How to Get Rich in the Writing Business

Well, I did it.

I survived two weeks at nearly 9,000 feet. I critiqued thirty-three stories and a quarter-million words. I helped plot three novels, including my own. I wrote a nearly-ready-for-publication draft of a short story in two days. I had dinner with George R.R. Martin and Steven Gould. I hiked an alpine trail and got barked at by ravenous prairie dogs.

Now, it is with a heavy heart that I big adieu to a whole pose of talented, fascinating people, many of whom I expect to see great thing from–and do great things with–in coming years.

Taos Toolbox. It’s been different things to different people. If I’m honest, I signed up partly because I’ve always been a bit jealous of the younger folks who can take six weeks away from their lives to attend Clarion, but I did not come here expecting the “life-changing experience” so many report after Clarion or Odyssey. Instead, I expected what I got, expert guidance, reiteration of what I already knew, and lots and lots of practice looking at my own and others’ prose through a critical, professional lens. More mid-course correction than orbital insertion.

Mission accomplished.

But if the heavens haven’t opened up and poured forth the secret to a life of literary leisure, these two weeks have given us something almost as good. At a certain point, a writer must learn to critique his or her own work through the eyes of others. There are really only two ways to do that. The first is to get others to critique your work–which is the slow way. The second is to compare your critique of your own and others’ work to the critiques of other competent writers. This is what Milford style critique is about and, to a large extent, what Taos Toolbox is about.

A group of us were stuck waiting for slow lunch service earlier, and we were joking that Walter and Nancy might tell the rest of the class the secrets to fame and fortune before we got back. But the truth is, we all came here knowing the secret to success in writing: Write. Write the very best you can, as much as you can, and build your network and your career, as Kevin J Anderson puts it, like a winter snowfall–one flake at a time.

We are all, now, a little further down the path.

We head out in the morning, back to spouses, kids, pets, un-mown lawns, contractor disputes and  day job woes, the gym and the home office. But we head out invigorated, ready, eager to apply what we’ve learned and what we’ve done to new ventures and new horizons.

To my friends new and old at Angel Fire, I’ll miss you one and all. Now go home, get unpacked, and get busy.