Pick a fight with me online. Go ahead -- kick cyber-sand in my face. Tell me my books are so thin it's a wonder they don't dry up and blow away. I'll defend myself, but it's no use. When it comes to Web warfare, some guys have it and some guys don't.
What is "it"? Verbiage, baby -- raw, undiluted, unfiltered verbiage. The online equivalent of what could be called "bulk" on a dude. It's not muscle exactly, but it sure comes in handy in a fight.
The Internet being the Internet, there's always a dust-up -- or two or three or a billion -- going on somewhere. I've been observing a few lately, both from afar and (to my chagrin) up close. And one thing that continues to amaze me (other than my own foolishness whenever I do strap on my asbestos and parachute into someone's flame war) is how many danged words certain people are able to type even when their hands are apparently shaking with rage.
Case in point: the back and forth about the Hugo Awards that you'll find here. To provide a little context, the Hugos are…oh, god. I don't know if I have the energy to try and explain it. You see, there are these awards and some people were mad about them so they did stuff and that made other people mad and so they said stuff and that made the first people even more mad and so they did more stuff and that made the second people even more mad and so etc. etc.
You see what I mean? I can't even churn out a couple sentences of helpful background without wanting to dry up and blow away.
Anyway, if you follow the link you'll find a blog post by a writer named Eric Flint, who seems to be a very level-headed and fair-minded guy (even if his apparent fondness for black flat caps makes him look a bit suspicious). Eric has written a loooooooooooong reply to a loooooooooooong reply by another writer, who was replying to a looooooooooong reply elsewhere. In the comments section, you will find many looooooooooong replies. (And many, many, many short ones, of course.)
Eric's post is nearly 10,000 words long. That's more words than I write in week. A lot more. Do I think Eric spent a week writing it? Hell, no. I'm guessing it took him a couple hours. (Any faster and his keyboard would have melted.)
Obviously, Eric Flint has "it." So do Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler, two other writers I've seen bury opponents under verbiage on their blogs. (I was even the bury-ee once.) Kristine Kathryn Rusch has it, too, producing in-depth, insightful and, yes, looooooooooooong blog posts about the publishing industry that you really should be reading if that's something you're interested in.
What you shouldn't do is pick a fight with any of these people. Unless you have "it," too. (And even then you're probably making a mistake.) But me -- I'm a pushover.
I've been thinking about all this because tomorrow (which probably won't still be tomorrow when you're reading this) I'll be at Kepler's Books in Menlo Park, California, debating some of my fellow authors. The topic: Is it better to write from an outline or flying by the seat of your pants? I'll be sticking up for outlines.
Of course, I wouldn't presume to tell other writers how to go about their business. But I know what works -- and doesn't -- for me. Without an outline, I'm just going to sit and stare at a blank screen. Before I can drag out Word #1, let alone verbiage, I need to know what the ideas are, what the goals are, what the framework for it all is.
"Methodical" would be one way of describing it. Another, I suppose, would be "constipated." Either way, it works for books (for me). But for online squabbles -- not so much. Which is a good thing, actually.
It's one more reason for me to stay out of 'em.