At this point I’m fairly sure I will indeed do NaNoWriMo … sort of.  I’m going to start writing, that is, but I’m not really going to try to win, I’m not going to strive for 50,000 words in a month.  I’m just going to see how much I can get done, but I’m not going to push myself.  That way, I can’t lose!

I spent an hour today finally continuing work on my fantasy novelette, The Cliffs of Oakenrah.  I’m on scene 5 of 21, so there’s a ways to go.  If I finish, it might become longer than Dreamgiver, making it the longest work of fiction I’ve ever completed.  Which, I suppose, is pretty lame compared to most writers, but very superior compared to people who never write anything.

TEN THOUSAND HOURS

I was listening to a writing podcast the other day, and I heard the concept of the “ten thousand hours to expert” come up once again.  I think some writers and artists in general are interpreting the concept in a ridiculous way, taking it to mean that an artist’s art won’t be any good until the artist has ten thousand hours of experience, and that artists who do have ten thousand of experience are objectively better because of it.  But I think the arts are a bit too subjective for that, and I think people forget that there’s a difference between experience and practice, as I mention on the Book Quotes Blog.  Even I have used the terms synonymously, when they’re not exactly synonymous.  Getting more experience doing something you already know how to do well might not help you much, might not make you that much better.

Really, though, it just comes down to the subjectivity of an art like writing.  It’s hard to argue that you’re a better chess player if you keep losing games, or a better piano player when you can’t play anything by Chopin.  But there are no games or rules in writing.  And we don’t have “author’s experience hours” stamped on the back of books to help us decide whether or not it’s something we’ll like.

So please please just stop applying the ten thousand hour rule to something as subjective as writing fiction.  It actually doesn’t mean quite so much in such a context.  I’m sure there are plenty of inexperienced writers whose first works I would find brilliant, and plenty twenty-thousand-hours experienced writers who might make me want to jump of cliff to end the torture of knowing their work was deemed by someone else to be publishable.

Nor does the ten thousand hour concept apply to walking, eating, sleeping, daydreaming, etc.

I still think about this post by writer John Scalzi (especially since it was brought up in the podcast I mentioned as being a “painfully honest post”).

While I agree with a lot of what he says, I also think he is making the mistake of thinking his own experience counts for a bit too much.  Experience does not make your opinions more valid, not in the subjective art world, as he (and many others) seem to think.  I believe that that is a snobby way to think.  Sometimes people compare writing to fields in which opinions aren’t subjective, like medicine.  (“I want my doctor to have experience!”)  Well, duh.  There is right and wrong in medicine.  Writing, not so much.  Yes, there is some, but not nearly as much.  Writing is based on our desires, the rules come from our opinions.  Medicine doesn’t work that way.  Experience writing also does not automatically make you a better writer.  You have to practice … you have to work to understand the conventions of our time, understand how you as a reader respond to other people’s works, understand how the authors you enjoy write the way they do.  So, yes, I do agree that inexperienced authors (including me) tend to not be as good.  I still don’t have any sense of how a plot should arc over the course of something novel size, as I have never finished writing a novel.  But that opinion comes from me, not some scientific objective rule about novel plot arcs, and not from writers who are more experienced looking down upon me judging my work.  And I’m not going to get better (which is also subjective) without getting feedback from others, including publishers who reject my work.

It’s not science (well, technically it is; it’s psychology, but it’s nothing we can currently objectively study).  It’s definitely not medicine.  And authors are not doctors.

And that’s all I have to say today.


2 Comments

Don · November 2, 2009 at 11:33 AM

My sentiments exactly.

S P Hannifin · November 3, 2009 at 4:25 AM

🙂

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