Pointers from Frederik Pohl

Interviews with Contest judges, past winners, current winners, and entrants
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Brad R. Torgersen
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Pointers from Frederik Pohl

Postby Brad R. Torgersen » Thu Dec 23, 2010 1:20 pm

It's been almost 20 years since I first picked up N-Space by Larry Niven. It's a terrific omnibus collection of his material, both fiction and autobiography, plus a nice bunch of commentary on Larry himself -- from editors and other writers -- in the opening pages of the book.

Frederik Pohl was the first editor to publish Niven, back before there was a Writers of the Future. One imagines Larry would have won WOTF, had it existed. As it is, Larry broke in with short fiction, and Fred was the man who opened the gate.

He has this to say:

Frederik Pohl wrote:...Very few good writers need to be discovered. They discover themselves. They write. They keep on writing. They do their best to get better at writing with everything they write, and they send out what they have written to people who may want to publish it; and they keep on doing those things, no matter what.


Sound familiar? It's basically Heinlein's rules, yet again. Write. Write a lot. Finish what you write. Send it to editors.

More Fred:

Frederik Pohl wrote:They may have to endure periods of accumulating rejection slips and unrewarded effort, but if they are any good at all somebody or other, sooner or later, will notice, and publish, and then [the writer] is on their way."


Fred's spot-on with this. I can vouch for it. In my case I was lucky to have K.D. Wentworth, and then my judges, give me good enough marks to win last year. Then, the visibility I got from the win allowed me to step up a bit in the slush, enough so that Stanley Schmidt noticed and liked me, and now I've sold a few things to him, and this has turned into an additional re-sale to a prestigious oversease market, and....

And this is how it seems to be for virtually all of the pros worth paying attention to. When you all win and go to Los Angeles and talk to people like Kevin Anderson, they're going to repeat practically verbatim the same kind of wisdom Fred Pohl dished when discussing Niven's success.

So I hope that everyone gets their latest entries in before the 31st. A week is still a lot of time. I've sold stories that cumulatively only took me 6 hours to write, with no critiquing. It can be done, eventually, if you put in the hours as a new writer and work up your writing muscles to the point where you don't need critiques -- at least not to sell. You might still want them as second opinions, but you won't feel compelled to rely on them as many aspirant writers do.

Well, like I said, this was about pointers from Fred. Food for thought, as we approach 2011.
Coming up: "Life Flight," in Analog magazine
Coming up: "The Chaplain's War," from Baen Books
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Patty
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Re: Pointers from Frederik Pohl

Postby Patty » Thu Dec 23, 2010 3:38 pm

Thanks, Brad.

To the comment about the periods of accumulating rejection slips, I can add that even those stories/novels that are the subject of those rejection slips are probably not wasted. When you finally do get a break, you'll find that people become more interested in your material, and it's probably a good thing to have a large and full cupboard of magic tricks that you can pull out with no or minimal editing.
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kyle
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Re: Pointers from Frederik Pohl

Postby kyle » Thu Dec 23, 2010 4:29 pm

Thanks for the post, Brad.

And since I'm fortunate enough these days to be moving in circles with several working, professional writers, let me assure everyone that lots and lots of rejection letters is the norm. Most writers I ask say they can't even count the rejections they got before their first sale, but are confident they number in the dozens if not the hundreds. And the rejections keep coming even after that first sale. But the writers who make it persist. Because writing is something they have to do. So, everyone, persist!

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Re: Pointers from Frederik Pohl

Postby Michael B » Mon Dec 27, 2010 5:31 am

I've long ago reached the realization that I can't stop writing, even if I never see an acceptance. It's not why I write, as much as I have and will continue to strive for it.

Just want to say thanks to Brad for staging all these interviews, etc. They've been a wonderful addition to the forum!

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Re: Pointers from Frederik Pohl

Postby Elliot » Tue Jan 04, 2011 7:48 pm

Brad R. Torgersen wrote:I've sold stories that cumulatively only took me 6 hours to write, with no critiquing. It can be done, eventually, if you put in the hours as a new writer and work up your writing muscles to the point where you don't need critiques -- at least not to sell. You might still want them as second opinions, but you won't feel compelled to rely on them as many aspirant writers do.


This point made me smile. I'm growing weary of critiques, especially with my novel writing. It seems like the feedback I get anymore has nothing to do with structure or technique and is mainly reader reactions. Granted, I haven't been writing as much SF/F since I started out, but I still think this is very relevant. Thanks so much for sharing.

Oh, and hello forum! This is my first post. :D

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kyle
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Re: Pointers from Frederik Pohl

Postby kyle » Tue Jan 04, 2011 8:46 pm

Elliot wrote:Oh, and hello forum! This is my first post. :D

Hello, Elliot! Welcome!

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Re: Pointers from Frederik Pohl

Postby Elliot » Tue Jan 04, 2011 9:23 pm

Thanks for the warm welcome, Kyle.

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Brad R. Torgersen
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Re: Pointers from Frederik Pohl

Postby Brad R. Torgersen » Wed Jan 05, 2011 10:07 am

Welcome aboard, Elliot!
Coming up: "Life Flight," in Analog magazine
Coming up: "The Chaplain's War," from Baen Books
www.bradrtorgersen.com
Nebula, Hugo, and Campbell nominee.

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Re: Pointers from Frederik Pohl

Postby Elliot » Wed Jan 05, 2011 11:06 am

Thank you, Brad.


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