A Word From My Publisher

He’s a rat bastard, but that’s why we like him. Like Lou Grant, but meaner.

Lifted from Grapnel Press

Do Us A Favor and Don’t

by , under Rants

“Writing is not about self-expression; it is about putting words on paper.”

— Gordon Lish

Listen. I am a son of a bitch. When I wear my editor hat I am deeply, truly unpleasant. I am nowhere near as big a son of a bitch as Gordon Lish, but he is a great editor. I am a putz. And a bastard.

But even a putz like me gets sick of every goddamned jackass in the world telling me they know how to write but they just don’t have the (time, idea, motivation, skill or whatever).

But they just know they can do it. They JUST KNOW.

Producing a book used to be an enormous undertaking. Expensive. It took a big team to get it done. They guarded the door fiercely to keep out the riff raff. Some got in anyway, and despite having zero talent sold a few million books. Yeah, Dan Brown, I’m talking to you. But it was the exception rather than the rule.

No more. Thanks to Amazon and the burned-to-the ground publishing industry, they can. And the success of Fifty Shades of Gray, the Hunger Games and that Mormon Vampire Erotica nonsense, it’s a regular gold rush.

Except not it isn’t.

You want to write?  Don’t. That’s my advice.


Oh sure. You’ll see dozens of encouraging blogs. They tell you to put down the scotch. Close Facebook. Do what Papa said and write the best damn sentence you can. Then write another one. Keep them short. Make them long. Don’t revise while you’re writing. Revise everything. Try to think of a joke you know and write it as a story. Tell about that one time your aunt almost got arrested. Do writerly exercises. Don’t waste your time with exercises. Read everything. Only read the classics. Only read the moderns. Avoid genre fiction. Write what you know.  Do your research.

And so on.

The big things I know:  don’t write to get noticed. You won’t be. Don’t write to make money. Not gonna happen. Don’t write to “be like” anyone.

Don’t write for a reason. The best reason and the dumbest reason are still just reasons.

I am serious.  Do yourself and everyone else a favor and quit. You can still tell everyone you’re a writer. You can buy a long-billed hat and a typewriter, carry around a Moleskine and talk about what a genius Flannery O’Connor was.  You can tell everyone about your Great American Novel, whatever the hell that is. And stay the hell away from me.

If you’re having problems writing, stop.

Nobody will notice. I swear to God.

You won’t be missed.

I hope I have sufficiently discouraged you.  Now get the hell out of here.



You still want to write?

You want to write because you have to?  Because you can’t conceive of a life without doing it?

Then for God’s sake, try to get good at it. Get to work.


When you write, put everything you have into it. Get as good as you can.Never be satisfied.

But don’t have any expectations.

They’re just resentments waiting to hatch.

Work your ass off and get back to me.


Add Yours
  1. karen rawson

    Boy, that’s some tough love. Well actually, it doesn’t sound like love at all, but it is good advice.

    I can’t say that I want to write. But I want to write well.

  2. jhardycarroll

    Personally, I think he’s just lazy. Maybe he’d work harder if he got paid. People gotta buy more books.

  3. kirizar

    *Jaw dropping at this end.* Your diatribe…er…I mean advice reminds me of something I heard the very first day I took a course in journalism. The professor instructed every single one of us to go into a different field. “There aren’t any jobs in journalism.” (And this was some time ago, apparently the news industry was dying at about the same time as the publishing industry was burning.) I listened and I switched majors…to Russian Studies. And then the Soviet Union fell. Sometimes, you just got to stick with what you want to do and not what is the smartest thing you can do.

    • jhardycarroll

      Sonovavitch is aptly named. He’s a good guy to have around while editing. Not so much while doing a first draft. Good thing he comes with his own locked cell. We call it “the hole.” It is definitely a rant!

Don't just stand there.