Friday, July 23, 2010

Important Lessons

Important Lessons

good-advice-bad-advice Well, I’m finally in edit/critique phase of Steam Palace. I’m still looking for a few more dedicated beta readers to help me hammer this into a final form, so send me a note if you’re interested! I’m still looking at Labor Day to start sending out queries. Ambitious, but I can do this, but I could use your help!

So here go the important lessons.

  1. Share. I think my family gets tired hearing about my book, but I think this may be because I tend to complain about setbacks and story issues and negative criticisms, but I rarely share all the positive feedback I receive. Things like “[Viola]is one of…my favorite characters in the blog circles.” That’s pretty high praise.
  2. Finish. After I read this post by Natalie Whipple, I realized that I’m trying too hard to make everything perfect. I’m not trying to create a best-seller or anything, I just have listened to a lot of advice that new authors need to make a huge impact, so everything must be perfect. I’m beginning to not believe this so much. Every book is flawed. No character is perfect. People will either like my writing or they won’t. It will either sell or it won’t, and no amount of revision will change that. I write how I write, I care about the things I care about. My characters fight and love and care and hate, and if people aren’t on board with them, what can I really do? Move on, that’s really it.
  3. Most Writing Advice Sucks. And I’m not talking about endless writing blogs explaining that show is absolutely better than tell even though it triples your word count. I think it’s because most people (and I’m including the professional books on writing) present writing rules as absolute-you-must-follow-or-never-see-publication rules. That’s crap. Everything has its place, even adverbs. And, like show vs tell, everything has a price. No backstory? Then no motivation. Deep POV? Then no broader look at the scene. No adverbs? Then choppy sentences without color. Sometimes, someone just runs fast. I want these fucking rules to be presented as choices, not rules, with pros and cons on each side. The more I try to follow them, the deeper hole I dig myself. Yes, I will continue to listen and read writing advice, but I will try to understand it on a deeper level, not a robotic follow-or-die mentality.
  4. Just Tell The Story. I think this is one thing I’ve lost touch with. I’ve been so concerned with making everything perfect, that I’ve forgotten what this craft is all about. Telling a story. About a woman who meets this other woman who she can’t stand at first but by the end of the story they are willing to die for each other. That’s all it is. That’s all I need to tell show. Wow…I just discovered the whole theme to Steam Palace as I wrote this: You can love people who are vastly different from yourself, because deep inside, we’re really all the same. That’s all my book is. Kewl. Check out this great post on Theme by Merrilee. So all I need to do is focus on what my story is and remove all the extraneous crap. Done and done.

Thanks for listening, and don’t forget…NaNoWriMo starts in 100 days!!!!


  1. Great post Andrew!

  2. Hi,

    I guess a lot of writing advice from published authors is worth taking on board, simply because they've been there got the T-shirt! Then again advice from such can make an aspiring writer feel that an awful lot of landmines, trip-wires and nastie editors/lit agents are just waiting to tell you to either piss off and don't darken their door again or yes they might be interested if you re-write half your book. Great advice or scaremongering tactics?

    But the great unpublished advice is best kept to the realm of shared problems with writing and subbing ms experience'. What else do they know other than what they read or write and what they've experienced along the way as an aspiring writer?

    I've seen two novels where a critique partner had said "do this do that it'll make your ms so much better", and when those ms finally got to an editor the author was surprised by how much bad input the critique partner had given: the ms altered by the ed and much of what was taken out previously re-installed and the crap added cut!

    So beware critique partners beyond general browsing to ensure silly details like colour of shoes/eyes/hair etc are running true throughout and the pointing out of awkward sentences/spelling/etc.

    The old adage write it, edit it, put it away for at least two weeks and then revise/rewrite/edit before sending off to a pub/agent is the best advice any writer knows for themselves. Until you're confident it's the best you can get it don't send it out!


  3. Okay Andrew, I did NOT need to hear that we are 100 days away from November. ;) How does the time go so fast. Great post and all good points. thanks!

  4. Very sage advice, Andrew. Especially the part where you mention that everything has its place...I try not to get too hung up on the "do's and don'ts" but its hard. "Just tell the story"...will do.

  5. (As I hope you know) I totally agree on the "rule" assessment.

  6. Great lessons. Being able to live them I think, will set one free as a writer. I try..

  7. Very well said on #3. I may have to quote you on that :-)

  8. Completely agree that a lot of writing advice can be counter-productive. Find your style and run with it. As long as the story is clear to the reader, the rest is personal preference.

    Thanks for the plug!

  9. @Thin: Thanks for dropping by!

    @Francine: I'm not discounting advice, I'm just saying sometimes it's presented as "you must do this" instead of "my preference/experience is". I've learned so much from blogs and CP's and books and online courses, but some of what I've learned has backfired and caused me more pain than helped.

    @Lisa: Don't worry, I won't put my NaNo countdown clock on my blog until Sept 1.

    @Raquel: Tell the story, see what people think.

    @Jordan: Rules schmules.

    @Myne: Thanks!

    @Moses: Thanks. Rules are made to be for other people.

    @Merrilee: I'd plug you any time! Great stuff.

  10. Well, THIS family member wants you to spend less time crafting blog tomes and MORE time actually writing the book! Which, to your credit, you've done.

  11. These are great lessons to pick up from editing, and I agree with you about writing advice - it's great and it's useful, but never, never, ever take is as gospel truth and assume that you'll fail if you don't follow every rule!

  12. @Cheryl: Been mostly sticking to updates. :p
    Where's my beta feedback??

    @Sangu: Some lessons are harder than others. But I'm always willing to listen.

  13. Seriously -- just tell the story is the best advice. I get so bogged down with trying to guess what agents want and what will sell that I forget I have a story to tell. Hey, if I knew what they wanted, I would be published by now. In the mean time, I'm writing and loving it.
    Once I started simply telling my story again, I rediscovered the pride I had in my work.

    For me sharing is difficult -- people's eyes glaze over really fast. But it does help me assert to myself that, yes, I am a writer. And the your relatives have to listen, right? I'm sure it's in some contract. :)


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