Publication vs Glory

When I feel lonely in my writing I turn for companionship to John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction.

The title provides added comfort, referring to Gardner’s concise review of our trade as “Notes on Craft for Young Writers,” implying that those who should benefit from it—and I benefit from it every time I open it up—are young.

My grey hair suggests otherwise, and Gardner clarifies what he means by ‘young’ as being ‘young at the craft.’

As with my grey hair, my logged hours belie any claim to youth at this endeavor. But his notes on craft remain as instructive as when I first cracked the book in 2005.

Beyond the nuts and bolts of creating good fiction Gardner provides wise counsel on the arc of a fiction writer’s purpose.

Every true apprentice writer has, however he may try to keep it secret even from himself, only one major goal: glory. The shoddy writer wants only publication. He fails to recognize that almost anyone willing to devote between twelve and fourteen hours a day to writing—and there are many such people—will eventually get published. But only the great writer will survive—the writer who fully understands his trade and is willing to take time and the necessary risks—always assuming, of course, that the writer is profoundly honest and, at least in his writing, sane.

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