3 Things I Wish I'd Known About Writing

Howdy all! Hope you're all plugging along at a steady pace. That's one thing I've come to appreciate in life. Steady. So many things can only be achieved by steady. Fast and now are vastly overrated in my opinion, but it still doesn't keep me from wishing I'd known a bit more about this writing stuff from the start.

That's the point of this post, actually, but more on that in a sec.

HOUSECLEANING

I've noticed I've opened the last few posts with some cool authorly goings-on, so I've decided to begin every post with some good news. Basically, I'd like to share info on any and all of my writer buddies publishing exploits, etc.

So here's the call: If you're launching a book, running a blogfest, etc. and want me to share it, shoot me an email with a link and a bit of info and I'll work it into a future "Good News" section. You can send the eMail to: jezzell19 (AT) gmail (DOT) com

THIS WEEK'S GOOD NEWS

Author C. Lee McKenzie is launching her latest book this week, Alligators Overhead. Here's a link to a great interview with C. Lee (Indies should check it for sure) over at JULIE MUSIL's blog. Plus, I loved the trailer. Check it below. Way to go Lee!





Also on the good news front, spectacular author-blogger Siv Maria is celebrating the upcoming release of her short story "Secrets of the Ash Tree" with the very fun Unforgettable Blogfest. You can learn more about her story, and signup for the blogfest, HERE

Here are the rules as per Siv:

"...post about some strange and unusual place, person or thing you have visited. Something that has left a lasting impression, one that you can not forget."

Naturally, there being an awesome dog-in-a-hoody button and all, I couldn't resist participating. So here's my entry:

The most unforgettable place I've been is easily Venice, Italy. I've traveled to a few places in my life, and never really experienced anything remotely like it. It's one of the most visited spots in the world, yet somehow it can feel like the entire place belongs only to you. Probably has something to do with the many streets/corridors that could barely fit 3 people walking side-by-side, or the seemingly endless number of patio cafes to sip wine or espresso at while people watching, or the constant sound of seabirds and lapping water. There's also something completely charming about seeing dogs and cats--not strays, mind--roam around carefree without the fear of being run down by a car. (There aren't any vehicles on the island... other than boats.) And none of that mentions the uniquely-Venice occurrence of being utterly lost--to call the streets and alleys a maze would be understating it--and still only be a 5 minute walk from wherever you're going.

From our trip. :)
New Adult Twitter Chat Update

As many of you know, the NA Lit Chat #NALitChat is something of a pet project of mine and the ladies over at the NA Alley Blog. (You can get the details over at the NA Lit Chat blog HERE.) Basically, a bunch of authors and readers get together to discuss New Adult (think older than YA, younger than "Adult") lit every Thursday night (9 PM EST US) on the Twitters.

We began 4 weeks ago, and our attendance is growing every week by leaps and bounds. The information being shared is truly first rate. Plus, it's a ton of fun. You should definitely stop in and say hello some night. This week we'll be taking an in-depth look at settings in NA lit, specifically examining reader preferences and author techniques.

BLOODY GOOD FUN COVER REVEAL PARTY UPDATE

Last week I asked for help sharing the cover for my upcoming book release. YOU GUYS TOTALLY BLEW ME AWAY!!! Seriously, just overjoyed by the number of folks who responded. 

I'll be closing the signup at the end of this week, and subsequently sending an email to everyone with the full details (stuff to share, date to share, etc.). You can still sign up if you'd like to help, and can learn more about the details HERE.

3 THINGS I WISH I'D KNOWN ABOUT WRITING

Here are some things I wish I'd have known when I started all of this a few years ago. I'm by no means at my final destination as a writer (at least I sure hope not!), but these are some things that would have certainly helped me get to wherever it is that I'm at a little faster. 

1) Go Biggest, or Go Home

What I wish someone had told me was this: You know that idea for a story you've got? It has to be big, huge even. You know that big-huge story you've written, and that main character with the BIG personality? They're going to have to be bigger. And that climax needs to be the biggest you've ever imagined, and that villain needs to be someone you're slightly ashamed to have dreamed up, and that plot is going to have give you night sweats trying to figure out how to make it work...

