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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Fundamental Advice For Writers

Much too often, writers begin their journey in the hopes of the ever elusive outcome. FAME. To be the next Stephen King or the next J.K. Rowling. We’ve all seen that one scene in a movie or something. A writer sits down in front of a typewriter, types effortlessly without a single typo, then wrap the perfectly stacked manuscript to ship it off to a publisher. It's high fantasy. Fact. The reality resembles more horror than fantasy.

I’m going to lay out the fundamental, the most candid yet simple advice that applies to all writers, regardless of what you write and how much you've written. Please, stay with me.

1-- Write. That word alone encompasses so much. You could be writing a personal blog post, a report for work, an essay for your class, or a book. They equally require one thing from a writer. Passion. Some may even call it the need to tell a story. This passion for writing is the driving force that a writer needs to write. You know, that hellish feeling you get when you’ve been up writing for 34 hours but can’t stop and don’t want to stop? Then it hits you. You’ve begun the journey on what we call the writer’s road. A life of solitude.

2-- Research. If you claim to be a serious writer, the first thing you must do is research. Here’s a clue. Attack your library. Troll the internet. Take up a course in your local college. Be proactive. There’s a wealth of information out there if you’re willing to take the time to research. Learning is crucial. It might be as basic as brushing up on your grammar skills or studying creative writing as a whole. Whatever your weakness is, it can be remedied by studying and learning it. And most of them are free, so why not take advantage?

3-- Read. Obviously, you can read. This is different. You need reprogram your brain and read with the eyes of a writer. It could be anything from newspapers to current NYT best seller. Get busy reading, especially if they’re books in your genre. See what those authors have done right to get an agent and make their books salable. You don’t need to abandon your own writing style for the sake of commercializing your book. Originality is priceless. But it doesn’t hurt to know who your target audience is and to familiarize yourself with the commonly used writing style for your genre.

4-- Critique groups. Find them. Online or in your area, the writing communities seem to be everywhere. Meet fellow writers and share your work and information. Having a group of qualified alpha or beta readers is invaluable for any writers. They’re the ones who will read your unpublished work and give you objective feedback, unlike your relatives. You should even offer to critique their work in return. Believe it or not, you will end up learning a lot by critiquing others’ works. Remember to be non-douchey even if you don’t agree with their comments. Sometimes, even a bad advice can be beneficial in a strange way.

5-- Publishing. Finally! Your MS has gone through scrutiny of several betas and 229 revisions. You might have gone the extra step to give it a final polish by using a professional editor. You’re now ready to seek representation from a literary agency. Again, you must get back to the research mode in search of the agent who will fall in love with your book. There are several factors in finding a right agent. Go through their client list, check their twitter/blogs to see if their personal or professional approach fits you, and make sure they’re reputable. (Oh, don’t forget that you need an excellent query letter to hook one first.)

6-- Now what? Well, although you're with an agent, the journey isn’t over yet. Not even close. Your agent now has to pitch and sell your book to a publisher. Even after your book’s been sold to a publishing house, the actual release of your book could take another year or so. Hopefully, you’re doing this to fulfill your dream, not to chase sudden fame and fortune. Because let me tell you, the majority of published authors still keep their day jobs. That’s just the way it is.

On top of that, it's quite difficult for a writer to ignore the hype of the self-publishing (indie pub) these days. They make the process appear so fast and easy compared to the traditional route, especially when there's no one stopping you from publishing anything, anytime you want. However, that is one of the downfalls. There are no quality control or standards except for the one you set yourself. Majority of us are not the most objective critics when it comes to our own work, so we run out and publish substandard books, only to fail and ruin our reputation.

There's pros and cons to both; I'm not here to debate traditional publishing vs. self publishing. Ultimately, you have to choose the best route for yourself. Before you make that decision, remember why you became a writer. Was it because you wanted to create something that is worthy of being published and shared with the world?

For some, writing is viewed as a money-making trade without the need for skills and books as something easily produced like a piece of a plastic toy. It's disheartening to see this current trend. But if you are one of those willing to make sacrifices to become the best writers you can be, listen. You mustn't give up. Keep writing. It will pay off, someday. You’ll see. You’re almost there.

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5 comments:

  1. Every point here is true. I didn't realise half of this until Jan 2011. And now I am a better writer for it. Nice one Su.

    Imran
    @flickimp

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  2. It seems to me that doing research and joining critique groups (or at least having a core group of alpha and beta readers) are critical steps that don't get emphasized enough. It's nice to see them mentioned - and expounded upon - here.

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  3. Another great blog! This is some of the best advice a writer can get.

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  4. I "have" to tell my story and I don't care if I'm ever famous. I just want the story to be good,(and of course, to be published - Trad published). Thanks for such great writing advice. @UrbanMilkmaid

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