Writing is a challenging thing. There are always a million other things to do. There are always a thousand reasons not to.
I may not be any good.I don’t have time. So-and-so thought that this was a bad idea. Oh, but what if I’m terrible at spelling? I never took creative writing in school. I don’t have a degree in literature.
Ignore all that. Sit down, and pen the idea- or type it. I don’t care how, just do it. You are good enough, your ideas are worthy, and screw so-and-so. All that other stuff doesn’t matter. Writers come from all walks of life, and in a rainbow of colors. If you have the desire to write, and the ability is there, the other stuff can be taught. Grammar can be corrected. But there is only one you, nobody else will do what you can.
Stop making excuses, and write you darn book. Go on, right now. Do it!
As you know, I live off in my own world, full of fairies, monsters, and creatures of my own invention. I like living this way, and I have no intentions of my work reflecting anything that isn’t me. I’m weird, and I’m aware of it. It showed through in Tilted Tales, and it will shine equally as bright in Fayling (my pending novel).
Now, when I share my work for critique, I get lots of great advice and encouragement from my fellow group members. But I sometimes get critics who just don’t like my genre. They question a characters abilities, and try to enforce real-world physics into my book. “that’s not possible,” one person will say “a character cannot be all powerful” another will say. Yes, because being able to move walls means nothing can ever harm you. It’s an ability, my friend. Not all mighty perfection. Magic is supposed to be unexpected, and put the super in supernatural. Their problem is not with my style, by the subject matter. And that is just fine; clearly they are not my target demographic.
Thank god J.K. Rowling didn’t listen to any such advice.
Feeling the way I did about the review of my current chapters, something occurred to me. I am always encouraging other writers to seek out and listen to the advice of other writers. I may have left an important tidbit of advice out of that sentiment:
Don’t stifle your own voice because someone doesn’t like your theme. Listen to the grammar corrections, and the honest concerns about your plot. But take the opinions of the people who don’t like the subject matter (and judge the work accordingly) and place their opinion on the shelf, where it belongs. Your writing is yours. Don’t let anyone try to change that.
As a writer, I understand the protective instinct that develops when it comes to your work. You’ve poured your heart and soul into this idea, and obviously it is important enough to devote your precious time to it. So when you show it to someone, be it a classmate or a friend, you may want to stand over that person’s shoulder and explain your thought process. You will want to answer questions and deflect criticism.
Here is the problem with that: If you publish your book, you are not going to follow around every single one of your readers to answer their questions as they arise. Nobody is going to sort out any confusion for them.
This brings me to today’s point. Your writing needs to speak for itself. It is so easy to get defensive when someone challenges a plot point. And sometimes it really is just a misunderstanding, and the reader just didn’t follow along. But that is the exception, not the rule. Generally, if someone has a question that requires clarification/explanation, then you have left something out of your story. Go back to you current draft, and edit, edit, edit.
There are no set-in-stone rules to being a writer. The point is to be creative, and explore a world you can paint with words. Depending on what you want to achieve with your writing, you may need to touch up your work. Be open to doing re-writes, and you can be successful.
Nobody is 100% good or 100% evil. Your characters shouldn’t be either.
As a writer, you’ve probably thought out your plot and have begun writing a character. We all know that heroes have to have at least one flaw. Superman has kryptonite. Harry Potter’s Scar burned-also he’s a teenager and a bit moody. Katniss doesn’t connect well with people. Bilbo Baggins often underestimates himself.
One thing you may want to think extra carefully about is you supporting characters. Often the most interesting stories have a really bad bad-guy. But there are other characters that are either not labeled, or initially presented as bad or good, and later reveal complicated qualities. Find the human element in every character, and you have found a believable motivation for his/her actions. For example in Lord of the Rings, Sauron is a total jerk-face, but Gollum was partly misunderstood. In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Dobby the house-elf works for a horrid family, and keeps trying to maim Harry, and yet he helps Harry in the end. It isn’t until we understand Dobby’s story that we understand his motivations, and come to love him.
What would you do in your characters shoes? What sort of life have they lived? It never hurts to create a back-story even for support characters. I like to keep post-it notes or a spreadsheet on the characteristics of key characters in my story. Even if you only include hints at the back-story in the body of your work, understanding the character yourself will help you to make more realistic and believable people. Someone that your reader can understand, if not relate to.
I’ve talked about socializing and networking with other writers before, and today I would like to expand on that thought.
Recently I have been helping a friend with the formatting on her poetry book (You know I will blog about it when it is released). I’m certainly not an expert, but I am fairly well versed in several different book-related computer programs. I am always volunteering myself to teach people to use Microsoft word if they need help with it, among other things. I firmly believe if you have a bit of practical knowledge you should share it. When I finished my book my friend asked for my help with hers. She was having a hard time getting her book Create Space friendly, and of course I was happy to lend a hand-especially since I had the helping hand of a good friend with my own works. I’m happy to say it is coming along nicely- and bonus: in helping her I figured out a few new shortcuts I did not know before.
I can’t say this enough: Be a member of the writing community. There are tons of resources available for free, be it a blog, book, or video. But the strongest and most beneficial help you will ever receive is going to be from one-on-one interactions with other writers. In my case, I take important editing advice from my writing group, from other bloggers, from online writing friends I have made, and from friends and family who read my work. You never know when someone random in your life will have that touch of expertise that you desperately need. Nobody is perfect, and nobody knows everything right out the gate. For anyone who wishes to be successful at any level, you must reach out to other writers, for about a million different reasons. It would take me weeks to write down every single benefit to having writer friends. Seriously.
If you really need an example to convince you, here it is: Saving my book to be suitable for Kindle was problematic for me- the words all mushed together, and all of my carefully plotted out spacing just went up in an unimpressive, underwhelming poof. I was venting this frustration to another writer, and he told me I was saving the file in the wrong format. That’s it. Drop down menu, one click. Entire problem solved with one sentence, just because I knew the right person, and said the right thing, at the right time.
So find a group, be it online or in person, and start meeting people. You can only benefit from the social networking, and you may prevent yourself from slowly morphing into a library troll. Nobody looks good with green skin.