Wednesday, October 15, 2014

On Writing: How To Write Well

“So all I have to do is write a page a day and in a year I’ll have a novel good enough to be published?”

Not necessarily. You’ll have a novel. Whether it’s good enough to be published is another matter.

Remember, writing is a skill. You have to practice at your craft to become good at it.

I used to write espionage/techno thrillers. I don’t even admit to my first book because, in retrospect, it was crap. The second book showed considerable improvement, but was still not publishable. By the third book I had found my style. The plot dealt with North Korea acquiring nuclear weapons and planting four of them in cities in the United States to blackmail the government. I quickly picked up an agent who presented it to several publishers, all of whom liked the manuscript. Unfortunately, this occurred right after 11 September, and the market in that genre collapsed overnight. So I switched genres. It had taken me years to get to that point, and then I had to start all over. Rather than viewing it as a setback, however, I saw this as a slight detour. That decade of experience well prepared me for writing in the horror genre.

So get out there and write.

And just as important, submit you work.

“But what if my work isn’t good enough and it gets rejected?”

Don’t get depressed if it gets rejected–that’s the nature of the game. It happens to all authors. And not all rejections are bad. Occasionally an editor/publisher sends you feedback; if they do, consider yourself fortunate. Most editors/publishers reject stories and manuscripts with a simple form letter, if they even respond at all. If one of them takes the time to offer you feedback, that means he/she sees potential in you work, and is taking the time to help you hone your skills. Take advantage of that opportunity.

The best way to hone your skills is to get readers who will provide critical feedback. Your mother and significant other do not count–chances are they’ll say it’s good, even if it isn’t. Find a good writer’s group with published authors or aspiring authors who are also interested in improving their craft. If you do go this route, remember two very important things.

First, find critique groups that will provide honest feedback. I’ve seen too many groups where the members will tear someone else’s work to shreds, but become indignant if you provide any critical feedback on their material. Avoid those groups like you would a horde of ravenous zombies. They’re filled with people who think ripping apart your work will somehow make them better writers. Trust me, it doesn’t work that way.

Second, and this is the hardest thing, is lock away your ego in a dark room during feedback sessions. As long as the feedback isn’t personal, listen to it and adopt it where appropriate. Every author is wedded to his/her work and hates to hear that it is not quite as good as he/she thought it was. Get over yourself. I did.

Remember, no matter how well you write, there is always room for improvement. Your goal is not to write the best book ever written. Your goal is to write the best book you possibly can. Every work has flaws. The reader will overlook an occasional grammatical error or spelling mistake as long as the rest of the story is entertaining and compelling enough to keep them glued to the edge of their seat. Then you’ve succeeded as a writer.

NEXT BLOG: What To Write About

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