Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Ten things I wish I could tell myself when I just starting out writing

As my kids get older, they are more interested in writing. At least, my two older ones. They are the ones who always have a nose in a book. So, my daughter asked me for some writing advice. I thought I'd share it here as some of you are writers in addition to readers.

#1) Finish a first draft before starting new.

When I first started writing, I had all these cool ideas. I'd start writing on the first one, then I'd jump to the next idea when the first idea became hard or when  newer, fresher ideas--ideas that hadn't been tainted by hard work and despair--came along, I would drop the story I started and worked on the newer idea.  When you actually sit down and finish something and it has a beginning, a middle and an end, you will feel so good about yourself. Then you know you can do it and you can replicate it.

#2) Don't talk, write.

If we are writers, we write. I hear a lot of people talk about their novel. I hear a lot of people saying they want to write a novel. I'll tell you a little secret about writing a novel, you have to sit in the chair and write it. Eventually, you will get there. It may be a mess, it may need to be revised a few times, but you have to write it out.  And as I always say, you can't rewrite nothing.

#3) Learn your craft.

I've said it before on my blog and I'll say it again: continue to learn your craft. Nobody knows everything and even people with several titles under their belts can learn something. But if you're starting out, you need to read books, take classes, go to conferences whatever you can do to learn.

Some of my favorite books: Story Genius by Lisa Cron and Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody.

#4) Get feedback.

There will come a point where you rework a piece until you can't tell if it's good anymore. Great! Send it to someone who can read it with fresh eyes. Beta readers, critique partners, workshops are great places to have someone read your work.

#5) Listen and don't be hard on yourself.

Be humble. Set aside your pride and your ego and let people look at your work. There will be flaws in your writing. People will point them out. Thank them. Take note. Don't get defensive, don't try to explain. Let your writing speak for itself. Also look for patterns in comments/feedback. If something is confusing over and over, then maybe you need to go back and rework it. If one person says it, decide how much you trust that person before changing anything.

#6) Have enough confidence in your writing so other people can't high jack your story

Not all suggestions are great ones. Like I said, I look for repeated feedback. But there are also people who see your work differently. Just like we all appreciate different artists, music and taste in clothing, not everyone will love your story (even after it's published). But if someone tries to get you to see a different vision for your book, thank them.

#7) Have enough humility to listen and take advice

Sometimes what people say cuts to the quick, the very heart of your soul. This is expected when you put your heart out there. Set that work aside for a few days, weeks or even years. Let the suggestion percolate. Then ask yourself this question: Could their criticism be valid? Is there any merit to their words? If you decide no, that's fine. But you might find that with time, you can see the flaw that was pointed out.

#8) Have courage to change something

Words are written in ink, pencil or by computer. They are not written in stone. Even if someone points out a huge plot hole that will make you go back and reconsider the whole foundation of your story, realize that all the work is to help you to have a better story. Have the courage to change what needs to be changed.

#9) Writing takes patience and time

Most people didn't become Olympians in a year, or two or even three. Everything that is hard requires work. And writing is hard. You have to write for a long time often before you even learn the craft. Then you have to send out your work to people to publish or perhaps you'll self-publish and you have to help draw people to your book. All of this takes time. Be patience with the craft and with yourself. When I was first writing, I was curious as to why things got rejected. Knowing what I know now, I understand why things got rejected. My story was either not good enough yet or I was not a good enough writer. It takes time and experience to see clearly what was so frustrating at the time.

#10) Send out your work

Eventually you will want to share your worlds your words with those around you. This takes courage. Hit the print button, hit the submit button, write the query letter. You'll be so glad you did. Writing is a journey of discovery. You discover yourself in your writing, you discover other truths in writing.


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