Thursday, January 16, 2014
Advice to Writers
With the beginning of a new year, here are some thoughts for us as writers.
1. First drafts are okay. That’s why they’re called “drafts.” Give yourself permission to blow it all out on paper unbridled, and resist the temptation to edit as you go. Editing as you go is a clumsy dance, one that lends itself to stepping on toes and losing one’s partner at the twirl. Once the floodgates open, let the words flow. Clean up comes later.
2. Tell the truth. Don’t pussyfoot around it. One thing that drives me nuts is reading superficial nicey-nicey characters. Let’s face it – people have bad tempers, people swear, people do not always exhibit spotless character and sometimes, don’t even care. Don’t ever censor yourself. Let your character say the bad words, and experience the thrill/shame of bad behavior. And don’t worry about what others will think of what you’ve written. What kind of reading world would we be living in if every character was pearly white? Your story must have tension coming from somewhere, actually everywhere, or it’s a broad yawn.
3. Today is the day you must start, not next week, or after the first of the year. Okay, all you procrastinators out there, stop making excuses and plant butt in chair, apply fingers to keyboard. Simply put, the work will not get done until you do it.
4. Daydream. Absolutely, yes. Daydream much and often. The imagination is where great stories are born, where the wonderful tomes we treasure are nurtured and where they grow.
5. Read. Read everything – read your own genre, read a genre you’ve never read before or one you’ve never enjoyed. Read the classics. I remember reading my dad’s Zane Gray collection when I was something like twelve – typically, I would not pick up a western but I loved those books. I have to force myself to read non-fiction but at times, I do. For me, reading is a “getting away” time and non-fiction is generally matter of fact. While I don’t get that great vacation from life from non-fiction, I find I always learn something that I can relate back to my fiction roots.
6. Don’t bow to the haters. I don’t know why, when an author reaches some level of success, the haters come out to meet and greet. They might shrug at your book, insult the cover, or outrightly diss your work. Maybe they’re ashamed of themselves for not working as hard as you did. No idea, but don’t bow to their negativity. Let them sulk. You go on.
7. Artist Dates. Important. The well does and will go dry and when it does, the well must be replenished. As I’ve said before, take yourself out on an artist date – go to the movies, take your camera out and shoot pictures, try a new restaurant, visit an art gallery, or just go for a walk. You’ll be surprised how seamlessly your brain will bounce back into the world of stories.
8. Critique groups. Allowing others to caress your baby is important too. Now, not everyone is going to love you, believe me. There’s something to be said for developing thick skin. However, constructive comments from people who care about you and care about your future as a writer are essential to your work. Connect with writers’ groups in your area or online. The resources you discover will be tremendously beneficial.
9. Research the craft. The nuts and bolts of spelling, grammar and sentence structure are crucial. Beyond that, study the weightier nuances of writing, such as style, voice, pace. Study the publishing industry standards. You can speak directly to agents and editors now via the internet. Find out what they’re looking for and what they’ll reject. Be knowledgeable. With knowledge comes power and you need both in your writing life.
What advice would you give to writers this year?