Cussedness Corner

"My work may be garbage but it's good garbage." Mickey Spillane

The Work Speaks for itself.


Too often over the past couple of years, I have seen an increase in newbies complaining when someone points out the flaws in their work, especially (but not limited to) grammar, spelling, and poor or stereotyped characterization.

The typical outcry has been “It’s the story that counts,” or “I’m a story-teller, my sentences don’t have to be perfect.” There are a thousand variations on that.

It starts out as defensiveness and escalates into rage.

Bad writers are a dime a dozen. And these days a dime is worth less than what a penny was ten years ago. Frequently these people either self-publish or they sell to little 4thluv ezines that have no quality control and low standards.

Some of them, especially the loudest voices of the Legionaries, take it another step forward and employ tactics of lies, false allegations, and attacks on established pros. They claim that their work is revolutionary. They claim that a conspiracy is holding them back. They claim that industry elitism is holding them back, and they claim to be the voice of the masses.

They also seem to think that playing a game of up-roar is going to get them the PR to make their writing popular. They look at all the views they get when they are hassling someone with far better credentials and say, “See, by complaining about our tactics, you’re making us famous and more successful.”

When the phrase, “There is no such thing as bad publicity” originated, it was referring to people who had skills and talent. Not people who fail to have the skills to write their way out of a used condom.

In the end, the work speaks for itself.

Even if they got a million views a day from the pros and their fans, whom they have outraged with their antics, it will not translate into sales. The rule of thumb will always be sales. Sales are the voice of the masses stating their approval of the works the writers have produced.

The quality of the work always speaks for itself.

And bad work will not sell.

Some of them will point to the antics of Harlan Ellison and imply that his antics made him famous.

What they fail to understand is that long before Harlan acquired his bad boy image, he had established his talent, learned his craft, and proved his brilliance.

The work always speaks for itself.

If a writer has to explain what makes their work so brilliant, then the work has already failed.

Outrageous antics will not sell failed fiction. It might get you a million views, but if the material viewed is poor, then those views will not result in sales.

The bottom line is ‘don’t make excuses,’ learn your craft and do your work.

There are some fine books on writing techniques out there; but they only help if you’re willing to learn. It is not that difficult to whip out the Strunk and White to double check things.

Here’s my recommendations for each member of the Legion:

Dagstine: Orson Scott Card’s Characters & Viewpoint; Marc McCutcheon’s Building Believable Characters.

Kristy Tallman: Eats Shoots and leaves; Strunk and White; Rebecca McClanahan’s Word Painting.

Mike Philbin: The same books I suggested for Dagstine, but also, Napoleon Hill’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Nickolaus Pacione: All of the above.

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19 comments on “The Work Speaks for itself.

  1. Rusty
    May 17, 2008

    Hahaha! Smack-on, as usual, Cuss, although I’d add Stephen King’s On Writing for Pacione, given that he’s such a fan boi of King. Tell him it’s about a chainsaw that morphs into a writer.

  2. Sir Otter
    May 17, 2008

    Eats, Shoots and Leaves is a classic, best of its kind and funny, to boot. Lynn Truss’ Talk to the Hand might not hurt le Legion d’Imbeciles, either. It’s not about writing, but some lessons in basic etiquette would do them good. Even better if each lesson were punctuted with a good, thorough tasing.

  3. Sir Otter
    May 17, 2008

    Sorry, that should be Lynne Truss, with an E.

  4. cussedness
    May 17, 2008

    I suppose it could be said that we are all practicing vigilante enforcement of etiquette.

  5. Sir Otter
    May 17, 2008

    That’s right, we’re the Boondock Saints of Manners!