Don't misunderstand me, I'm not suggesting that every story needs to be some bombastic thing no one has ever dreamed of. Far from it. I'm just saying that what I started out thinking was 'big enough' wasn't even close. I'd think, "Oh, that's a clever/racy/dramatic thing for my character to think or say", and it wasn't. It wasn't until I (finally!) started to turn myself loose, to write unfiltered, that I (finally!) began to see some spark in my prose. Up until that point, the stories were fine. The writing was fine. But nothing was good. 

My thought process now? It's way easier to dial it back than it is to crank it up. So blast it in your drafts, and let your critters and editors help you figure out if it's too loud. Fiction is writing for dramatic purposes, so bring the drama until you think it's too much. That's when you're getting close to nailing it. 

The beauty of it? It's all based upon the individual. Just shoot for the best and biggest from you. It'll show in your writing, and readers will eat it up.

2) You Will Never Be THEM

Go ahead, think about your idols. Tom Clancy. Stephen King. J.K. Janet Evanovich... Now think about the average, everyday writer you'd gladly swap places with. Your blog buddy who just nabbed an agent. The friend you just beta read for who is so good it shames the entire industry because they haven't been found and published yet. Now, think about every story you wish you'd written, every story that's inspired you to write.

Now fold them neatly in half and grab your lighter... you can't be any of them, so they might as well burn.

This isn't meant to be depressing or discouraging. In fact, it's so enlightening I believe it could have literally moved me years ahead of my current writing level had I embraced it from the start. See, I tried way too dang hard to be everything but what I am when it came to writing.

And this doesn't just apply to style and craft. It applies to aspirations, dreams, goals, etc. I wanted what others had at the cost of neglecting to develop what I had. I ignored my own voice. I struggled to perfect what I was reading and who I was watching/emulating, when I really should have pulled out a mirror and worked at perfecting who and what I was.

3) You Need 3 Eyes

I'm convinced saying, "I think I want to ben author" is simultaneously the easiest and most difficult thing you can possibly ever utter. 

It's Easy Because ... It rolls off the tongue, and I doubt you'd need a second breath to get it out. To be an author of fiction, by my definition, means to offer up writing for public consumption and entertainment. Not review, or critique, mind you, but for people to ingest and digest. You don't have to charge for it, and you don't have to apologize. Basically, you write something and say, "Here. Like it or lump it. Hopefully like it." So the concept, in theory, is easy to understand and embrace.

It's Hard Because ... Only a writer thinks of it that way. To the public, your friends, agents, editors, your momma and nanna--whoever--it's SO much more than that. It's business. It's marketing. It's schmoozing. It's money. It's failure. It's unparalleled personal success. It's editing until there's no creativity left in your brain, just run-ons and adverbs. It's producing something instead of doing something. It's holding yourself to standards you can't possibly meet (see #2). That, in a shell, is how/why you go from writer to author.

As you can tell, becoming an author is a fairly simple problem with a complex solution. So here's the trick I'd have given my arm to have known right out of the gate: Develop an extra eye. That added orb should be focused on all the things that make up the second "It's Hard..." paragraph above. The business, marketing, expectations, the honing of the craft, the caring... all of it.

Your other two eyes should be focused on the first paragraph. Write to be heard. Write to entertain. Write to express. Just write! It's the simplest part of the equation, but the hardest to master once all of that other stuff is introduced. Not that the other stuff isn't necessary or important. If you want to be an author--a good one--you'll need to do that, too. I just think the writing for the sake of writing needs most of our attention from the start. Then maybe we won't lose sight of it.

What about you? Anything you wish you'd have known from the start?

~EJW~

40 comments:

  1. That's a great way to start every post!
    Bigger. Definitely going bigger for this last book.
    I think in the very beginning I just wish I'd known I could do it. Maybe I would've started sooner. Perhaps I wouldn't have panicked when faced with writing a second book. If I'd just known I could do it...

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    1. So true, Alex. Just believing in yourself is such a challenge when it's (for many of us) something we've only ever dreamed about doing, not actually something we've trained or set ourselves up to do. Most of my author friends have degrees in everything BUT writing fiction. It's something we've forced upon ourselves, probably starting as a hobby, and building into something more. To do that kind of thing, you truly must think that you can.

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  2. ...advice to live by, EJ.

