Looking back invites torture into your thoughts. All the “if I’d only done this” or “if I hadn’t done that” bits of reflection can pile up to a mass amount of guilt, embarrassment, and regret. Once that tidal wave rushes through, then the wisdom filters in. Despite the mistakes, failures, and goof-ups, we know we’ve learned new things.
My blog has helped me do just that. It’s truly been a voyage through the things learned from yesterday. Putting it down publicly—wow, how did I get up the courage?
Not to pour out all my inner musings right now (most of which would probably make you click on to the next blog or item on your to-do-list) but in regards to writing, publishing, and marketing, here are some of the things I’ve learned from the past year.
1. I still have much to learn in regards to writing craft. Reading a lot with an eye for studying the craft of writing has taught me that. I’ve seen amazing things, and others far from amazing, and plenty of other things that lie in between. In comparison to where I am at right now, I know I’ve come a long way. I also know I have a long way to go.
2. The writing world is an exciting, dramatic place. It can also be a huge time suck. I’ve had to learn balance. I don’t have as much time to write as I used to, yet that is compensated for by all the people I’m learning from and helping out. Instead of a solitary journey, I’m journeying with others.
3. Not all that is new and flashy is worthy. The latest social media platforms, the latest trends coming out (which turn out to really be at least a year old in the making), the names that flash around the writing community. So much sparkle. Sparkle tends to fizzle out and die too. I’m less likely to dive into something without checking its stability meter first.
4. Relationships in the writing community are a different beast altogether. It reminds me a bit of my childhood, moving around so much, getting settled into one place then moving off. People come and go. They group together in ways frighteningly similar to high school cliques. You can be in someone’s good graces one week and then suddenly they no longer communicate with you. In some cases, long-term friendships are forged. I’ve felt a bit like a debutante at some high society ball.
5. There is no one true and right way to write. Just as people tend to be individual in their personality, tastes, and desires, so too are we individual in our methods. Even trying to hedge us into groups tends to fall apart. There’s not a lot of point in wasting energy over arguing over it.
6. On a technical scale:
a) Learning grammar and punctuation can only help a writer. Likewise have a good vocabulary. It all takes some time and effort but saves you from a lot of embarrassment in the long run.
b) There is a fine line between showing everything in a story and letting a good summarization help keep your word count down.
c) Cause and effect can’t be ignored or manipulated without making the writer look like an idiot.
d) Characters need personality, not just interesting physical traits or superpowers.
e) If you take a random bit out of your story and look at it by itself, you’ll find more places to fix than if you look at the story in one giant hunk.
f) Beta readers do better if they can read more than one chapter at a time. Time lapses between chapters can spell disaster for a critique.
g) Readers want to be transported, usually to new and exciting places. World-building is not something to be taken lightly—or too heavily.
h) Never, never, never put up an unfinished manuscript for critique. It’s a waste of time for you and for the person giving the critique. And getting feedback from only one or two people is like shooting yourself in the foot. A writer with patience and good work ethic won’t see so much red pencil in the long run.
7. The writing industry is always in flux. Policies change, people change jobs, standards change, and mediums change. It’s important to keep tabs on things and to have at least a basic knowledge of how the industry moves.
8. Readers are subjective and always will be. There isn’t a single book out there that everyone loves or that everyone hates. Whether it’s content, story elements or delivery, voice, style, treatment, or what have you—you can’t please everyone.
9. If someone doesn’t want to learn, conform, or understand the way things work or even how to write better, all the arguments in the world won’t change their mind. It’s best to give these people space instead of sharpening your battle axe. Like the undead, they won’t die but become more lethal with each stroke you deliver. Self-discovery is the only way they will change.
10. In spite of everything, even the down times when I feel ready to throw my WIP into the wind, I still have a passion for storytelling. Taking a break from it makes that realization sharper. I can’t live without it, even if it isn’t the center of my life, it’s part of who I am and what I enjoy doing. Whether I have a reading audience of five or ever get to the thousands, it doesn’t matter. What matters is the process and getting down the story.
Some other blogposts on these subjects:
Because: One of the Most Important Words a Writer Can Use...
The Savvy Writer: Organized and Educated
Your Story, Your Spin
A Public Service Message Regarding Unpolished Manuscripts
Manuscript Disease Top 10 Symptoms
The Critiquing Dilemma
Receiving Manuscript Feedback
Adjectives, Adverbs, and Sneaky Profanity
Balancing the Details
Trimming the Manuscript
Don't Spend So Much Time Polishing Your Beginning...
Disgruntled Reader: In Which I Find I Sound a Little Like a Literary Agent
A Little Personality
World-Building: Think Big, Be Creative, Have Fun!