No character, not story, right? But do you know your characters? And should you? Each character is consists of several parts, which, together, give the reader the idea of a real person. These include traits, nature, favorite and hated things, gestures, speech… When you give your character something specific in all these areas, they will look much more alive. If you really know your character, it will not be a problem for you to tell how they would behave even in an unrealistic situation, and you will avoid difficulties.Continue reading “Who is Your Character?”
Since it has taken me longer than I wanted to find success with my writing, I would like to offer some advice based on what I’ve learned along the way and wish I’d known all along.
First, writing is hard, but it gets easier the more you do it. Writing everyday will teach you how to write every day. Life is a never-ending series of issues and dramas. Don’t let them become your excuse to not pursue your goals. For years, I isolated myself at lunch so I could get some writing done. I dedicated my weekend mornings to making up for lost hours during the week. Other writers have used their train commute, got up early, or stayed up later after the rest of their family went to bed. Find what works for you and train yourself to expect to write at that time.
Dedicate yourself to the art and business of writing. You must learn both. Not learning the business side dooms your writing to being a hobby, not a career. You must learn the rules for your kind of fiction, including word count, POV, and structure. Learn how to approach an agent, publisher, and audience.
There are an endless number of ways to write a novel. You can only learn how YOU write a novel by writing a novel. Learn how others approach it and from them develop your own. You can expect to write and throw away your first three novels. Use them as a training ground. Fan fiction or mimicry is a good start for practicing. My first novel was an Ann Rice knockoff, and you will never ever read it. While mimicking others, your goal must be to find your own voice in the end. Another good way to build your skill and an audience is by writing and submitting short stories. As a Sci-Fi writer, I have a lot of places I can submit short stories. I’ve even built a relationship with a contest and a magazine. You can too.
While you are developing your skills and knowledge, I recommend you BUILD YOUR PLATFORM NOW. Have a website, blog, email list, and social media presence including sites like GoodReads and NaNoWriMo. Become a member of the writing and reading community, attend conventions, and join groups so you will have the connections you need to let the world know you wrote a book. The best way to be a part of a community is to contribute to it. I contribute through my On Writing and Little Creative Interview pages. I also have a YouTube channel for animated readings of my published short stories and for writing advice. My newsletter provides writing news, contest news, and links to the latest from me (including this post).
In addition to learning the art and business of writing, be a generalist, a curious intellectual who feeds on knowledge. The more you know the more you can write about. My head is full of random information that feeds into my stories. Learning has never been easier than now. Writer’s Digest, YouTube, book forwards, and reference material like the Emotions Thesaurus are waiting for you. And once you’ve learned it, RELEARN IT ALL, especially the business side of writing. Tastes and standards change so stay pugged into what tropes are overdone or how query letter writing has changed, amongst other things.
And above all else, you can’t win if you don’t play. So, once you write something and polish it to the best you can make it, SUBMIT!
You may have heard that a time or two. And if you have, there’s more than a chance that the person saying it had a gleam of triumph in his or her eye. You asked them what they thought of your work—and oh, boy, did they tell you. Such a reader isn’t shy. Indeed, they have a talent for bringing you to tears of distress. They’re free with judgments like “ugh”, “cheesy” and “cringe”, but short on specifics.
Press such a reader for details of what they meant by “it just doesn’t work” and they’ll exclaim “Don’t ask me! You’re the writer!” Readers like this behave though they occupy some kind of moral high ground, regardless of their blunt rudeness. And up there, they clearly seem to believe, there’s no room for minced words, pulled punches,or…feelings. No, instead you must let them rain down upon you with a barrage of vague, yet devastating,truthbombs—because, they’ll point out—you asked for their opinion.
It’s hard to reply to this. Unless you caught this reader in the act of scoping your work without permission, you did ask for their opinion. So make any peep of argument, show any sign that their comments are hurtful, and you’ll find yourself in the rapidly growing shadow of the biggest bombshell of all: “You know what your problem is? You just can’t take criticism!” It’s a blockbuster. Since a professional is supposed to welcome honest opinions and have a hide as thick as armor,” can’t take criticism” seems unanswerable. Did your rude reader just destroy you?
No. Wait. I’d like you to consider the possibility that you absolutely can take criticism—but what you just experienced was no such thing. It was a volley of noise, not a legitimate critique. Critique—not mere disapproval, digs disguised as advice, shouts from a soapbox, or any of the thousand other varieties of noise—is the only kind of criticism you should be expected to “take”. Critiques are perhaps best known to art students. In their essential form, they consist of three-to six-hour sessions where students pin their latest assignments toa the wall and listen as their classmates describe what succeeds and fails in each piece, using agreed-upon terminology that their professor teaches them alongside their creative skillset. There is no place in a “crit” for jabs or snark; the students are there to defend their creative decisions, not their dignity. The fact that art students do not, as a rule, exit critiques in despair, vowing to hurl their materials into a ravine and never draw again, shows how effective it is to limit the discussion to that which can be expressed in targeted, technical vocabulary.
So back to your truth-bombing reader. If ever you find yourself under fire, don’t panic. Ask yourself: is this person, at a minimum, able to speak properly about writing? When a reader is capable of using dispassionate terminology to point out specific examples, it gives you confidence that their opinion has value—and that, in turn, makes it easier to believe they aren’t just out to annihilate you. A reader becomes far easier to listen to if, instead of pouting “this reminds me of that stupid book from high school!”, she has the ability to recast her comment as “I can’t tell whether I’m supposed to sympathize with this character or not… remember how upset I was when that happenedin[bookfrom high school]?”. A respectful, properly worded statement such as “[Trope] is overused… look at [examples]” is far less likely to frustrate you or hurt your feelings than unactionable snark like “OMG, so hokey”. And you may safely give yourself permission to ignore readers who blurt “Ugh. That’s like a bad sitcom “without being able to tell you what makes a sitcom bad, or why they made that comparison.
When you were writing, you had countless choices. Not every piece of research you uncovered made it into your final draft; you didn’t use every possible plot device; every potential combination of words could not possibly have been considered. In each and every case, your decision was guided by some analysis—conscious or not—of the value choice would bring to your work. Those choices extend to what “criticism” you take. Be choosy—not in the sense that you refuse to entertain any doubts about your work, but in that, you won’t waste energy reacting to comments that don’t meet your minimum requirement. You’re a pro, after all, with better things to do than be a target. Don’t engage with inferior forces. Just let their stinkbombs pass you by.
The stories are as old as humanity itself. Since prehistoric times, people shared and recorded them on the walls of caves and their pottery. They were passed down orally from generation to generation, and storytellers were welcomed everywhere. Each one had their way of storytelling and favorite genres too.Continue reading “Just Starting with your Story?”