The writer as accountant




Whenever I look at a literary agents website for advice, it tells me the same thing: "be professional. Write a professional letter introducing your work."

Apparently this means I must: "include a log-line and an elevator pitch" and "tell us the genre and what the target market is."

Oftentimes I'm told to submit a "detailed synopsis" of the plot.

Above all, I must be "professional" in my approach "at all times".

Well, I shouldn't be surprised. These people are in business, and they're trying to make a living from the book industry.

However, looking back at the history of writing, I can't help but feel that they're missing a vital point with all this professionalism malarkey.

E.g., would William Burroughs, author of Junky, self-confessed heroin addict, and wife-killer have acted professionally for so much as a minute of his life? - I doubt that very much.

What about Dylan Thomas, the alcoholic poet who drank himself to death?

Lord Byron, notorious lothario?

Malcolm Lowry, dypsomaniac novelist?

Ernest Hemingway, barroom brawler?

Harlan Ellison, the famously cantankerous wordsmith who abandoned his role as a screenplay writer on a Star Trek movie with the immortal line (delivered to his manager): "I'm a writer. I don't know what the fuck you are."

Two things strike me about these authors:

(1) Whether you like them (or their work) or not, they were great writers; and

(2) they were probably damaged beyond any possibility of being "professional".

It is likely this latter quality is what gave them their fire as writers.

I admit to having at least one of those two qualities in common with those guys. And I'm not saying it's being a great writer!

I reckon they would all have been overlooked by today's publishing industry for failing to adhere to the professional standards of behaviour currently required.

You see, they thought it was enough to write well; they put their trust in words.

That's going to be my approach.

So, to the agent who told me I should send him a "detailed synopsis of every chapter", my reply is brief and to the point:: "Fuck that for a game of soldiers".

Check out my work and my blog.

See if I don't walk it like I talk it.

Try these posts for size:

Raising Dave Chapter 1

Acid, weed, speed and me

Blogging as a writer

Visit my books page

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