Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Advice for Writers You'll Hear at AAD

by C. Margery Kempe
From Rome

If you've looked around at all, there's all kinds of writing advice out there: magazines, websites, books, groups. They tell you how to manage your time, how to develop your characters, how to plot your novel -- and that's not to mention the newest trend, telling you how to market your writing once it's out there and coordinate all your social media outlets.

All of these are great ways to avoid what you should be doing:


I remember a friend (a reader, not a writer) saying once, "Writer really whinge a lot." Yes; yes, we do. To each other via email, on Facebook and Twitter now and even occasionally, in person. To be fair, there's a lot to whinge about. The long hours, the low pay, the constant criticism (especially if it comes from your own head). But it's also a way of avoiding the real work.

So just write.

Jane Friedman pointed to a terrific article by Anne Allen about Three Questions to Ask Before Jumping on the Indie Publishing Bandwagon. While a lot of people see the leap as by-passing the slow dinosaur of traditional publishing, Allen warns that skipping that process has a price: all those rejections are often deserved. It takes time to build skills and often that story is not as good as you think it is. You're misled by seeing it all in your head quite clearly; your words may not have captured enough of that mental movie to translate it into someone else's head. If you don't get an editor telling you, "no, it's not there yet" and jump to self publishing, then you will get readers or worse reviewers who tell you the same thing -- not in a private email, but out there on the web for all to see. Or not: because it's not criticism that grinds down most writers, but facing daily the supreme indifference of the universe. What if you publish a book and no one cares?

What Allen also makes clear is how much extra work is involved in self-publishing. I faint dead away at the mere thought of coding a manuscript for umpteen different kinds of ebook formats. Not just because it sounds tedious and fiddly, but once again I'm aware that it's time not spent writing. Never forget the very best thing to sell your writing is your writing. While people dream of having that huge bestseller the first time out of the gate, most "overnight sensations" in any field have laid the groundwork already with a lot of hard work. Because if you do have a book that makes a big splash, you want there to be other things for readers to buy.
So I'm going to take my own advice now, and shut up and write. You do it, too.

1 comment:

Kel said...

I love the "Writers write" thing. Even with no desire to write for publication (my hat is off to all of you who can send you precious words out into the cold cruel world of editors), I still find that I'm more centered when I write regularly.

Even when I was just copy editing (just!) it was important to sit down and let the words shove themselves onto the page.