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Eureka: The secrets of good writing
by Jay Gutman
2016-12-16 09:59:15
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If you want to make a career out of writing, you might as well buy a lottery ticket. I’d say you have more chances winning the lottery than making a living out of writing. If your son or loved one wants to make a career out of writing, you need to make sure you’re able to feed them because writers tend to lose more money than they make. But there are ways to make a living out of writing which I’ll outline here.

writer01_400_011. Know your readers

Most people don’t read. Let me repeat. Most people don’t read. The next category of people is those who read one book a year to rid themselves of the guilt, and just in case someone asks them “what have you been reading lately?” Then you have those who read for professional development purposes and who read whatever they can find relating to their jobs i.e. teachers read about teaching, administrators about administration, politicians about politics. Then, there’s a tiny minority of people, a silent minority, those who read everything they can get their hands on. Let me repeat, most people don’t read.

2. The most competitive job in the world

Few people read, lots of people write. Sometimes those who write don’t even read.

3. Readers are very demanding

Every time I pick up a book, or any reader picks up a book, they want to learn hundreds, if not thousands of new facts. Not one new fact, not ten new facts, an ocean of new facts. If you don’t have an ocean of facts to teach, few people will probably bother reading your book.

4. People want facts, not biographies, not opinions

“I was a transsexual surrounded by heterosexuals who thought abortion was bad.” I see a lot of people writing books along those lines. Some biographies are excellent, I picked one up written by the wife of a terrorist not because of the biographic nature of the kind, but because I learned so much about the transformation from a young groom to a terrorist, about terrorist activities and interrogation methods, about the prison system and many more facts. When writing keep in mind that people want facts, not opinions, not personal information.

5. Your writing should be ambiguity-free

If you’re talking about birds but are allegorizing about an ethnic group or society, your book probably won’t go far. If you’re talking about birds make sure it’s really about birds because mostly hunters and ornithologists are going to read your book, or perhaps children. Don’t write a book about one thing when it’s really about something else.

6. Facts should be second nature

Let me tell you a secret: I’ve read so many books and still read everyday. Lots of facts are second-nature to me now, meaning I rarely have writer’s block and my writing never really drags on. That’s because I have millions of facts stored in my brain that I can use or interconnect at any point. It takes years to collect facts, and when writing, facts should be second nature.

7. Protest-writing’s never a full time job

I think life can be unfair. I also think that if there are things in society that you want to vent about, you want to have a day job.

8. Know your publishers

Lots of publishers start publishing companies because publishing companies won’t publish their books. So they want to give writers what they call a “fair shot” only to find out that book don’t sell. Such publishing houses tend to be mismanaged. Big publishers are hard to contact because millions of writers try to befriend them, so your manuscript won’t always reach them.

9. Your best friend is time and effort

Your first book or article will be worst than your second and your second will be worst than your third and so on. The best way to be a successful writer is to publish several books, hope that one of them become a best-seller, then people start wondering what it was that you wrote before that.

I repeat, few people read, and trying a career in writing is like buying a lottery ticket: the chances of becoming rich are meager at best. The more facts you know, the easier writing anything will be. Don’t despair, but do look for a full-time day job.

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Emanuel Paparella2016-12-16 12:58:32
To complement a bit the above intriguing picture on writing, Socrates must surely have had a eureka moment when he decided not to write anything in his life; and yet we are still reading about him 24 centuries later…That’s a fact, as surprising as it may be for some of us.

One is left to wonder if it has ever occurred to those positivists who write only facts and shun imaginative literature, that most great literary books, the ones who will continue to survive the onslaught of time and the trendy, are not about facts, important or trivial, pragmatic or useless as those may be, but about symbols, archetypes, poetry, grand-narratives, visions. We are back to the crucial issue of positivism vs. the humanistic mode of thinking treated extensively in Ovi magazine.

Then there is the problem of the relation of facts to truth. Once that relationship is broken all that facts will do is sink the ship of reason and logic deeper into the abyss. One will end up with slogans such as this “the facts of the CIA are all false unless they agree with what I say is the truth.”

It may be true that most writers do not get rich by writing, but some have economically done quite well with it and have provided a comfortable life for themselves and their families. That’s a fact too to be checked. Besides, not by bread alone does man live. Writing may be done not only for economic reasons but because it is a passion, a veritable compulsion. One may even do it pro bono simply because one enjoys doing it, and cannot conceive of one’s life without it, unless one is Socrates, that is. But then Socrates never stopped loving words and ideas.

To those who do not have much talent for writing but wish to write nonetheless and attempt a best seller by which to enrich themselves, do not despair. Getting yourself a full time job is a bit misguided, it will leave you little time to do any writing and may become counterproductive to your goal of enriching yourself. You need to be a bit patient. Wait wait till you get to the age of social security and a pension and then you may well be able to spend the rest of your life writing away. You may still need a part-time job but make sure you enjoy that too or it may well spoil your writing.

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