Sunday, 18 September 2011

Survival tips for writing (and for life)

- You will steadily lose friends and alienate people. The Simon Pegg movie doesn't lie. Learn to enjoy your own company.

- Your dialogue, no matter what it is, will offend some people. I can guarantee it.

- With so many voices in your head it's hard to know which one(s) to go with; instead, follow your heart.

- You do not have to get up at 5 AM and write, unless that works for you.

- You do not have to write every day, unless that works for you and you have the time.

- Editorial committees come in many shapes and sizes. Listen to them. Respect them. They know what they're doing.

Editorial committee from debut author Teri Terry's page here. Her journey can inspire a lot of people.

- Beta readers (I): In the very early stages of a manuscript's completed draft, you will ask your friends and family to read your stuff. If possible you will hang around the doorway to the room in which they are reading the manuscript, like a hungry dog, because you think that maybe their head will pop up to ask you a question, and you want to be there to answer it. Remember this most important thing: have your closest friends and most beloved family read it but be prepared for what they might say. If they don't like the pacing? Consider it. If they don't like the dialogue? Consider it. If they don't like the name of the main character?  Nod and smile and consider it. Thank them for reading.

- Beta readers (II): You have to remember what market you are writing for. If your closest friends and most beloved family are not your target market - i.e. keen Audrey Niffenegger readers, or devout followers of Toni Morrison or Barbara Kingsolver, or perhaps they are more into Stephen King when you write more along the lines of Alice Sebold, or maybe they're more into films or automotive racing or hunting rather than books - then you must take their criticism from specific questions you bring to them. You can't just give them a text and have them read it. They may not know what to say. They may go easy on you because you're family. Be aware of that and don't let them. 

- Beta readers (III): If possible, it's best sometimes to join a writing crit group and then you can splash out all the photocopied pages of your draft that you want. These people are here to read your stuff and are prepared to give feedback.

- Beta readers (IV): Have as many as possible. They will help shape your text. Remember to thank them, again.

- Talking to yourself: try to keep it to a minimum.

- Even when eating seems to get in the way of the pen or the keyboard, just take five minutes. I promise you won't lose your train of thought.

- This will be the millionth time you've heard this but I'll say it anyway: don't tell, show.

- Make sure to have a big party when your work, will all that alienation and blood, sweat and tears, finally gets published.

Celebrate the bubbly fizziness of success

Happy Sunday, all!

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