Breaking Through The Wall

I just found out recently that one of my short stories was picked up for an anthology which will be coming out sometime at the end of the year. It was a good boost especially since I’m going through the long, arduous process of looking for an agent for my novel, The Eighth Circle.

I mention that, not so much to give myself a pat on the back–though I did–but to remind everyone that once you finish your novel, you should start working on another project immediately. The submission process–unless you know an agent, have an agent, or know someone who can get you an agent–is a tough, soul numbing process. Your book needs to be polished, and I don’t mean you write it once and run through spell check. Just because your friends think it’s the best thing ever doesn’t mean an agent will. Read it and look for reasons not to like it. If you can’t do it yourself (and most people can’t), get an editor.

It still may be rejected. Many times. That’s why you should always have another project in the works. Another novel. A short story. Some flash fiction. You should always be writing.

The simple reason is the more you write, the better writer you’ll become.

It won’t hurt to read either. Pick a genre you like by an author you like. Analyze the writing. What do you like about it? What makes the characters interesting? Why is the plot compelling? What about this authors style is unique? What can you learn from this author?

Don’t try to copy, but do try to absorb. It won’t hurt to look at other genres. A well written book is a well written book. Sometimes you can learn a great deal about writing by reading outside your favorite genre. For instance, I’m not a huge science fiction buff, but I love H.G Wells. The point is, if you read great writing, you’ll begin to see how talented writers use words.

Finally, you should keep writing, because the more you do it, the easier it gets. Your first novel is always the hardest. The second will be a little easier. Just don’t get discouraged.

I think it’s like learning to ride a bike, though to be honest, the last time I did that, I ran into a bread truck.

I’ll stick with my keyboard instead.

The Lonliness of the Professional Writer

ImageHello, writers. I’m talking to those of you who are struggling with your first novel, short story, article, whatever, and perhaps you’re waiting for inspiration, the muse, or lighting to strike before you write that bestseller or Pulitzer Prize winning piece. I’ve got news. It’s not going to happen. At least not right away.

Writing is a solitary, sometimes horribly lonely profession. It’s also a job. Professionals will tell you that you have to make time to write every day, and you have to do it. SET ASIDE TIME. Don’t use it to go on line. Don’t check Facebook, Twitter, or whatever other sites you use. Write. Set a word goal and keep to it. If you hate it, you can always revise. Not everything you write is going to be good, but if you keep writing, you will get better. The important thing is that you keep at it.

Keep doing it until you get the story finished. Then go back and edit. Your first draft probably won’t be great, but that’s okay. You can edit and polish and edit and polish. Do this. Constantly.

Another thing: hear your writing. Take the time to read it. Out loud. Listen to the rhythms and cadence. Does it sound right? Would you want to listen to it on an audio book or does it make you cringe. If it’s the latter, revise. Again.

Ask people to read what you’ve written. Start with friends and move on to writing groups and people who will be more critical, but thoughtfully critical. Get to know other writers. There are a lot out there, and many of them are going through the same things you are. Get to know them. They are (for the most part) wonderfully supportive and helpful.

Finally, read. I don’t mean just best sellers. Read everyone. Learn different styles and genres. If you appreciate good writing, your writing will get better. Don’t get discouraged. It will happen if you keep at it. Read short stories, novels, graphic novels, whatever. Just read.

Carry a notebook and make notes about what you see in the world. If you’re really sneaky, you can jot down a good turn of phrase. It works. I’ve stolen a bunch from my kids.

Writers’ conferences are also a great resource, if you can afford them. You’ll discover a world of people who, like you, are trying to figure this writing business out. The speakers and even the agents who come are extremely pleasant, helpful and full of good information.

Finally never stop learning. There’s never a point where you can’t discover something new.

You can’t sit around waiting for inspiration to hit like a lightening bolt from the sky because it probably won’t. But remember, you aren’t alone.