The Writer as Martial Artist

White Belt: Symbolizes the blank page, which the student will fill over the course of his/her training.  Beginning rank.  Student begins to study the basic techniques of the writing arts.  Student learns proper manuscript format, basic writer etiquette, and simple story structure.

Yellow Belt: Symbolizes the manila envelope, indicating that the student is now ready to submit his/her work.  The student is now a submitting writer, and begins to develop the discipline of the writing arts.  Student has learned persistence in the face of rejection and acceptance of critique.

Green Belt: Symbolizes the introduction of Yog’s Law.  The student has memorized Yog’s Law (money flows to the writer), though true understanding will come later.  Student has learned the discipline of scheduled writing time, and may be branching out into other forms of flash, short, novella, novelette, and novel.

Blue Belt: Symbolizes the open sky and the dreams of the student upon receiving his/her first sale.  The first victory, whether pro or semi-pro, is an important milestone in the student’s training.  The student has some familiarity with the basic forms and now begins to study more advanced techniques.

Red Belt: Symbolizes the red ink of revision*.  Student begins to build a deeper understanding of story.  Rejections still outnumber acceptances, but rejections are often personalized.  Student has learned the forms of fiction.  At this stage, the student begins to better identify his/her own strengths and weaknesses.

Black Belt: Symbolizes the million words of black ink the student has now spilled.  Contrary to popular belief, the black belt is the beginning of mastery, not the culmination.  The student knows the basic forms and techniques of writing, and has incorporated the disciplines into daily life.  Student is now in a position to start his/her true study of the writing arts.

*Some say the red belt symbolizes the blood the student has spilled over the years of banging his/her head against the desk.

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  1. 1. Phiala

    Hey, I’ve all unknowing made it to green belt (assuming experience can substitute for formal certification). Now working hard toward blue belt.

  2. 2. Alma Alexander

    LOVE THIS. I’m linking to it on my LJ.

  3. 3. Deck


  4. 4. Jim C. Hines

    Thanks, Alma!

    Phiala – good luck on the next promotion test!

  5. 5. Nobu

    Hmm, I guess I’m a green belt. Who knew I’d come so far.

    Come on blue belt. Any day now.

    (On the plus side, about half of the rejections I’ve gotten are personalized, so maybe I’m doing something right…)

  6. 6. Melissa Mead

    I think I’m purple…

    This is great! May I share the link?

  7. 7. Jim C. Hines

    Nobu – personalized rejections are a good sign. (Though sometimes it’s even more frustrating to feel like you’re so close, but still not getting that acceptance yet…)

    Melissa – feel free, thank you!

  8. 8. C. Sän Inman

    This is great. You made me feel like I’m a lot more accomplished than I am. :D

  9. 9. Tom

    Wahoo! I’m a blue belt, working on red. though, I’ve written well over a million words. Probably a couple million, so I might be falling behind.

  10. 10. Kara Gnome

    I’m a red bordering on black, but I skipped green!

    Very cool, thanks for sharing :)

  11. 11. Matt

    Any chance we can con you into opening a dojo?

  12. 12. Jim C. Hines

    Matt – Cat Valente and I are doing a workshop session this weekend at Penguicon. Does that count? (I wonder if it’s too late to get patches made up for our students :-) )

  13. 13. Heather

    Great article Jim. I linked to it on FB for all to see and wonder at your greatness. :-)

  14. 14. Jim C. Hines

    Thanks, Heather!


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Author Information

Jim C. Hines

Jim C. Hines' latest book is THE SNOW QUEEN'S SHADOW, the fourth of his fantasy adventures that retell the old fairy tales with a Charlie's Angels twist. He's also the author of the humorous GOBLIN QUEST trilogy. Jim's short fiction has appeared in more than 40 magazines and anthologies, including Realms of Fantasy, Turn the Other Chick, and Sword & Sorceress XXI. Jim lives in Michigan with his wife and two children. He's currently hard at work on LIBRIOMANCER, the first book in a new fantasy series. Visit site.



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