Hello, everyone who reads this blog. This is actually a really sad and serious entry, because it is my last on this site. I am leaving WriteLife after three years, and so I wanted to say goodbye.
Instead of feeling bad and saying how much I’ll miss writing to all of you, I wanted to invite you to go find your favorite post, save it for a time when you’ll need it, and give you a chance to say goodbye to the blog as well. I also wanted to leave you with a mega-awesome, mega-packed last entry: Ten Things I’ve Learned in the Past Three Years of Writing. Please share what you’ve learned; your accomplishments, your awesomeness, and your struggles.
1. Never Use “Was”
There is always a better way to say something than “was sitting” or “was thinking” or even “had been thinking.” There is always a better verb that will throw your character into action. Always.
2. Don’t Be Ashamed of Where You Get Your Inspiration
So many times on this blog, I ventured out of books and into music, theatre, and movies to find my inspiration or facts about writing. For example, this weekend I saw The Way, Way Back and I encourage everyone to go see it, because it’s the best lit fic I’ve read in a long time, and it’s not even a book. Go see it. It’s perfect. You will get an entire year’s worth of writing lessons from the first six minutes of that film. Lessons and inspiration is all around us. Philip Pullman got his idea from a daVinci painting and a broken stair on his back porch. J.K. Rowling got her inspiration from her mother’s death and a train ride. Radical Face got his inspiration from an awful facial cream ad. Find what makes you light up, and then never burn out.
3. It Takes Work. And Other Things.
Nothing is easy. Especially writing. Especially a writer who is trying to write. You will not be able to sit at home and just write. You won’t. It’s a bad idea unless you’ve saved up for it or have a really rich spouse and/or parents. And even then, you shouldn’t just be at home writing, because then what the hell are you going to write about? Sitting at home and writing? Work hard. Have a life. And make part of that life dedicated to your writing. If you always write, you’ll never have anything to write about. If you never write, you’ll never have anything to share. Make it a priority, and then go to the zoo.
4. Don’t Think About Publication While You Write
If they want to change your story later on, fine. But you can’t be worried about what people will think while you are constructing your manuscript. Just pour your heart and soul into it for you, and if you love it, others will, too. Don’t think about age group. Don’t think about genre. Don’t think about marketing techniques. Just write the thing. Then afterwards, see what age group you’ve written. See what genre it could be considered as. Don’t write your content to form. Make your form for the content you have. For more information, go read Neil Gaiman’s interview in this summer’s Poets & Writers.
5. It’s Okay to Fail
In the past three years, I have thrown out over a thousand pages. Is that frustrating? Yes. Will my work be the better for it? Yes.
6. Community is Necessary. They’re Always Right. They’re Sometimes Wrong.
In the past three years, I have joined three writing groups. It is here I find my solace. It is here I get to kvetch about all the awful things writers go through. It is here I can bring my work and be smacked in the face for writing drudge or I can be lauded for writing something good. You need friends. You need companionship. You need to have a home that isn’t a solo act at your writing desk. You need people. And furthermore, you need to listen to them. Especially editors. It’s not your friend’s fault she didn’t get your story. It’s not your editor’s fault he didn’t understand it. It’s your fault. Unless they’re obviously so full of nonsense, and then completely disregard them.
7. You Are Not As Good As You Think. You Are Not As Bad As You Think.
Don’t get an ego. You are not Ernest Hemingway and you will never be Ernest Hemingway. No, that manuscript is not going to change the world. No, you are not going to make millions of dollars. But guess what. You might. Because you don’t suck. And you should be nicer to yourself. Never allow yourself to be overwrought by arrogance or self-interest; write because you love to write. But don’t freak yourself out or beat up on yourself when you’re actually doing really well. You’re better than you were yesterday, and you’ll be better tomorrow than you are today.
8. It Has to Spark.
In Transformers, there’s a thing called the All-Spark. I don’t actually like Transformers or know much about it, but I’m going to go on a limb and guess that the All-Spark gives life to machines … or robots in disguise. Your piece MUST have a spark. It MUST sound like music. It MUST be yours and have a piece of your soul in it. Is that scary? Yes. Is it hard? Not as hard as you think. Sit down and write one true sentence. That’s what Ernest Hemingway said to do.
9. Write to Write. Don’t Write for Fame or Fortune. And Then Sell to Sell.
Guess what. Maybe one person who is writing or reading this right now? Maybe one of us will possibly get published by Harper Collins or TOR or someone of equal awesomeness. Probably none of us are going to be Stephen King. And that’s okay. We have to write because we need to write, not because we need to be famous. Now once the writing’s done, you can’t keep marketing yourself like you don’t care. You have to go out there and see it as a product. See it as something to sell. But if you were writing the sell the whole time, it’ll come off as cheap. Write from the heart. Then sell with the brain. Be a businessman and an artist.
10. Never Write a Book that Isn’t Yours.
This was my last post I did, and it is the best advice I can give you. Never ever write a book that is not your book. I know you love those old Hugo novels, but you are not Hugo. You do not live in Hugo’s time. Carve your own path. Make your own way. Go on your own adventure with your own voice. Really, that’s all writing with your voice means; standing up and singing out the words you feel in your heart, with courage and the belief that someone will find worth in your soul.
Now go write. And have a wonderful life.