Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Good

Ok - now it starts.

At the writing of this, I have been seriously trying to master the art of writing for about 9 months. Seriously for me means, I come home from work, spend some time with my kids, eat, clean away all the dinner stuff and then spend the next 5 or 6 hours on the computer.

Sometimes I just write, sometimes I research, sometimes I edit, sometimes I critique -sometimes I do all of the above.

Over the last 9 months, I've learnt a thing or two. Well more than two as you'll see below.

Here are the good things that have happened to me so far:

New friends
In learning about writing I have met some wonderful people. Actually I haven’t met most of them but we converse regularly online. One I have met is Lee. I would have drowned in ignorance a long time ago if it wasn’t for her. My number one tip for all new writers – research your local area and find a local writer who runs a workshop or a web site or a newsletter that is willing to exchange email addresses with you, and help out a new comer to the industry. Treat them with respect but learn all you can until they take out a restraining order.

Being published for the first time
I wrote a piece titled "The Elusive Muse" on a whim which I sent to my friend Lee who is the editor for a well respected website that aims to help new writers – – Out of the blue she treated it as a submission and accepted it. She even paid me the going fee. I thought she was just being extremely nice to me, a kind of pat on the head – now go away, type of gesture. The following month it turned up in the newsletter that is sent out to the hundreds, if not thousands, of writers who pray at the FictionFactor alter. I was flabbergasted and suddenly extremely proud. It was a very little piece but it was the start.

My first requested article
Lee has a lot to answer for as she also requested my first real non-fiction article. As I said earlier, I suggest everyone find a writer and learn all they can. I asked so many questions of Lee, I’m sure she became afraid to open her email. At first she was amused at my enthusiasm but getting multiple emails every single day, attempting to suck all the knowledge and creativity out of you, gets old really quick. While it was still a little amusing to her, I sent an email on some interesting bits and pieces I had come across whilst trying to write my first novel. I cross referenced everything and provided many examples on ways to make inventing worlds and characters easy. She then asked me to submit it as an article. "Reinventing the Wheel" came into being and was to be found in the following month’s newsletter. Again the fee was paid and I began to feel like a real author.

My first rejection
I know this sounds odd to be in the “good” points list but it really was. I was disappointed but I was lucky enough a gain a few words of encouragement from the slusher and possible ways to improve it. No opportunity to resubmit but you can’t ask for everything and remember that this was my very first submission, I was lucky not to be told to just bugger off.

A valuable piece of advice was continually told to me or kept popping up in my research about writing – keep doing it, every day if you can. Practise makes a good piece, nothing is ever perfect. A good way to recognise good and bad writing is read a lot of it. Read everything you can in the genre that you choose to write in and then add works from outside your chosen genre for variety and to gain additional insight. There are some good writers on Critters and there are a number who could be, with practise and perseverance. There are a few who may never be any good at all, but at least they’re trying and willing to put their hard work before others for judgement. I have read posts from “writers” on forums, that openly admit to their fear of submissions. Gaining the courage to submit – for critique – a piece on the Critters queue is a big step. Once taken and once you start critiquing others and gaining positive feedback your writing will move forward.

Setting priorities
At first I wanted to get a story out my head that a few mates and I had mucked about with for many, many years. One December morning, 2006, I didn’t have a lot of work on and decided to finally pen a few lines. It didn’t come out too bad. A month later I wrote a bit more and started to get hooked. My writing time slowly increased and within six months of penning the first few lines I managed to write “the end” – an important milestone not to be underestimated. I then started writing short stories. After writing for a whole seven months I stopped and asked, “Why am I doing all this and what do I want out of it?” So I set some priorities

  • I want to be published in print. Be it a short story or hopefully my novel, I want it in a dead tree format – call me a traditionalist.
  • To win a contest. Then to win more than one. Looks great on the bio.
  • I would like to become good enough to be published in any format regularly; to provide a tidy side income.
  • To gain professional writing credentials. Back to school for formal education. Scary!
  • To find an agent for my novel
  • To get my novel published
  • To become a full time writer
  • To become a millionaire
  • To… - okay I’m getting a little off track now.

Finding a guaranteed solution for the dreaded writers block

Multiple projects. Let’s say you’re trying to work on a short story, and you get stuck part way through on where to go with your main character. Put it aside and continue work on editing your novel. Just as you get into a real rhythm, an idea for your short story will pop into your head. Jot it down and continue editing. When your steam runs out on the novel, switch back to the short story. When that’s completed and you can’t be bothered doing the novel, (its not the inspiring choice for the day) try critiquing someone else’s work. Write a short story in a different genre. Research a different story or an article for a non-fiction piece. Cruise the anthology listings and see what themes stir your juices. Enter a themed competition. With so much on your plate, you won’t have time for writers block.

Being introduced to the Absolute Writers forum. (Thanks Jo)

There are some very knowledgeable people who hang out there and you can find out just about everything you ever wanted to know. Be warned though – it’s huge!

Having a piece accepted for publication by a stranger

It was very nice when Lee published my essay about the Muse. It was nice when she requested another non-fiction essay about resources for fantasy writers. It was out of this world when the very first piece I ever wrote, the same one that garnered my first rejection, was accepted in a recognised publication.

I am pleased to announce that last night (my time) AntipodeanSF accepted a small humourous Sci-Fi piece I penned long ago. Mid February 2008 will be publishing it's 10th Anniversary edition publication. In it will be "Wake-up Call." This tiny little piece, that all my kids loved, was rejected by three other publications before finding its home (nearly 9 months after its first draft was completed).

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