I recently had the wonderful opportunity to interview Edmund Schubert, the editor for Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, about How To Write Magical Works: A Writer’s Companion, a collection of essays about the craft and the business of writing that he edited. Ed’s someone to listen to. But so are the authors whose essays fill the book: Faith Hunter, David Coe, C.E. Murphy, Misty Massey, A.J. Hartley, and Stuart Jaffe. Here’s what he had to say about this book.
John: Edmund, you recently edited How To Write Magical Words: A Writer’s Companion. It’s chock full of advice from some pretty successful fiction authors, and an editor who, having purchased one of my stories, has shown exceptional taste (grin). But there are a lot of how-to’s by successful authors out there. What makes this book different, do you think? What’s the special value this book brings to the table?
Edmund: I think the biggest thing that differentiates this book from others on the subject is its diversity of opinions. Most how-to books are written by one person, giving on perspective, but the truth is that there are many paths to success in this business. The Magical Words book was intentionally designed to replicate the give-and-take that exists on the MW blog. Sometime the MW writers agree, sometimes they don’t. The other thing that makes this book different is that it also includes some of the follow-up questions asked by readers of the blog, and the accompanying reply. That makes this book feel/read more like a writer’s conference than your basic info-dump book.
John: I think the concept is great. And the contributors have quite a bit of experience. I know you can’t comment on every essay in the collection, but are there one or two that stood out to you while editing?
Edmund: There were a few that stood out to me. One by Catie and one by David, both on the subject of money/advances. Those stood out to me because of how very blunt and honest they were about finances, and it’s information I think more people need to be aware of.
The other one that stood out for me did so for personal reason. Catie’s essay about Visualizing The Story made me feel so much better about myself as a writer and my chances of success, because for years I’ve been hearing all these other writers at conventions talk about how their stories are like movies in their heads and all they have to do is record the action and the dialogue, and I used to hear that really worry because at best I might see a slide show of of bits and pieces of the action, but I’m totally making the rest up. Hearing Catie say that she didn’t/couldn’t visualize the story that way either gave me hope.
John: I’m sure aspiring authors are going to be very interested in what Catie and David say about money. It’s also interesting that sometimes we writers hear other successful writers talk about how the invention process works for them, compare our process with theirs, and assume we’re lacking. In reality, the way we approach it might be just as effective. That’s one of the things I like about this book—it has multiple contributors. Let me ask one more question. You see a lot of stories as editor of Intergalactic Medicine Show. What are some of the topics addressed in this book that, based on the biggest issues you encounter in submissions, authors would be wise to carefully consider?
Edmund: Magical Words as a group have two mantras: the first is that there is no one right way to do this crazy thing called writing, and the second is the exception that proves the rule: the one and only true answer to everything is BIC. Butt In Chair. You put your butt in the chair and you write. You figure it out as you go along. And the more you write, the more the other advice you hear will make sense. You want to be a writer? Write. The rest is details.
John sez, amen to that. And amen to this book. I really enjoyed the format and the insights shared. I never tire talking about craft and business with other writers. With over 100 essays and 313 pages, this book has lots to share. If you want to hear what some very smart and a few very published authors have to say about writing, you’ll want to pick up your own copy.