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Writing Advice, or, Avoiding Real Work The John Scalzi Way

I had the "I'm gonna be a writer" epiphany when I was in my first year in high school, and realized something important, which was that for me writing was easy while everything else was actual work. Someone else with more personal fortitude might have brushed aside his or her limitations and done something else with their life, but as for me I followed the path of least resistance and became a writer. Because, man, I've seen other people do real work, and I have to say: real work sucks.

But now, 15 years into the whole "writing career" thing, I'm here to tell you that I was cruelly deceived by my own attempts at sloth: Turns out writing—if you actually want to make a living from it, and I do—really is actual work. Naturally when I discovered this I was appalled and dismayed, but since at the time I was too far into the writing hole to be qualified to do any other sort of work that didn't involve a price check or reading a telemarketing script (which is even more like real work than what I was doing), I had no choice but to continue .

Fortunately, overall things have turned out pretty well for me so far with this writing thing I've got going. By the end of 2006 I'll have published eleven books, fiction and non-fiction both, and aside from that I'll have written just about every sort of commercial writing there is to write save for a movie script (that's a special sort of hellish endeavor I suspect I would need to start drinking in order to contemplate). So, if you're looking for advice on how to break into Hollywood: Sorry. Check with Robert McKee. I hear he's good.

But as for the rest of it, here are my thoughts, in advice-like form—indeed, much of this chapter takes the form of numbered lists and bullet points, which is your assurance of quality advice. I suppose I could have gone whole hog and made this entire chapter a Powerpoint presentation. But then someone would have had to kill me. Besides, I'll save that for my series of lectures on writing at the Learning Annex. You'll come, won't you?

Actually, here's a disclaimer that you won't get from the writing guy down at the Learning Annex: With this advice, your mileage may vary (I repeat this little tidbit in the entries themselves). There are in fact many, many ways to have a happy and successful writing career. This is how I did it and what I recommend others do. Some of it may work for you. Some of it may not. You're a smart person; you know what's going on in your life and your career. Take the stuff that's useful for you and use it. Kick the rest to the curb.

Here we go.

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