Thursday, March 10, 2011

Words of Wisdom from Author Jay Lake

A few years back I stumbled across an essay titled "Jumping Off the Cliff, Looking for Water on the Way Down". It was an essay about writing being an act of faith, writing despite obstacles like self-doubt and cancer. That essay inspired me then and continues to inspire me today. That essay introduced me to author Jay Lake, a talented and established writer in the science fiction and fantasy realm, and led me to hunt down his books.

Recently, I got to participate in a Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer's Chat with Jay Lake on twitter. For those of you who are totally into Romance, that's like a tete-a-tete with Nora Roberts for me. Thank you to author Bryan Thomas Schmidt for arranging it. Anyhoo, I got to ask questions, listen to other questions and hear Jay's answers. Again, I came away inspired.

Being writers, I'm sure all of us can learn from another writer's wisdom, no matter what the genre. So, with Jay & Bryan's permission, I'm going to share some of my favorite quotes from the chat. Blog readers, I present you Jay Lake:

"I can gin up a story from a very small seed. It's one of the pleasures of the craft for me."

"Publishing is meritocracy, but it is not a just meritocracy"..."Which is to say being good is a necessary but not sufficient condition for success."

"Write more" just means whatever you're doing, do more of it. Plus I'm a big fan of putting down the tv and the videogames...Nothing wrong with entertainment, but things that scratch your plot bump will keep you from writing...The question is: do you want to be a producer or a consumer?

"Nobody is born a literary genius...You would expect to practice a martial art or a new instrument or a foreign language. Why wouldn't you practice writing?"

"And write new stuff. Don't spend years laboring over your Great Work. Trust me, it's not that great. Go write another one."

Regarding reading to write: "Absolutely. It's called filling the well. Imagine a chef who never ate anyone else's cooking. But time is an issue."

"Writing has really interfered with my reading career."

"I talk openly about the cancer because so many people don't. I get more fan letters off my cancer blogging than off my fiction."

"Re outlines, for short fiction, never. I 'follow the headlights' For novels, always. But the process changes every time."

RE: breaking in:
"I wrote and submitted regularly from 1990 to 2001 before making my first sale."

"Probably about 800,000 words of first draft before I broke in."

"At this point, I've probably written close to 3,000,000 words of first draft. Sold over 2,000,000 of those words."

"DId I ever want to quit? Lots of times. But I kept going. Because, well, this is what I wanted."

About Submitting & Rejections:

"And yes, I still get rejected all the time. More often than I get accepted, I think."

"Submitting fiction is kind of like dating. It helps to be cheerful and bullet-resistant."

I hope you enjoyed meeting Jay. To learn more about him you can find him at and, also Facebook and Twitter.

Until next time, Happy Writing & Reading!


Callie James said...

I love inspiring words! I really needed a few good quotes this week too! Thanks!

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

Insightful and encouraging - well...discouraging at the same time yet filled with understanding of a writer's plight. Thanks for the link to his site.

Karen Cote said...

A huge thanks for sharing! It's exactly what I needed to hear. My favorite part was about being a producer or consumer. The motivation inspired will last long into my life of pep talks needed away from distractions. Again, thanks for sharing...

Rashda said...

Thanks for visiting & reading y'all! I know this sounds strange, but I wish I could read Jay's mind...I think it'd be fascinating.

Gwen Hernandez said...

Great thoughts, Rashda. Thanks for sharing.

I love: "Nobody is born a literary genius...You would expect to practice a martial art or a new instrument or a foreign language. Why wouldn't you practice writing?" Why do so many non-writers not understand this? (Some writers too, obviously.) ;-)

Victoria Dixon said...

Thanks for telling me about this, Rashda. Great post and one I need to keep as a mantra. Must write the next one. Must write the next one.

Carla Swafford said...

Thanks for sharing, Rashda!

Louisa Cornell said...

Really great stuff in here, Rashda! I love the "it's not that great. Write the next one." I get what he is saying!

M.V.Freeman said...

This was excellent--this was outstanding.

All those quotes I'm keeping in mind as I move forward (and posting many on my wall!) Thanks for sharing Rashda!