Happy Turkey Day all! I hope you’re eating tons of turkey and other tasty treats. The fam and I have since last year discovered the delight that is Cinnamon Pie, which now accompanies Pumpkin Pie for dessert when we need to add a few extra thousand to the already bajillion+ calories we consume on this most blessed of food days.
Even attempting to bake cinnamon pie in the first place is all due to the Dual Spires episode of Psych. And believe you me, this cinnamon pie is re-dik-ka-luss! Thank you Sharon Miller or whoever it was that posted it.
And now in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’m going to post 15 things I’m grateful that I know about writing:
- Rough drafts are just that, rough. Don’t stress over the first draft. Instead, have fun with it.
- Feedback is the key to better writing.You don’t have to do everything everyone suggests, nor should you, but you should strive to understand why they said it.
- Some will tell you the definitive right way to write a book. Don’t believe them. Everyone is different and everyone’s processes are different. It’s good to learn from other writers and how they operate, but if it doesn’t work for you, don’t do it.
- If you want to improve, check your ego at the door when asking for someone’s honest opinion. Thick skin is a requirement in this business.
- Read. A lot. Then read some more. You may think you don’t have time because of all the writing you need to do, but reading is the saw sharpening for writing. Do it, or end up being cliché and boring.
- Share your work. Find a writers’ group or get in on the blogging community and find fellow writers. Another pair of eyes will see flaws you don’t. The sooner you’re willing to do this, the faster you’ll grow.
- Don’t query your manuscript too early. What’s too early? Right after the first draft is definitely too early. Even the fourth or fifth draft is probably too early. There are plenty of beta readers out there willing to help you.
- Don’t self-publish because you’re lazy. If you got 10 rejection letters and it hurt your feelings, toughen up. Self-publishing may be the right avenue, but you’ve got to know it will take just as much if not more work to be successful if you go that route. If you’re not willing to do gut-wrenching hard work, you’re in the wrong business.
- Panster or Plotter? If you like flying by the seat of your pants, meaning you don’t plan you just write, try plotting sometime to shake it up. If you have to follow a plan and have trouble deviating, try flying by the seat of your pants a few times. I used to be a heavy plotter, now I do both. I find both extremely useful to crafting story.
- Blog. But I’m busy writing! you say. Blogging does several wonderful things for you that you’d be a fool not to take advantage of. It sharpens your communication skills, it gets your name out there even if small at first, and you can make connections with other writers and potentially industry professionals. I’ve met some fantastic people blogging. And they’ve made me aware of competitions and other opportunities I may not have heard of otherwise. Plus the camaraderie alone is worth the effort. Blog!
- Improve. There is a wealth of helpful information out there to help improve your writing. Some books I recommend are Story by Robert McKee, and based on a workshop I attended, Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. You can also head over to Janice Hardy’s blog for an astounding amount of awesome tidbits to sharpen your skills.
- Hire an editor. But don’t do this until you’ve had many, many other eyes scour over your manuscript first. Editors can be pricy and you want to present them your best work so they can focus on important changes, not the bajillion typos you left them. This should be a requirement before self-publishing. If you’re doing traditional publishing, I’d still recommend it because you can learn a lot on how to improve. Even if you do an exchange for it with a newly graduated college student, find a way, and get it done.
- Read other genres. It’s good to venture outside your traditional reading circle. You may find inspiration for future stories and it broadens your experience. For example, I read Darkly Dreaming Dexter, certainly not within my usual reading list. It’s not the kind of book I would recommend to myself, but I learned a lot about voice and the idea of a serial killer that kills serial killers fascinated me. I probably won’t tread into that genre often, but I’m glad I read it.
- Enter contests/competitions. There are an abundance of contests out there. Writer’s Digest sponsors a whole slew of them. Get yourself some contest cred, it helps with the query letters and it gives you an idea of how your writing fares in the real world. You may have to try your hand at a few short stories to do this more successfully. Read Anton Chekhov to get an idea of short story beats.
- Go to writers conferences. Many agents say they prefer finding aspiring writers at conferences. That’s probably because if you’re invested enough in your story to be at a conference they know you’re invested enough in it to take it all the way. Having to pitch your story means you need to be able to talk about it in a cohesive way, which means you’ve thought about it extensively. And while you’re there, network with other writers. That’s where I learned about #Row80, #wordmongering, and how important blogging and tweeting are to building your brand. Plus I met some great people, most of which I still stay in contact with. And, it’s fun!
So there you have it. Fifteen things I’m grateful I’ve learned about writing. Hopefully I’ve added a few more things you’re grateful to know. There’s plenty of room for all of us to have that title of “published” author, so let’s make sure to help each other all get there. Do your part and share your experiences so the rest of us can glean good info from your experience. And as always, keep on writing!
p.s. Again, no Friday Flix tomorrow. Holiday and all, plus I want to catch up on some novel writing. See you Monday!