In a few weeks I will have the privilege of speaking to a Sacramento writers group and I am hoping that you might help me out. My topic is "What I Wish I'd Known" as it pertains to writing or the writing life. You don't have to be a published author to have discovered what you wish you'd known when you first put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). Sometimes many years pass before a writer sees his or her words in print, and in all that time progress is made, mistakes are addressed and shortcuts are found. Wisdom is gained. This is where you come in.
First, I'll offer a few insights I learned of my own:
- 'You're only as good as your next book.' I always thought this sounded like something said to keep the author's pride in check, or used as a book contract negotiation tool. But it's true. An author sends off one 'baby' and births another, if she gets the chance. Once again she stands at the lonely intersection of Creation and Vulnerability and scavenges for an idea, a character or a plot. There are no guarantees that she will sell another book or that people will like the book once it's published. So, the same effort should be put into each book produced, even though you had the luxury of spit-polishing the first one for five years and had to write the second one in a matter of months. It's hard to do consistently.
- 'Humor is subjective and doesn't always translate well to the written word.' Okay, I think most of us have written something, for example in an email or a Facebook post, that seemed so witty at the time but fell flat and sounded plain stupid. As we mentioned in Latayne's earlier post of May 26, sarcasm without accompanying visual or tonal cues can be misunderstood and offense can easily be taken. On the other hand, if you have no gift for humor, you may simply bore the pants off the reader, which is just sad. This is one of those times that it's better to be safe than sorry.
- 'Writing feeds me.' If life gets in the way and too much time goes by before I can write, I get grumpy and out-of-sorts. Basically, I'm starving. There is something about the creative process of peopling fictional places with living, breathing characters who want something so powerfully that they grow in spirit and soul that nourishes me. This is one time I shouldn't skip meals.
Randy Ingermanson says:
Focus on improving your craft. Once you have good craft, the contacts with agents and editors will be easy. If you don't have good craft, any contacts you might make with agents and editors will be useless.
DiAnn Mills says:
True success is a hundred pages without an adverb.
Can you think of something you have learned along the way that would have made the journey easier? It could be a practical labor-saving device, an incredible book or website, or a quote or bit of inspiration you received, for example. As I said, you don't have to be a published author to have gleaned wisdom from the process. You just have to keep your eyes open. What can you share with us today?