piece I had altered my train of thought and relieved my characters of my ruling and allowed them to run free across the page. What did I learn from this experience? If you sit back, your characters will do everything for you – all you need to do is write it down. The freedom my characters had from this point onwards guaranteed them change from my initial plan that I had scheduled for their futures and changed many of the conclusions I had initially conceived.

I also happened to unfortunately find when I tried to publish this first novel of mine that I had just chosen to write in the one genre that I probably shouldn’t have. Yes, sci-fi is a very well rounded and broad subject that is enjoyable around the world; the problem? At least half, if not more Australian publishers are scared shitless of publishing sci-fi because it could blow up in their faces! Why/how did I not know this when I first began? SHIT! Anyway, instead of giving up ion such a genre or reinventing parts of the novel, I decided to move onto the development of another sci-fi oriented piece – which I am still developing to this very day.

True, probably not one of the most intelligible of things to do since I knew what to expect from the industry, but there was one more thing I was counting on; the experience I had been told that was a necessity for me back when I was fourteen…I was, and still am, attempting to acquire it. I’m in my third and final year of my undergraduate university course, but I have no intention of stopping there. Next, I wish to complete my masters, and then my doctorate, and then I can be Dr. Naughty Nefarious! However, what I am really aiming for is plain and simple professional courtesy – if I have gone all the way to gain a doctorate (that is if I succeed, which I hope to do so), I am hoping to look pretty darn respectable. I mean, how many people in total within Australia have gone on to gain doctorates? I don’t mean to seem pretentious or egotistical, but I am hoping this may provide to me a bonus, as to allow me to stand out from the other hopeful writers of tomorrow.

In the meantime though, what can I possibly do? Well, that is where the Gift/Curse part of the headline comes into play…one can gain a university degree, or go on to complete their postgrad, but all of this comes at a price. And I don’t just mean economically, although that is gonna be one helluva issue whine it comes time for me to pay off the rotten bastard of a tab that I have wafting over my head like a dark, angry storm cloud. No, I of course mean professionally. If one is after a job after attaining such qualifications and is unable to gain one in their intended industry, what next? That is the problem, because ‘what next’ is a great, big puddle of utter nothingness. Employers not in the field of study one has accomplished want NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU! Why not? One, you are too over qualified. Actually, that is basically the one and only point. Due to this, you will constantly be searching for another occupation – one in your chosen felid that you explicitly studied for, and once you acquire that dream job, you will leave the one you currently have. Employers don’t want to put time and investment into a worker who will inevitably leave – no, they want someone they can train and bend to their every whim like to an able pet. So, gaining one’s dream educational qualification is all well and good, but it will ultimately prohibit oneself from gaining an employment- anywhere but in their chosen field, and if the job you seek is not hiring, well, to be blunt – you’re fucked!

Naughty Nefarious, signing off!

Advertisements

2 comments on “GIFT or CURSE? A piece about WRITING, PUBLISHING and UNIVERSITY

  1. I have tried to write novels, too, but it just doesn’t seem to be my thing. I would love to be an author, but I just can’t think up good enough ideas to cover the required number of pages. I can write okay short stories, but my long stories are awful. I can’t think of enough detail and such. Finally, I realized I was pretty decent at dialogue, and I wanted to get better at drawing, so I decided to make comics. This new venture has been coming along quite nicely. I mean, I’ll likely never publish my comics, either, but at least I’m happy with them, unlike my novels. I hate my novels. I just hate them. I got one good character from them, and that’s all.

    Some little comments. One, I, too, want to get a doctorate. It is because my ego would like to tell people to call me doctor. Dr. Duck, I would be. I would always correct people and ensure they call me doctor, darn it! Doctor! But, I don’t know if I’m willing to spend the time and money just so my ego will be happy. And yes, then, I’ll be overqualified for everything. As I have no intention of becoming anything that actually needs a doctorate. It’s the title and nothing else. Two, I am also afraid of students. They were mean as classmates, so I assume they’ll be mean as students. I could never be a teacher. I’ll get paid nearly nothing to face the horrors of school all over again.

    • Thanks for the comment! I agree with many of the points that you raised, especially the comment about gaining a doctorate. You are right though – the benefits of gaining such an education does not outweigh the fact that employers will see such an individual as being too overqualified.
      The writing industry is a difficult field to become involved in, however I am glad that you have found something that you like doing. I on the other hand quickly move from project to project, unable to decide which idea is worth continuing.
      Also, I agree with you that students are basically horrible monsters. I think one should undertake Ghost Buster training as well as a teaching degree before entering such a field. However, I believe that university students are not quite as scary as those in high school.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s