Monday, September 28, 2009

The Tale of a Tired Writer


Thanks to Dave for filling in for me yesterday. Considering I am currently nothing more than a zombified writer, if I'd tried to blog yesterday, it wouldn't have been pretty -- or coherent. Now, I'm not guaranteeing coherence today, but ....

This past weekend was fun, informative and oh-so-very-tiring. For those of you who don't know, our own Sarah A. Hoyt graciously agreed to come to the Dallas-Fort Worth area to conduct a 3-day writers workshop. If you have never taken a workshop by Sarah before, run to register the next time she conducts one. Not only will you learn so much about this industry of ours and how to have a chance to succeed at it but you will never, ever be bored.

One of the participants asked Sarah the other day what they should do to have a chance at getting published. Her comment, one that she's posted here before, was "read, write, submit, repeat". And it is so very true. You have to read to know what is being published in your particular field or genre. You have to write -- and finish it -- in order to have a chance. Then you have to let go of your baby and send it off into the world. If you keep it at home, you will never have a chance to be published and then, when it comes back -- and we all get rejections, whether we admit to them or not -- we have to send our baby back out to see if there's another editor out there who likes it better than the one who just rejected it. Add into the mix that while you're doing all this, you have to be writing the next story and the next and the next and kicking them out of the nest as well.

There was a second piece of advice to come out of that weekend and it came from Rebecca Balcarcel, a local poet who took part in a 6-author panel on Saturday night. Rebecca told the audience that she finally had to give herself permission to make mistakes and not be perfect when she is drafting her poem or story. Trying to be perfect her first draft was keeping her from finishing anything. Listening to her, I realized this is something I have to allow myself to do as well.

So, you read, write, submit, and repeat by allowing yourself to make mistakes and not be perfect the first time you put pen to paper -- or fingers to keyboard. The important thing is to finish your story, your novel or whatever it is you are reading. Hopefully, once I've caught up on my sleep, I'll remember this and be able to put it to use.

My question for you is what is the best piece of advice you've recieved that's helped you advance your craft as a writer?

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Your Characters may or may not have caused the problem the book is about. But they _must_ be the ones who solve it.

Anonymous said...

Whoops. That was me.

MataPam

Dave Freer said...

By the pic -That should be the tail of a tired writer;-).

Actually the best piece of writing advice I got was from Eric, mid-way through RBV - when I had a bad attack of the this-is-craps -- "It's great. Finish it."

And that piece of advice is one I would like so many would be writers to take to heart. Get it finished. It's easier to edit or even rewrite once you have a framework.

Anonymous said...

The piece of advice which has saved me the most angst was also given to me by Sarah. Not word for word, and I hope I don't screw it up, but "Don't change your story upon rejection." I know I am, and I would assume we all are to some degree, tempted to change our story when we see what this and that editor thought was wrong with it. We'd be changing them all the time if we did that. And, frankly, I've looked at some reasons as to why some of my stories have been rejected going "What?" And on some, I can see their point, but I still don't want to change it for whatever reason. Besides, I can't resubmit to that market, so what's the point of changing it to please an editor who isn't going to buy it anyway? I just try harder with the next story. Thanks, Sarah. It really has made life easier for me.

Linda Davis

RJ_CruzeJr said...

Get rid of Passive Voice. Cut his throat and toss him overboard -- he is not your friend. He will embarrass you at all the cool parties at all the wrong moments, he will drink your last beer, and he will suck the life right out of your writing like a vampiric mother-in-law.

My advice: take him in a dark alley, and hit him with a crowbar. Many, many times. Just go totally Gordon Freeman on his arse. Don't even bother stealing his shoes. They're not worth it.

(I am forever grateful to Paula Goodlett for this. She took a rather large clue-by-four and proceeded to bash every ounce of passive voice out of my thick, newbie skull)

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

My favourite is:

WHO is the story about?
WHAT do they want?
WHY can't they get it?
HOW do they achieve it?

I know it seems simple but, if you can answer these questions, you have the core of your story!

Kate said...

"No, it's not crap." Sarah, of course :)

Chris McMahon said...

The simple formula:

Setting + Character + Conflict = Story. Where each is integral to the other.

Bit more to it than that. But this precipitated my first 'ahhhh' moment & led to a story that was my first magazine publication.

Amanda Green said...

Matapam, absolutely. And the characters who solve the problem cannot be, imo, brought into the book for the first time just mere pages from the end without any forewarning that they are there.

Amanda Green said...

Dave, I get Sarah telling me to "just finish it" often enough I'm tempted to tattoo it across the backs of my hands -- so I see it whenever I'm at the keyboard. So here's a question for you. What do you do to "finish it" when the book stalls and you KNOW you can't go any further?

Amanda Green said...

Linda, I would add one thing to that -- if you have several editors/agents/critique partners say the same thing, you have to look at it and see if they might not be right. However, if I have an agent or an editor telling me to change something and aren't offering to reread it, I don't change it. AND, if that agent or editor then comes back with something else he wants me to change and we aren't talking contract at that point, I don't change it.

Amanda Green said...

Bob, absolutely. An occasional passive verb won't kill you, but the passive voice as the main voice in the book will. IMO. And, yes, I need the clue-by-four applied to my head from time to time to keep that from creeping into my writing.

The other thing I have to watch when I get into the passive voice is the overuse of adverbs and adjectives in an attempt to correct the problems of the passive verbs. They seem to go hand in hand when I slip into bad habits, something that happens with decreasing frequency these days.

Amanda Green said...

Rowena, those are the basic questions as I was taught them. So you have any corollaries that go with them?

Amanda Green said...

Kate, lolol. I get that from Sarah as well. Along with "Just finish the thing and then edit it."

Amanda Green said...

Chris, thanks for adding setting to your formula and putting it first. I don't necessarily think it is the most important thing but it is so necessary, imo, to making a well crafted story. I want to know where I am as well as who the characters are.

Dave Freer said...

"So here's a question for you. What do you do to "finish it" when the book stalls and you KNOW you can't go any further?"
That's usually my inner editor telling my my motive (the Whys, and hows) are not sorted out) When I get that that, I can finish. I'll do a post on it.

Amanda Green said...

Cool, Dave! Thanks.