The past year has been a tremendous time of growth for me as a writer. A little over a year ago I joined the Flint Area Writers, an amazing group of gals and guy (and occasionally guys) who have taught me SO MUCH. It’s taken my writing from “just okay,” to something that’s a bit more. While I’m not one to blabber on about my own stuff, I can tell a difference, not only in my writing, but also in my confidence. Sometimes now I actually feel like I might know what I’m talking about.
1. Show your work to a lot of different people.
Writers tend to be stagnant. Admit it, we’re set in our ways. When you work with lots of different people, you’re going to get LOTS of different opinions. My favorite thing when working with someone (either as a writer or critique partner) is when you get or give the response: Oh, I hadn’t thought of it. Interesting…
I write YA. This means I’m always in fantasy land because I’m an adult. I tend to overlook things like “laws” and “rules” that apply to normal life. My writing group is really good at pointing that out.
2. Let your work simmer.
I’m an anxious writer. If someone tells me to fix something, I fix it and then get all frantic to get it back to them for more feedback. Give yourself a few days, weeks, if you can manage it. Let the feedback settle, look at your work from a different angle, THEN rewrite. Then simmer again before you send it back.
You don’t want to regret your revision decisions. In the end, your story should resonate with YOU, which brings me to number 3.
3. You write for YOU.
It’s great to think, “Oh X person is going to love this because I totally considered everything they think when I wrote it.” Except, no. We write because we have to. And I don’t mean that in the it’s a job so I must do this kind of way. We write because it fulfills our lives in a way that nothing else does. Your writing should make you happy. You should feel proud of it. If you have edited something beyond pride and happiness, it’s no longer yours.
Claim ownership! Sometimes this means saying no, and that’s okay.
4. Know how to say no.
Have you ever heard the phrase Those that can’t do, teach? This is true of some editors, too. They can’t write their own work, so they want you to turn YOUR work into THEIR work. Don’t. Do. It.
This doesn’t mean that you need to say no to every editor as this isn’t always the case. But you need to think and consider what they’re telling you to do. If it changes WHY you wrote the story to begin with, they may not be the editor for you. Writing is your art, it’s subjective, but it should always be yours.
5. Have an open mind.
It’s hard to have your work critiqued, but my view on this has changed. I used to be scared to get responses, but now I LOVE IT. You should take any chance to improve and immerse yourself in it, especially from people who are better writers than you. The writing world is unique in this way, we love to help one another. Every critique may not be the correct one for you, but you should consider it. Welcome feedback. Beta with someone you don’t know who isn’t afraid to hurt your feelings.
6. Write the stuff that hurts/ that’s scary/ that takes you out of your comfort zone.
So many times I hear, I can’t write that! And I ask, why? Time and time again, the answer is, I’ve never done it before or I’m scared, or I don’t know how. Here is where I quote Warm Bodies:
“What wonderful thing didn’t start out scary?”
Writing can be TERRIFYING. We face fears, we slog through trauma and life experiences, but writing is meant to be FELT, not just read. If it doesn’t hurt sometimes, you’re not doing it right. Make a list of things outside your comfort zone. Pick one. Write.
Remember when I did this? THINGS I WANT TO WRITE ONE DAY.
And I’ve tackled some of those. Short stories? Check. Male lead? Check. Third person? Check. Make a list. Make it happen.
7. Don’t ever expect to be perfect. (Or think that you are.)
We learn from the moment we are born until the day we die. You will never be perfect and that’s okay. I suppose I could change the title of this to Be Humble.
1. not proud or arrogant; modest: to be humble although successful.
8. Help Others.
Teach what you know to everyone around you. Teach those who ask for help. Offer help to those who don’t. (REMEMBER: OFFER!) Unsolicited critique will be met with anger, almost ALWAYS. Offer help. Accept help in return.
Tomorrow starts the Sucker Literary Blog Tour. I hope all of you will come along for the ride!
All the best,