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  The Ishmael Community: Questions and Answers

The Question (ID Number 175)...

    What three things about writing (that is, the actual process of putting words on paper) do you wish you'd known before you started to write?

    ...and the response:

    I wish I'd known that the writing that wowed my English teachers in school would not get me published; that would have saved me a lot of anguish and confusion.

    I wish I'd known why readers read. Most beginning writers (and I was the same) are like chefs trying to cook dishes that they've never tasted themselves. How can you make a great (or even an adequate) bouillabaisse if you've never had any? If you don't really understand why people read mysteries (or romances or literary novels or thrillers or whatever), then there's no way in the world you're going to write one that anyone wants to publish. (This is the meaning of the well-known expression "Write what you know.")

    I wish I'd known how good the competition is. Beginning writers don't realize that when they send off a short story, it sits on the editor's desk in the same pile with stories by the most famous and honored names in present-day writing-and it's not going to be accepted unless it's as good as theirs. (And it'll probably have to be better.)


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