    Something I wish I would've known from the start? How to better divide my time. Actually, I'm still working on that one ;)

    El

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    1. That's a great one, Elliot! As Maria mentioned below, the further you get into all this, the crazier the scheduling, etc. becomes. The modern writer has to be an expert multitasking machine as well. Good to see you around! :)

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  3. I was given the advice to edit when the book was through. For me, not a good idea. From now on, I edit as I go. Loved this post. I would love to see Venice.

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    1. Donna, you're exactly right in that you really just have to find your own process in all of this. Editing only after you finish is exactly the type of thing I was thinking about when I mentioned "trying to be them".

      I tried to follow every "rule" I saw suggested in whatever writing book I was reading at the time, or apply whatever tip I'd read from a blog I'd read of late. My writing ended up like a bunch of mechanical parts that fit together just fine, but didn't really move as a whole, rather than something organic that worked and breathed as one.

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    2. Yeah. Do what works for you. I'm a die hard panster. I can't outline to save my life. It ruins the story for me.

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  4. I wish I had had more manuscripts ready to sub. Once you get published it's a mad race to market, edit, and write new stuff at the same time. Your time is never really your own once you cross that bridge.

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    1. Already thinking this is going to be a theme, Maria: Learn to write amidst the furry. I'm just learning about the "futures" aspect to the business. Nothing is going to happen for weeks and months (years maybe), but everything must be done now. :)

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  5. Not the typical writing advice I usually see, and very good. Kudos. :)

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    1. Thanks Melissa! :) I always try to think inside of my own crazy box. If I try to go outside it, I usually just end up repeating what others have said, and not nearly as well.

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  6. I think one of the things I wish I'd known straight from the beginning is that a novel doesn't have to be perfect when you begin. It's ok to write bad, and then make it good. And I love your three things.

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    1. Yes! Sort of like growing into a pair of shoes when you're a kid. :)

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  7. You know, in Tel Aviv, Israel, stray cats are every where begging peeps for their food. Sounds like something Sir Poops and Hair Ball would do.

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    1. Yes, SPAL and HB would feel very at home in Venice. :)

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  8. What a great post! I especially love the advice on developing a third eye. There is so much more to being a writer. I wish I would have known that I was an intense outliner instead of a pantser. Those things you just have to figure out yourself. You never know what works until you try it all! :)

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    1. I agree, MJ. I think understanding the time you're going to need to make mistakes, grow, and learn is something every author underestimates. You truly do have to try lots of things in most cases.

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  9. I wish I'd found D. Maass's workbook earlier...it's helped me so much.

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    1. Ooh, I've heard of it, but not talked with anyone who has used it, Anita. Definitely going to look for it...

      Found it! In case others are interested:

      http://www.amazon.com/Writing-Breakout-Novel-Workbook-Donald/dp/158297263X/ref=pd_bxgy_b_text_b

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  10. I agree that we have to stop focusing so much on how we wish we could be like our idols or other successful writers. There is a successful novelist that I envied because she was younger than me and all her books were best-sellers. But then I bought and read one of her books and I didn't like it at all. It wasn't because I envied her; it was just because I didn't like the plot or the characters. And that made me realize that I have to stop focusing so much on other people's success, because just because they're successful that doesn't mean that their books are perfect.

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    1. I know what you mean, NW. I wouldn't even call myself a covetous or jealous type at all when it comes to my professional goals, etc., but still caught myself thinking, "Mine isn't as good as XYZ." And it really bummed me out more than I'd ever have thought.

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  11. Bigger is the best advice I've heard in a long time. I'm vurrently, to improve my writing (I'm a novice at best) writing in the form of a diary a D&D campaign I've got a character in. Already I've filtered a little. I'm going to stop filtering.

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    1. Another great example, Torggil. Sometimes being bold in an actual manuscript seems too risky at first, so using a diary to "practice" is a great idea.

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  12. Hey,

    In 2003, when I became an American by choice, the INS folks asked what I wanted to have listed as my occupation.

    I said WRITER.

    That was several months before I pubbed my first article and two years before I earned my first journalism gig.

    You gots it right, E.J. ... ya gotsta believe in yourself:)

    Great post - thanks for sharing the three things :)

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  13. I wish I'd known there was going to be a sudden boom in writing opportunities because of the internet. Would have got on with things a lot quicker, I think.

    mood

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    1. I think the "industry" stuff has been the most surprising to all of us, Mood. In a previous post I mentioned that it altered my goals and ideas, and that's honestly why I'm focusing on adult lit for the first time.

