Please welcome Amanda DeBord!
When I first started hearing the buzz about this new guide, Writers Workshop of Science Fiction & Fantasy, I was a bit skeptical. Not like you think, though. I knew some of the people involved and had (obviously) heard of just a few others ifyouknowwhoi’mtalkingabout. I had no doubt the final product would be high-quality. No, my skepticism was over my understanding of the venture. We’re putting out a book with advice from Neil Gaiman and Orson Scott Card and … me? Surely there must be some mistake. Just take a minute to read the names at the top of the list. What are these people doing, giving advice, anyway? It’s not like they actually try at this stuff. I’m pretty sure Neil Gaiman just wakes up each morning, and the Gods of Awesomeness have delivered his latest product tooth-fairy-style on a golden platter on his nightstand. Right?
So, I’m only being a little silly here, but I think you know what I’m getting at. When I first started to take seriously the thought of myself as a writer, one thing constantly frustrated me. No matter how happy I was with a piece I’d written, no matter how close to flawless I felt I’d gotten, there was still something intangible between my stuff and their stuff. I wasn’t a “real” writer. I was just someone who wrote. There was something missing there – some spark, some specialness that was the secret handshake to the club where the real writers hung out. We are not the same people.
It wasn’t long before I found myself taking part in some critiquing circles, and found myself doing some editing, which is all just fancy forms of one of my favorite past-times: giving advice. “You know what I’d do with this character if I were you?” That sort of thing. I got advice myself, too. From writers better than me. From writers worse than me. And it all helped. Still does, in fact.
That’s just the thing. All writers are readers at heart, and we all struggle with the blank page. Just like you. Sometimes the stories come fast, out of nowhere, and really do feel like they’re laid like mysterious packages on our doorstep. With others, we battle with every word. Sometimes, we read an essay by Orson Scott Card and it inspires us to try something new. Sometimes, we break out that dusty old Strunk & White and remind ourselves just how to use a semi-colon. Sometimes, we read a round-table interview with Amanda DeBord and it helps us understand why that editor was being such a jerk, and why we really shouldn’t send her hate mail. They’re all building blocks.
And, all this advice from all of these people, top of the page to bottom shows you something very important. We are all the same people. Forgive my hubris, and realize the hidden message in what all of these great writers are saying in their essays in this book: This is what worked for me. I’ve struggled with what you’re struggling with, and here’s the lantern that lit my way.