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A Potpourri of Writing Tips for Authors and Author Wannabees
Too Much to Cover
I have no idea how many articles I have written about the art of writing. I have tried to cover the main points, but there are always odds and ends that don’t seem to make it into those articles, random tidbits of information that I have not deemed worthy of an entire article.
Today is the day we clean up the backlog of information that has not been covered yet.
There is no logical cohesion to this article. It will be much the same as walking through a whiteout in the dead of winter, snowflakes pelting you as you walk from front door to mailbox, coming from a variety of directions but all finding their mark….the author.
Take what you need and leave the rest for the next visitor to this page. Some of these may not apply to you, and for some of you they all apply. I’m using the scattergun approach in hopes that you find something that can help you on your writing journey.
Shall we begin?
NEVER FORGET THIS VERY IMPORTANT ITEM
Writers are forever agonizing over the plot of their story, and for sure, plot is very important. For my money, though, the main ingredient in a successful novel, or short story, is the main character.
I was thinking back to some of my favorite reads over the years, and it dawned on me that although I can give you a vague outline of the plot in those books, what really stood out for me were the main characters.
I’m a mystery nut, and the mystery series that I follow religiously all have one thing in common: a main character who curls my toes. I don’t much care what they are doing in the book, or what mystery they are solving. I’m invested in the story because I enjoy the protagonist so much.
Make your characters memorable and you will be well on your way to success as a writer. Ignore the characters, or brush over them quickly, and I guarantee failure.
THE HIDDEN COSTS OF SELF-PUBLISHING
Self-publishing is an enticing concept for those who have had no luck getting published in the traditional way. Simply download your book to Kindle and away you go, and that is certainly true and easy….but….
What are your objectives in self-publishing? If one of your goals is to actually sell some of those books, then you face some “hidden” costs. These include the cost of an ISBN, the cost of a barcode, the cost of an editor and a book cover designer, and on and on we go, where it ends nobody knows.
For my current novel, “Resurrecting Tobias,” I am currently $600 in the hole and it’s not even published yet. That is not a complaint. I choose to spend the money so my book appears as professional as possible. I could spend less money, but I’m not into tacky.
Just something to think about before you begin your journey on the self-publishing route.
LET A SINGLE SENTENCE BE YOUR GUIDING LIGHT
This tip begins with a single sentence. I want you to summarize the main theme of your book in one sentence. This may not be as easy to do as it sounds, but give it a try.
Now that you have your sentence, post it above your computer so you can see it every day that you write….and let it be the bright star that you follow.
There is a very good reason for doing this: a novel of some 100,000 words is a convoluted, complicated, rollercoaster of words, subplots, scenes, and character developments. Keeping a novel on track is a difficult task, and I have found that if I have a reminder posted for me to always see, I have less chance of heading off on some tangent from which I will never return.
GIVE YOUR CHARACTERS FREEDOM
I have mentioned this before but it is worth repeating in a little more detail. Your characters are the ones who should be writing your book. It is their story, so allow them to tell it.
In each scene, ask yourself how your character would react to this situation. For every crisis, ask yourself what your character would do if faced with it. Then turn them loose to be themselves. Never force your characters to be something they are not; it will only end up seeming….forced!
Of course, in order to follow this suggestion, you need to really know your character, and as I have suggested in previous articles, in order for this to happen you need to interview them before you even start writing that novel.
MAKE A COMMITMENT
And that commitment should be to writing!
Become the best writer you can be. Learn as much about writing as you can learn. Hang with other writers, pick their brains, go to workshops, and absorb as much knowledge about this craft as you can.
I love it when one of my peers asks me a question, or seeks my opinion on their work. It means they really care to learn, and they are determined to improve.
If you are going to write a book, then learn how to write a book properly. I am fanatical about this point, because I respect this art form we call writing….and because I want you to experience the success that can only come from improvement.
DON’T BE SO EAGER TO EDIT
Some writers do not agree with this, and that is all fine and good, but for me, the first draft of a book should not be edited while you are writing it. By its very nature, editing destroys the flow of writing, and that first draft should be all about flow.
Allow your book to flow out of you the first time around. Give yourself the freedom to make mistakes. Believe me, if you are serious about publishing your book, there will be endless hours spent editing down the road, and you will come to hate the process after the third edit. You might as well enjoy the process during that first draft.
BE PREPARED TO AMPUTATE
This is painful. Your finished manuscript is your child, lovingly nurtured and raised with care, and the thought of chopping off a chapter here and ten paragraphs there is akin to child abuse…..but…..
It is necessary.
The greats of the past had to follow this rule. There is no earthly reason why you shouldn’t do the same.
Have someone who has no emotional investment in you or your book read the manuscript. Ask them to be brutal in their opinions and suggestions….and then sharpen the scalpel and amputate where needed.
Then go have a stiff drink because you’ll need it.
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There Is More but Not Today
Well, I took a chunk out of my to-do list, but I didn’t complete it. I guess that means I’ll have to write another of these articles in the near future. So be it. I am a writer…I write…that is what I do.
I hope you found something helpful here. I know I did. I often write these articles to remind myself of things I learned long ago but forget from time to time.
Best wishes on your current project, and if you have a book project you are thinking about, there is no better time than today to get started.
2014 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”