As a fledgling novelist and BookNet virgin, I became seriously depressed by dg’s recent NC post (“When Sales Data Drive Publishing Decisions: The BookNet Dictatorship by Stephen Henighan at Geist”). Just thinking about a ‘literature sales data program’ squeezed the creative juice out of my whole day. I couldn’t write a word. Then I stumbled across a hopeful voice offering: “New Rules for Writers: Ignore Publicity, Shun Crowds, Refuse Recognition and More,” by Anis Shivani* published in the Huffington Post. His new rules are based on the premise that “writers aren’t forged in social harmony and peer input and obedient fellowship, but in a region where madmen and insomniacs find no comfort.”
“These “rules” totally go against every prescription for writing success you’ll hear as a young writer from all quarters: the conformity-driven MFA system, the publishing industry’s hype-machine, successful writers who act either like prima donnas or untouchable mystics, the marketing experts who seek to impose advertising rules on the writing product. Overpaid editors, illiterate agents, arrogant gatekeepers, and stupid reviewers want you to bargain away your soul for a pittance — the bids in the market escalate downward, a reverse auction where you compete with the lowest of the low to be acknowledged as an entity that counts.”
Shivani lists ten rules. Many go against the typical advice given to emerging fiction writers like myself, but somehow feel truer. Others I can’t exactly abide, like “Converse Only with the Classics.” Ignore Shivani’s hyperbole and glean what you can. I intend to follow rule number four: Seek Unemployment.
* Anis Shivani is the author of the short story collection, Anatolia and Other Stories, published by Black Lawrence Press. Booklist describes the collection as “extraordinary” and “caustically funny.” The collection has been long listed for the Frank O’Connor Short Story Award and one of the stories–”Dubai”–was awarded Special Mention for the Pushcart Prize.