Thursday, February 11, 2010

Writer's Life Tip #2


In a world where bad news dominates the airwaves and internet, the one thing a writer needs is belief in themselves. The publishing world is full of rejection. Agents send them out even when a writer just sends a simple one page query, and editors send them out when a chunk of the manuscript is sent. Writers learn early on that they must have thick skin. This is not a business for the squeamish.

If you truly want to be a writer--a published writer--then you need to have a tremendous amount of belief in yourself and in your writing.

Now, this isn't to say that if you query fifty agents and they all tell you that you need to work on your craft, that belief alone will make you a better writer. Now you're just living in fairy world. Once in a while you will actually get a rejection that gives you advice. Take it. If the agent says, "Great concept, but poorly executed." Well, you need to take that as you need to do some work on your craft. Take a college course in Fiction Writing. If that doesn't fit in well with your life, consider taking an online writing course.

When I first started out, I realized that the last "English" course I had taken that had anything to do with writing mechanics had been in high school. AND, that course didn't tell me any of fiction writing mechanics. Realizing this lack, I took a few courses through Writers Online Workshops (WOW). I learned about point of view, scene and sequel, characterization - all the things that I did not learn in high school and college. Invest the time in yourself to work on your writing. If you have grasped all of the technical parts of writing, then join a critique group. Be warned though; people can be cruel, especially if they are jealous. Pick a critique group that gives positive criticism only. Negative criticism will only create self-doubt.

There are many non-fiction books out there about writing. On Writing by Stephen King is wonderful, and I highly recommend it. Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg is another great book. If you don't have the time or money to take a class, a good writing book can be a great substitute.

Read, read, read. Reading the genre you write will make you a better writer. BUT, you have to start reading with a different eye. If you pay attention to the mechanics of published works, you will learn a lot. Unfortunately, though, the more you read, the more you critique and sometimes it's hard to get lost in a story. Being an editor by day, it makes it very hard for me to stick with a book. If I'm not captured fully within the first chapter, the book goes back to the library.

What have you done to help hone your craft? Reading books, taking classes, a critique group? I'd love to hear what you've done.


Cassy Pickard said...

Kris: Great topic. Thanks for putting it out there. I have done the on-line classes, read more books on the subject than I want to admit, talked with published and unpublished writers--well, you get the picture.

I finally have realized that all of the preparation I have done is helpful, but only to a point.

I have to write. Write, read my writing, argue with myself and then get past myself.

Again thanks, Cassy

SG Redling said...

Writing is such a leap of faith, but the fact is you leap farther the more prepared you are. It's easy to get lost in the inspiration side of writing and neglect the gritty, hard-work side. Education, improvement, and just hard work. Great post. If you're looking for another great book on writing, try Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Cassy. I, too, agree that the more you write, the better writer you become. You can know all the mechanics you want, but if you can't tell a story, well, then....

Shelia, I forgot Bird by Bird! I have that book, and yes, it is wonderful.

Thanks for stopping by, ladies!

Anita Clenney said...

You're so right Kris. A writer must have both: belief in yourself AND good writing. One isn't enough without the other.

I knew nothing when I started but didn't know that I knew nothing:)I started researching the craft of writing online and figured out fast that I was out of my league. But I truly believed I had a talent for this. I absorbed everything I could and took classes and I believe it's paid off.

There were times, still are, that I think I'm insane for attempting this in a market of so many fabulous writers. Where can I possibly fit in? But there are soooo many more readers than writers. I believe there is room for us all.

Unknown said...

I hope there is room for us all, Anita, since I've yet to receive the "call"!! It's good to realize when one needs to continue to work on their craft. It's unfortunate when writers don't see that in themselves, and then become bitter when things don't work out.

Again, congrats on your book deal! That's awesome.

Liz Lipperman said...

Great critique partners. I have two of the best and we do line edits for each other. One writer with a Journalism background can take my wordy sentences and make them way shorter just by changing a word or two. Over the years, some of her magic has worn off on me. Now my manuscript doesn't come back looking like someone opened a vein over it.

I also believe as you mentioned that reading is key to improving your writing. Find out what's out there and how these published authors do it.

And you need a huge dose of self belief as you mentioned!!

Great post, Kris.