Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Advice for writers

This is another blog post based on a question I've seen in a number of interviews:

What would you say to help new writers?

Well, apart from, Go, go now while you still have a chance! It's too late for me, but you've got your whole life ahead of you!

Apart from that, which I would obviously never, ever say to a new writer. Not one who didn't know my peculiar sense of humour, anyway.

I find myself usually offering something that feels trite in answer to this question: Keep editing, make your friends read over your work, make your family read over your work, make kind strangers on the side of the road read your work, then revise what you've written with that feedback in mind.

Keep trying. Remember that every 'no' brings you closer towards a 'yes'. Success is built on the mountain of 'no'. Embrace it. Hug it like a lover.

And stuff like that.

In this personal blog, though, I have a bit more room to make an answer to this question. I've been there through most of it myself. I've been in the writing classes, the workshop groups. (I had a particular woman who was the bane of my writerly existence from aged 18 to 24, constantly telling drawing thick red lines through my writing. I'm now lucky enough to have stayed in contact with her for long enough that my writing has progressed to the point there are fewer thick red lines.) I've agonised over what words to use in the synopses, and polished the first page within an inch of its life in vain hopes that it will capture a publisher's interest. I've been rejected and then picked up by another house for the same piece of work so I know it can't have been that bad, it just wasn't the right fit for the first place(s) I submitted to. I've been published and then discouraged when I found my work wasn't done, lost interest in the books I was meant to be promoting, and let things slide.

But it's like they say on the popular campaign for teenage LGBT kids: It gets better.

Of course it does, otherwise we, as writers, would throw in the towels and refuse to get up in the mornings.

I've also decided to make use of other peoples' words to further aid this advice for writers segment. The links below are, without exception, written by people who have shown thought and wit over just some of the issues writers face.

I found them useful and I thought you might too.

The links:

On Writing.
So, it's hard to have much to edit or submit without an actual piece of writing. That's why we're going to start with Rachel Aaron's blog post on how she got from writing 2k words a day to writing 10k.
How I Went From Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day.
I'm a writer who has commonly been able to write large amounts in a single sitting, and been surrounded by people and blog posts that have instructed that the way to go is the steady 1,000 words every day. Look them up on Google, they're out there. They're just weren't really helpful to me. So, if you're like me, I strongly encourage you to click on this link. Rachel is amazing and witty and her 'triangle of writing metrics' is, in my humble opinion, unparalleled.

On Editing.
Obviously, it's difficult to edit your own work. You're a writer, not an editor. Unfortunately, before you can become an author, you do need to learn a little bit about the craft of editing.
Why Editing on Paper Beats Editing on Screen.
Christopher Ruz puts together a run down in this post on what goes into a round of edits for him. Obviously, this isn't a definitive how-to on editing for everyone, but it does give you an example of what can go into an editing process and it's also a good place to start. I've also found the act of reading your manuscript aloud to hear how it runs is helpful. Ultimately, you'll find an editing method that works for you.

On Synopses.
You've got the writing, you've done the editing, but now it's time to make something of it. More to the point, it's time to make somebody else sit up and take notice of it. For that, you need to condense your 50k, 80k, 100k novel into a one page document.
My Method for Writing a Synopsis.
Stacy Nash gives you the run down on how she does synopses in this concise and useful post.

On Rejection Letters.
So, you've written the novel, edited it, submitted it for publication complete with a synopsis and...
It still got rejected.
Why Good Stories Get Rejected.
Not to worry. You are an author now. Come on, you can say it. Your first rejection letter is a rite of passage. Your tenth rejection letter is a rite of passage. Sure, there are some authors who get accepted in the first house they submit to, but it's the exception rather than the rule. In this blog post, E. M. Lynley goes into some detail on what it is that causes good stories to get rejected.

On Online Promotion.
Now you're published. If you got into one of the big houses, good for you! They'll actually do a lot of the marketing for you, you'll have a book launch, it'll be terrific. But maybe you got picked up by an indie publisher, or got sick of all the rejection letters and decided to go into self publishing.
The Complete and Unabridged Guide to Goodreads for Authors Set Up Customization and Widgets, Lots of Widgets.
What they don't tell you is that the writer's job doesn't stop at getting the novel published. Even if you're published with one of the bigger companies, you'll still be expected to have an online face. Twitter and Facebook are great, but one of the best online promotional tools going around right now is Goodreads. It changed my life. It'll waste a lot of your daytime hours, and it'll be worth it. Best of all, this is one of the most fun sites around right now, and John Corwin's post is one of the best walk throughs I've seen of it. I had a hoot while reading it.


I've also been featured on Allan Krummenaker's blog, writing further insights on plot and character creation.

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