Friday, October 08, 2010


"Dear ______,

Due to the number of queries I get about how-to-write, I'm no longer able to respond to them individually without some kind of filter -- I'm not getting any younger, and many of the questions I have answered before -- in person, email, and on my blog, as well as in the handy-dandy little book on my adventures in the literary trade, No Man But a Blockhead. 
As a newbie, you are, I understand, seeing these question in a new-to-you light, and I appreciate that, but I won't be here to speak to the passing parade forever, and the clock is running down.

So ...

If you have a question you think is worth five bucks to get answered? There's a PayPal button on my blog, under "Ask Mr. Writer."

Go here: and click the button. When the Paypal site asks you for instructions, ask the question there.

If you are writing for a class and you need a bio, bibliography, or other general information on me, go here:

If you are looking for a general idea of what it is like to be a mid-list writer such as I, you can go to and get a copy of my e-book, No Man But a Blockhead for your e-reader, or scroll down on my blog and get a copy of it in PDF. Five bucks. 

If you want to take the time to search my blog, you can enter the terms "How to Write," or "Writing Advice," or "Writer's Query," "Said bookisms," "Passing parade," like that. No charge. Lot of FAQ stuff in these, and if you get creative with your search, you will find other things I've offered to the subject. Might as well learn how to do your own research now.

I don't mind passing along what little I know, but there's no reason for me to have to write it down over and over when it's already there and easy to find on your own. Hunt it down, you'll remember it better.

(There are a few folks with whom I have an ongoing relationship, vis a vis writing, and you are exempt from this -- you know who you are. If we've never met or corresponded? Sorry. It's not personal, just how the time shakes out.)"


The above is going to be the boilerplate text of my email response to how-to-write queries. 

What, you are wondering, set me upon this path? 

One of the notes I got today was long and involved, many questions, and because I was feeling benevolent, I decided to answer them. Took a few minutes, and they ranged from how-do-I-get-your-job-writing-for-Star-Wars? to how-much-money-can-I-make? And question #15:

"I've been working on a science fiction series for about ten years now. It's mostly brainstorming, but in your professional opinion, what are my realistic odds of getting published, getting a really big break, and having my books made into movies?"

Slim, I said. Your chances are slim ...

But that's not the reason I got steamed. No, after I sent my thoughtful response, I got a note back wondering if I could give out my collaborator's email so he could answer the same questions? Since we were but a couple on the list of those he'd asked ...

I forwarded that one to Reaves. I expect he's gotten a good laugh from it.  

Sooner or later, if you put one too many straws on the camel's back ...

Not to say I won't post stuff here that might be useful, but I'm pretty much done answering the kind of query I got today. 

Move along. I'm not the droid you're looking for ...


J.D. Ray said...

What gets me is how lazy people are. Sure, I'm one of those guys who has asked, from time to time, for advice on writing. But searching your blog alone would turn up answers to a lot of people's questions, and I doubt it would take much effort, having the web address of your blog, to find a way to get ahold of Mr. Barnes. Like, um... clicking on the link to his blog, for instance.

I wrote a ~6K word short story over the summer. No great feat, and I was pleased to have completed it. A few people have given feedback, some good, some... um... constructive. However, I believe I put more hours into researching the subject matter than actually writing the story. And it was fantastical fiction. If you want to do quality sci-fi, it takes research. If you can't find contact information for someone by finding a link to their blog (granted, e-mail addresses are harder, but once you get to the blog, just ask), you're in trouble in the basic research department.

Okay, now that I've said all that, I've completely spent all my reserve for any future questions that can be answered by research, so I'd better be careful from here on out. Maybe I should read a few posts back about not getting up on soapboxes on the net... Nah.

Bobbe Edmonds said...

>"If you want to do quality sci-fi, it takes research"<


Not that the unwashed masses APPRECIATE what kind of research time must have gone into understanding what a superstring corridor is, or how a tachyon converter must create the equivalent of a microscopic black hole if you want to remotely represent an accurate implementation of time travel. Even my wife was like..."Why can't you just say "He traveled through time?""

Goddam Star Trek...Ruined it for everyone.