      Inside of your point, I also think you've nailed it in reference to the part about the 3 eyes I mentioned in this post. I truly didn't know if I'd ever make it into the traditional industry, even if I was really, really good. So many barriers, and I'd read so many stories of others giving up. It was so daunting I think it held me back a little. If I'm being completely honest, and I usually am :), I just didn't see the opportunity to reach readers that I do now.

      Like you, I think I'd have really pushed a lot harder, and a lot faster, had I known what was coming.

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  14. Thanks for participating in my blogfest. I would just love to visit Venice some day! So much news you have here. I will have to come back later to read more.

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    1. Yeah, this one got away from me a little, Siv. :) Appreciate you including me in the blogfest. It was super fun, and I hope SECRETS OF THE ASH TREE is read by many. :)

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  15. I wish I had known all 3 of the things you listed! I'm still trying to learn them, actually. I've always wanted to visit Venice, reading this amplified that wish by 1000.

    Looking forward to the cover reveal party! :)

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  16. I'm just getting started...so glad I stumbled upon your three tips! I've been blogging since 2009, published my first story (a non-fiction word portrait in a fundraising anthology) in February, and am in the process (17% if you count in 50,000 word chunks as the WriMos do...) "done" on the first draft of my first novel. What you said really resonated with me, especially the you're not the other guy thing...I know so many talented writers through my blogging friends, and I feel like a pretender sometimes hanging out with them...You know, they let the guppy come hang out in the tank with the big fish. But they're not eating me...so that's good!

    Venice: #1 on my bucket list. Now I'm even more excited, as if that were possible...Great descriptions.

    Nice to meet you, from your interview at Shelly's.
    Tina @ Life is Good

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  17. That is a great trailer, C. Lee! I loved it.
    Great tips. I'm going for the big on my next series. I think I'll check out the NA Lit chat. Thanks for an informative post.

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  18. I definitely went for big when I worked my way through my MS. I'm definitely a worst case scenario fan.

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  19. Hi, E.J.

    This post answered my N/A question.

    You have learned my friend. I agree, I wish I new all that from the start too. HOWEVER, you wouldn't be the writer you are now if you haven't stumbled through the process. Like any craft, the artist must learn at their own pace and when the time is right for us to filter the information.

    Just think,,, You might have been told al that, but you would have processed that info differently than learning it for yourself through trial and error. Also, success tastes so much sweeter when we earn it thought folly. Don't you think?

    You're doing great, buddy! As my blog title states In TIme ...

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  20. I was once told I used a larger canvas than most writers in my circle. I guess that would qualify as "going bigger."

    Every editor I've ever worked with and every book and article I've read has advised writers to get the first draft down before editing. Constant edits on every page tend to make sure the book never gets finished--but if you can make that work, do it!

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  21. I wish I would have known about "Save the Cat." Gosh it would have saved me a lot of pain. :)

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  22. Wish I would have made it to Venice when I was in Italy. It looks so romantic.
    Wow, bombastic huh? You're oozing with a confidence I'm jealous of.... Congratulations. I like happy, romantic stories with old-fashioned endings so I guess I'm not into Big. Too bad, 'cause I'll have less readers or perhaps no readers at all. Boohoo. :)

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  23. I like your idea of starting each blog post that way - I've been keenly aware lately that I've been useless to all my blogger buddies in promoting their books coming out and stuff. I suck!!! But right now, I'm okay with it. hehe

    As for things I wish I'd known... Umm, I kind of wish I'd tried more submitting in my earlier days, but hey, I'm gearing up to it. Yeah, I'm still in the 'gearing' stage. But I'm not even doing any short story subs. So I need to get my act together!

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  24. Great way to start posts! Also, I wish I had known those things before starting too. A little part of me still wants to be the next Stephen King.

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  25. Love the way you will be starting your posts (which I noticed in more recent posts- but I missed this one with the explanation). Lee's trailer is awesome!

    I really enjoyed your food for thought and the things you wish you had known. I wish I had known that writing was one process and then publishing and finding an agent (or self publishing) is another process. I had no clue that each process would take so much time and patience. :)
    ~Jess

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“Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.” ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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