Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Word of Advice

Still thinking about the fellow aspiring writer I met the other day. (You can tell how rarely I meet these in the real world. Yet another reason to love the blogosphere.)

During the conversation, she asked me for advice. I passed on some information I thought might help her, but I didn't want to get into the nitty gritty, because ...
a) This was a quick, informal conversation, so there was a limit to what I could tell her
b) I haven't read any of her work yet, so there was really a limit to the specifics I could give her
c) There are some things I don't feel I can tell her without being super, super discouraging.

Still, despite this, I tried to give her some information that I thought would help, and we're planning to stay in touch to keep talking about writing. I think we can grow a lot together as writers, and it'll be really great for both of us, I think, to have corporeal fellow-writers with whom to speak. (Y'all are great, but I do find there's something to be said for flesh and blood.)

This made me remember when I started writing almost two years ago. There are a few things I wish I'd had someone around to tell me.

1) Oh, honey, that book you're writing, well, A for effort, but that thing is seriously flawed. I wouldn't start mailing out queries on it yet, babe. You've got a lot to learn.
2) Make sure you figure out your characters and try to keep them consistent throughout the book. That thing where your characters do stuff that isn't at all like them, that's just confusing for your readers.
3) Motivations, characters should have them. They can't just go around doing things and saying things without any apparent reason or cause, because then they just look like irrational psychos, instead of people that the characters feel connected to.

What do you wish you'd had someone to tell you when you started writing? What have you learned since you started writing?


  1. I just wish I'd known how stiff the competition really is. I probably would have kept on writing, but I would have been forewarned.

  2. If I would have know how tough it was, I might have ever got started. But I in the game now baby, there is no turning back.

  3. EDIT ALERT: "I might NOT have ever GOTTEN", "But I AM in the game." Argh! I could kick myself for not proofreading. Sorry Dominique.

  4. I wish I'd been told to put more time into it. That the more I worked it, the farther I would get. That being a writer is like being a musician and you have to practice a TON before getting good.

  5. Patience. That's the one thing I wish someone had told me, "You need to have patience." Writing is a long hard road.

  6. lol, what I would've liked to know are similar to yours--especially number three. Oy. But I'm not sure if I would have been able to actually HEAR that advice back then. Sometimes we just have to go through that ignorance phase to appreciate the other side.

  7. I wish I knew that it's better to write the query before starting the novel. That way you can spot the problems before you even write them.

  8. I'm trying to figure out how to make my story more unique. At least I've learned enough to know that sometimes you put a book on hold until its more marketable.

  9. Michelle -- I agree, I think most people don't realize how stiff the competition is when they start out.

    Girl -- S'okay. I don't always proofread either. It happens.

    Karen -- True. I don't think I realized either how much practice I'd have to do.

    Piedmont -- Ah, patience, a tremendous virtue that no one ever has enough of. How true.

    Roni -- True, I think sometimes we have to trial-by-fire learn this writing thing. We must fail epically to write well.

    Mathew -- I've never tried formally writing the query first, but I realize now that I do that in my mind as I write. I agree, it does help some.

    Tamara -- Fair enough. Sometimes timing is essential.

  10. I'm not sure what I wish anyone would have told me except to be more honest. My first book, oh dear. It's so slooow and unnecessarily detailed. I see these things now, but back then nobody really pointed it out. Of course, I didn't know many other writers back then, and these were just readers who probably didn't know what the problem was, either. Funny what we learn over time!

  11. Glamis -- I agree. I think you're right. Honesty is very important in writing, and it's something we don't always realize right away is missing.