Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Bad

As with "The Good" posting, below you will find what I have found to be not so good over the past 9 months.

To start with I didn’t have a clue what the writing game was all about. I was like a teenager listening to their parents. I thought I knew a fair bit but what I did know turned out to be either wrong or just not enough. I definitely still don’t know everything I should, but I keep researching my questions and hassling those in the know.

Writing for the sake of writing is nice but gaining recognition for it by getting published is so much better. Getting paid for it is nice too :) Hold onto your ignorance or arrogance and you'll only ever be writing for the sake of it.

Being ripped off
Beware those out there that offer the fountain of knowledge. There are many web sites, publications, forums, etc, etc out there that offer to help new writers. In my experience, very few of them are genuinely not interested in making a buck for themselves along the way. Now I wouldn’t suggest that people shouldn’t make a dollar where they can, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of others. What I mean is making money while helping your fellow writer is fine, making money by ripping off new writers who don't know any better is wrong.

In my haste to become a writer I bought a huge amount of e-books on the topic. I bought programs to help me write and I looked into all sorts of courses and workshops. I’m lucky that I learn lessons very quickly but this was also my downfall. I figured I could sponge up all this information and churn out my best sellers in no time flat. Ha! Nearly everything I bought I found later on free sites or through friends.

Nothing in writing is new; it’s been around for centuries. Take your time – you can still write and have a huge store of work to release as you find the right resources for you.

I will take this time to suggest three resources that I found immeasurably helpful in my first six months of writing:

  • - they have different sites for different genres too. Fantasy, horror, romance, children, freelance plus others. Excellent site. The forum and those that participate are also brilliant for information. There is no such thing as a stupid question! I have listed the links over on the left.
  • I still crit but not as much anymore but in the beginning you need to read everything, not only to learn, but to see what you’re competing against. Wait until they release the zip file of the previous week’s crits and download it. Have a good look through. Read the story and see if you can figure out what the critters were getting at. Do a crit of a past week’s story and then have a look at the submitted crits in the zip file you downloaded earlier. Are you picking up similar things that others are. Have you noticed a glaring omission that the author may want to know about? Submit crit’s on the current story queue. Try and do ten a week for at least the first month. You’ll see why when you get there.
  • The last is an e-book. I have gushed about Lee already but I discovered her first through purchasing her e-book. She wrote “Write Here Write Now” with her friend and co-author Tina, both involved with the FictionFactor web sites. All the questions most green writers ask will be answered here.
    ****Disclaimer - My recomendation above is completely impartial. I gain no benefits from the sale of Lee's ebook***

To begin with I subscribed to every newsletter under the sun. Eventually you figure out which ones are actually of any use. Surprisingly few are but recognising them only comes with trial and error. It’s simple enough to cancel them but your email will take a hit to begin with.

Self doubt
I could probably list this one every couple of weeks. My writing tends to come in waves. I try to write something every day but my real inspirations come much less regularly. When they don’t come, I doubt. When they do come, I doubt that I can express them well enough. When I send them to other writers for critique, I worry over their responses because I have doubt over my own ability. When I submit them to editors, publishers and agents, I doubt the ability of the pieces to catch their attention. When I show friends published pieces, I have doubts over their reactions. When people ask me what I do in my spare time, I have doubts over telling them I write. When it comes to my creative side, I doubt anyone could understand my insecurities. Then I write another piece.

My first uncomplimentary batch of critiques to a work I really liked, and had received good feedback on from people I trusted to tell me the truth.
Now there's a title! Let me explain: the first short story I submitted to Critters was the third thing I had written since I had made the decision to write seriously. The first two amused my family but I never really considered them to be any good. (Until yesterday! "Wake-up Call" has been accepted) - back to the third thing ever wrote; I wrote a 3500 word story in the sci-fi genre. It took six weeks to make it to the top of the queue. By that time I had begun to learn about gramma, how to represent conversations and a multitude of other things that this story didn’t have. And everyone jumped on it. Some not so nicely.

A friend had already convinced me that I needed a better ending. I knew the grammer wasn't up to scratch. I'd realised there was a small POV shift part way through. All fixable things.

About a third of the critiques, which constituted nearly all those I received first up, tore the piece in its entirety, to shreds. I was devastated. I tried to rewrite it four times before the first nice crit came in. Self doubt was huge that week. I left it alone and let the remainder of the crits come. I let the lot sit for a few weeks. Only now am I working through them. A good friend told me something like "they're only critiquing your choice of words, not the story" and "not everyone will like everything but submit a good story to enough places and it'll find a home."
Both pieces of advise are very true.

I'll add this bit though - Never react to a single crit. Wait until you have received them all and a week has gone by since you received the last. Then sit down with all of them and see what multiple people have noticed in your work. If a good percentage of people are saying the same thing, it may point to something that needs fixing. Remember it's only an opinion.

Thanks for reading & keep writing.

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