Scattered Thoughts on Writing - BLOG for 11th August, 2010
I am a huge proponent of little known writers. I try to find their work, read it, review it, and if it is any good, promote it and them. A question I almost always ask when I interview them is “Any advice you’d give new writers?” Here are some of my thoughts on that question:
· Take your writing as seriously as you would any other job. If writing to you is just a hobby, don’t expect to ever achieve greatness. Writers are like anyone else – those who work at improving their craft eventually get noticed. Those who don’t, wont.
· Read the work of successful writers voraciously. Learn from their style and technique. Don’t copy it, but learn from it.
· Your Mama probably isn’t the best source for objective commentary on your work. Join a real world or online writers group that has a membership who will give your work honest, objective criticism. Groups that tell you that everything you’ve submitted is ‘a good write’ will not help you. Groups that give you specific comments and offer specific suggestions, will.
· Devote time to writing every single day. Even if you never use what you’ve written, write anyway. You wouldn’t approach your job or hobbies without practice, treat your writing the same way.
· Set goals. Words per day, pages per day, minutes per day, whatever works best for you. Set goals and work at keeping them.
· Treat your writing as a craft. If it’s a passing fancy to you, don’t expect to pen the next War & Peace or Harry Potter.
· Write first, edit later.
· Most people write what they write, the way they write it, because they believe it is the correct way to write what they have written. Other than quick proofreading for obvious typos the spell checker missed, do not – I repeat – DO NOT be your own final editor. If what you have written is grammatically wrong when you wrote it, you probably won’t catch it when you proof read it. Get an experienced editor for your final manuscript. There are two kinds. Flow and continuity editors, or story editors, and writing editors; those who check spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, quotes, etc.
· With the exception of writing character dialogue, never write in street slang. It is fine for your characters to speak in Ebonics, but with rare exception, the person telling the story should ‘speak’ normally.
· Let your words show the action, not tell it.
· The best place to start is with what you know. Research (and credit your research) to be sure, but pick a starting place within your knowledge and comfort zone. Then gradually move out of the box.
· When you think your work is finally edited and ready, make certain your query letters to potential agents and/or publishers look and sound professional. Never, ever use ‘texting’ shortcuts in a query letter. The query letter and possibly your manuscript, are the first glimpse a potential agent or publisher gets of you. Leave them with a good impression.
· Finally – for this time around anyway – you are not Stephen King, Stephenie Meyers, J.K. Rowling, Dan Brown, John Grisham, Janet Evanovich or James Patterson. Don’t try to mimic their style. Be yourself. You can be you better than you can be anyone else anyway.
- To all serious aspiring writers.
Whilst seconding all that which David has written I will add: Never ever admit to `Writer's Block'
Pick up your pen or sit at your keyboard and write the first sentence entering your mind.
"The cat sat on the mat". Explain why the cat sat on the mat.
Expand to: Tabby sat upright on the mat and listened with his ear to the door at the rough growl on the other side which told him Butch the German Shepherd was still stalking him.
OK, so it's kids stuff, rubbish, but it is writing and keeps the pen moving across the paper.
Now substitute the cat for the hero who is being pursued by an armed intruder:
James winced as perspiration coursed down his forehead into his eyes. The heavy oak door which for generations had protected the castle occupants from the Norse invaders would now be tested against modern explosives.
In a garret close by the battlements, Madeline crouched inside a priest-hole where centuries before Royalists hid from the wrath of Cromwell's Roundheads.
Be a word gardener. You have the ground prepared, now erect a trellis to support the wisteria and watch the tendrils grip tightly as they climb to the heavens. Witness the delicate petals as the spring welcomes summer. Maybe a sudden cold snap will cause the plant to wither slightly. Cut off the dead heads and re-write.
Will the invader gain entrance? Is our hero to be slain this early in the saga? Will Madeline suffer rape and throw herself from the parapet in an agony of shame?
I haven't a clue but I anticipate some action which I hope will show as well as tell me a yarn for a winter fireside.
My point is: Start writing anything and revise or edit as the plot progresses. You have the power in your hands to give birth or bring death; to create heroes and/or heroines .With a pen in your hand you can be a god or a devil. So start right now.