    Now you will receive us. We do not ask for your poor, or your hungry. We do not want your tired and sick. It is your ill-mannered we claim. It is your assholes that will be sought by us. With every breath we shall hunt them down. Each day, we will spill their blood till it rains down from the skies. Do not lie, do not accuse untruthfully, do not call by offensive names, these are principles that every man of every faith can embrace.
    These are not polite suggestions, these are codes of behavior and those of you that ignore them will pay the dearest cost. There are varying degrees of rudeness – we urge you lesser forms of filth not to push the bounds and cross over, into true obnoxiousness, into our domain.
    For if you do, one day you will look behind you and you will see us. And on that day, you will reap it. And we will send you to whatever god you wish. And shepherds we shall be, For thee, Emily Post, for thee. Power has descended forth from thy hand, that our feet may swiftly carry out thy commands. So we shall flow a river forth to thee, and teeming with souls shall it ever be. In nomine Patri, et Fili, et Spiritus Sancti!

  6. cussedness
    May 17, 2008

    I love that movie. And it is now another spilt coffee afternoon for me.

  7. Kristy Tallman
    May 19, 2008

    I pray one day God will give you a life so that you may stop being such a bitch in other people’s lives.

  8. cussedness
    May 19, 2008

    1) I don’t worship your god, Kristy. I’m a pagan. 2) I have a good life, so you don’t need to wish me anything. 3) I’m a bitch, I’m a bitch, and I’m so proud to be a bitch.

    Psycho amazon war-bitch from hell with an attitude.

    If you don’t wish to learn to write well, that’s not my problem. However, you would do well to invest in the books I recommended to you in this post.

  9. Kevin Lucia
    May 19, 2008

    King’s On Writing is awesome. It completed changed everything I thought about writing. That – and it’s King, for Pete’s sake. He’s such a storyteller; he takes his life and his career, weaves it all together – and it was just as enjoyable as one of his novels.

  10. Kevin Lucia
    May 19, 2008

    Uhh…”completely changed everything I thought about writing.” Sorry. Morning energy drink hasn’t hit yet…

  11. cussedness
    May 19, 2008

    And the examples of editing drafts he put into the book are outstanding illustrations of the process required to get the work right.

  12. CritGit
    May 19, 2008

    See, I’d pray to God for peace on earth, cure for cancer, or my own well being, thankful for what I have and hoping to earn it.
    But then I believe in a Christian God. Not my own personal vengeance deity.

  13. cussedness
    May 19, 2008

    The difference between the way god is presented in the old testament differs to an extreme degree from the way god is portrayed in the new testament.

    Sometimes I think people like Kristy stopped reading their bible when they reached the book of Isaiah.

  14. Phil Smith
    May 19, 2008

    Personal vengeance deities are great. I’ve got at least half a dozen of them. Only yesterday I called upon one of them to blight Nickolaus with stupidity, a rank odour, the inability to express himself vocally and a lifetime of obscurity. Then, quite wisely, said agent of Divine Retribution scratched His head and asked “How the fuck would you know I’d done My work?”

  15. Robin
    May 19, 2008

    On the recommendations of several people who have posted to their blogs or forums the titles of these helpful books, I have made use of King’s On Writing, Strunk and White, and a few others. I will admit right here that it did make a difference in my own writing. I learned a lot, and I’m sure I have plenty more to learn. I have to thank those who I previously thought were just being big meanie heads for leading me to making the corrections I needed to help me!

    So please accept my own apologies for misunderstanding the intent behind all of this drama, and thank you for helping to guide me in the right direction! Janrae, you are a pretty cool chick. I agree with everything you posted above.

  16. cussedness
    May 19, 2008

    another good one is by Noah Lukeman “The First Five Pages.”

  17. Sir Otter
    May 19, 2008

    Chris Roerdan’s DON’T MURDER YOUR MYSTERY is another excellent one, with applications beyond the genre of the title.

  18. cussedness
    May 19, 2008

    I just put that one on my list, Otter. Since a lot of what I write circles around intrigue and espionage, I might learn something good from a book like that.

  19. Louise
    May 20, 2008

    Cuss, bang on. 🙂 As Dolores Claibourne’s friend once said (can’t remember the character’s name right now, but love this quote): “Sometimes, being a bitch is all a woman has.”

    Louise xox

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