So I thought for this series of six monthly columns, I’d focus on writing, since there are far, far (far, far) more qualified people to talk to you about marketing and blogging and that kind of thing. Maybe because I’ve been so buried in the publishing end lately, too, writing itself is taking on more importance to me, since I feel antsy to get back to having that as my primary focus again…rather than, say, cover design and venturing into new markets.
So here it is, the first set of writing missives…surefire ways to kill your fiction writing.
First though, a disclaimer: Please keep in mind that these tips aren’t really written for those writers who are still in that very beginning process of learning how to write, although some are definitely applicable to that crowd, too. However, if you’re still somewhere in the lower-half of your first million words of fiction written, some of these may not be relevant for you yet. It’s like my martial arts instructor used to say…you have to pay attention to every little move, until you don’t. If you stop in the middle of a fight to check out whether your hand is positioned correctly, you’re going to get your butt kicked.
Fiction can be like that, only less painful. Usually.
So here are this month’s top 10 tips on how best to kill your writing ~
(I’m sure I missed a few…probably a lot, so feel free to chime in, in the comments!)
1) Don’t pay any attention to where the story wants to go. You have an outline, damn it! Stick to that outline as though if were written in your actual blood, even if the characters are rebelling, even if your subconscious (i.e., creative) mind comes up with something better. Never, ever deviate in the course of writing a book, because your critical mind ALWAYS knows best! (Errr…)
2) Obsess on what your “cool, literary” friends would think of every sentence you write. Better yet, be sure and write a literary book, even if every sentence is like ripping a tooth out of your mouth with pliers. That way, those people you probably don’t even care for all that much for will find you impressive, even if your heart screams ROMANCE! LOTS OF TAWDRY ROMANCE! WITH ELVES!! AND SPACE ALIENS! Because after all, someone with a heart full of humor, romance, political intrigue and/or gritty mysteries is sure to write an amazing literary novel. Better yet, they will certainly be happier and more fulfilled writing to other people’s weird pretensions. (Errr…?)
3) A sub-category of #2 – start writing for your critique group, instead of for yourself. Anticipate all of their little pet peeves and avoid them like the plague, even if they work for your story. Start ripping your OWN work apart, before they get the chance, until you’ve gutted the voice right out of that sucker, in your quest for perfect sentences all in a row. Because we all know that is what readers want. 80,000 words’ worth of perfect sentences. They die happy when we give them that…especially when there is no voice or story to accompany those sentences.
4) Obsess on the placement of every comma, and whether every single word spoken by your characters is grammatically correct. Go to a coffee shop sometime…or better yet, maybe, a bar. Listen to how people actually speak, and do the exact opposite. Or, conversely, write out all of your characters’ accents phonetically. Whatever you do, don’t go for flow, clarity and believability over grammar when it comes to fictional conversations! Further, don’t read books by authors who do dialogue well, to get a sense of how they’ve combined the need for story with believable words. Make sure all of your characters sound like English professors. With cheery, Irish (and phonetically spelled-out) brogues.
5) Refuse to write until “THE MUSE” strikes. Because everyone knows that writing fiction only happens because some whimsical space alien filters sparkly handfuls of pixie dust on writers’ heads, endowing them with magical powers. It has nothing to do with hard work, perseverance or skill.
6) Make sure you use up every single minute of your slotted writing time on Twitter, Facebook, Triberr, Pinterest and LinkedIn promoting the last novel you wrote, instead of working on the next one percolating in your brain. ESPECIALLY do this if the next book is part of a series. Nothing makes a book sell like a sequel, so be sure you DON’T do that, since we’re aiming to kill your writing right now, not actually help it.
7) Give your book to a group of other newbie writers, or writers even LESS experienced than you, and ask them to rip it apart, sentence-by-sentence, because that is what everyone expects us, as writers, to do (everyone = new or non-professional or not actual writers). Especially do this if the people in question have zero familiarity with your genre, or better yet, write in that genre themselves and like to critique according to how THEY would have written the book. Or, if you really want to go crazy, find someone who actively hates the kinds of books you write AND who wants you to rewrite it in their voice. Then you’ll definitely have a winner. Whatever you do, don’t hire an actual editor and/or copywriter. And for the love of the gods DO NOT use beta readers that you trust to let you know if the actual STORY works!
8) Only take advice from people in the industry who have been in it for less than five years. If they are writers, only if they’ve written less than five books. If they’ve actually had SUCCESS in the industry, then by all means, ignore every word they say. This goes doubly true for anyone who has survived numerous ups and downs in a long writing career. It’s okay to take advice from someone successful if they fulfill the other criteria (i.e., written less than five books, in the industry less than five years). Because we all know there’s only one way to succeed in this business, so if someone’s never had to reinvent themselves or find another path to success, then we can definitely trust that their way to instant stardom will DEFINITELY work for us, too.
9) Complain, whine and moan about what a tough gig writing is, and feel slighted when the world doesn’t instantly recognize your genius. Better yet, argue with your fans and the people nice enough to read your books and give you honest feedback. Go on message boards and other public, un-eraseable internet sites and punish the world for not giving you the adoration to which you are entitled by virtue of your inherent awesomeness. Oh, and whatever you do, DON’T spend that time writing the next book.
10) Refuse to keep learning your craft. Don’t go to workshops run by long-term professionals, don’t read books on craft, or read other writers who are experts at doing things you’re still learning to do. Don’t ever venture outside of your comfort zone, in fact, or try anything new with your writing. Whatever you do, don’t treat it like a job for crying out loud, where you’re expected to improve your skill set over time! Someone might actually start taking writing as a serious profession if you did that! Zoinkers!
So those are my paltry bits of wisdom this month. If you follow these, you’ll be back to the couch and complaining about how no one understands you in no time. In fact, if you really do them diligently, you might never write another word…
Don’t follow these, and you might just realize what a fine gig this whole writing fiction thing is, and start having fun as you make it about you and your readers, and about telling the best darned stories that you can, each and every time.
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