How many times have you been scrolling through pinterest or other blogs and seen this:
“The best advice ever given is to write every day without failure.” ~EVERYONE
Do you roll your eyes every time? I give a little impatient sigh like “Whatever. Give me the fast track secret to being published and successful.” But that’s it. That’s the not-so-secret key to success. Hard work and practice.
I started this blog as a way to conquer my fear of failure and rejection. I knew I had to do SOMETHING to kick-start my dream of being a traditionally published author. Even if a miracle happened and someone gave me a book deal out of nowhere, what would I write? Drivel, basically. Because I wasn’t seasoned. I hadn’t found my writer’s voice yet or my genre or style. I hadn’t won NaNoWriMo in a few years. I stopped writing in my journal. The only thing I’d been writing is grocery lists and checks for bills. I had a few months where life got me down and I didn’t write. Lemme tell ya, those were the months I was hardest on myself.
But I didn’t give up. My blog was always in the back of my mind and the guilt of NOT writing weighed me down. I figured this was a healthy weight, annoying as it was, because if I didn’t feel guilt, then I wouldn’t care I wasn’t writing. I did care. I couldn’t give up on my dream, even when I was only clinging to it by a fingernail. So on the heels on “WRITE EVERYDAY” was another piece of advice that kind of goes hand in hand and it’s this:
“Write and finish, even if you think it’s crap. You can edit crap. You can’t edit nothing.” ~PEOPLE WHO KNOW
Maybe I was paraphrasing a bit but it’s the same thing, basically. This advice is a little harder for me to wrap my head around because I was always a “one hit wonder” in school. As in, I could have a paper due and would write it the night before and get an ‘A’ on it. It made me develop a bad habit of not editing my work. I’m working to get over that; another reason I started this blog.
Editing is just as important as writing. I’m not going to say more or less because they’re symbiotic. One cannot exist without the other. Knowing what to look for the first, second and third read-throughs, how to fix what’s wrong, and, most importantly, knowing when to STOP. I read a book written by a friend that had been edited within an inch of it’s life and I to this day haven’t been able to finish it. It was so dry and static it felt like sand paper for my imagination.
So yes, write your crap and then polish it into a handsome turd. Then pass it on to someone you feel comfortable reading it. Or maybe you DON’T feel comfortable. This is the third piece of advice I’ve found repeatedly:
“Find beta readers.”~THE BRAVE ONES
I’m especially cringing at this one. Having strangers read my blog and my stories is one thing. I could get a nice comment and I’d be thrilled! I could get a criticism and say “Thank you may I have another?” But family? Friends? Just shoot me.
I rarely let anyone close to me read my stuff. I started something on my blog called “The Mother Project” where I intended to send my mom a letter every other week with a picture and a short story I’d written with a note, just to keep her connected. Shameful secret? I haven’t sent a single letter. That might change now that her life is a little more stable and there aren’t fires raging everywhere here. Ha.
That being said, I do have a couple reliable beta readers. My bestie Owen is a willing guinea pig and he’s got a sharp eye for editing. Mainly I just let him read though. I don’t know what to ask from him as an official editor. I’m mostly worried about content; making sure the story doesn’t drag or there isn’t a part that takes you out of the story. Making sure it’s a solid read-through. My other beta is my female bestie, Lizzy who follows my Facebook blog (that I’ve been sadly neglecting of late).
See, I have several people who WOULD read my stories but they’re not helpful in the slightest when it comes to giving me advice on how to improve my writing. They don’t want to give me an honest opinion for fear of hurting me or they can’t put into words what it is they need to say. (I myself have been on this side of the beta reading dilemma). So when I’m desperate, or really need an honest, critical opinion, I drag myself over to the King of Honesty.
Everyone needs a Timothy. He’s not into main stream fiction at all, which is a good portion of what I write, so the content is lost on him. “Predictable”, “shallow”, “simple”, and “unrealistic” are some words I’ve been given in regards to content. Ouch. Ouch and ouchie.
Told ya. Honest.
But this acts as a two-fold blessing and I’m going to tell you why. He was given a task and he did it. “Read this and tell me what you think.” He’ll tell me how other people might see it too if it smacks too political or sensitive. He reminds me that even though my intentions might be pure, others absolutely will not see it that way. They’ll read deeper into it than I intended maybe and might tattoo me with prejudices I don’t personally bear.
That is the other part of the blessing/curse of having a brutally honest beta. You get toughened up. He makes me think deeper about what I put out there and he gets me ready to defend myself if such things as bigotry or racism crop up because of a piece I write. As a writer, you WILL be at the mercy of the trolls out in the world. They’ll try to rip apart your ugly baby stories and make you cry just for fun, like those bullies that smack your ice cream from your hand.
Be ready. Get yourself conditioned to rejection, to criticism, as early as possible. Learn to find a way to deal with it that’s healthy.
The last piece of advice is subjective because we’re all different kinds of writers. Some pants better. Some outline a story within an inch of its life. My journey thus far has been about experimentation and finding the right way for me. When I started the blog, I’d hardly ever written a short story. I tried to write one a couple of times and it turned into a full length novel. Then I tried to write several full length novels and so far haven’t been entirely successful at it.
“Learn to outline, even just a little bit. It will help you stay focused.~ THE WISEST OF THE WISE
So often I get lost in the details of a story. I worry so much about pacing and arcs and subplots that I forget the basic frame of the story. What is the purpose of writing this story? What do my characters want? What is the end goal? Having a basic outline of the story helps bring me back. It’s an anchor. Not to say it can’t be changed and rearranged but I think there should be three or four things that ABSOLUTELY CANNOT CHANGE or the basis of your story will be completely different.
So there it is. Four pieces of redundant advice that actually WORK. At least for me they have. Combined with the affirmations that YES I CAN DO THIS and I’M ALREADY A PUBLISHED WRITER, I’d say I’m in a pretty good place.
Give it a try.
Write. Edit. Read. Outline. Repeat as needed.