November 3rd, 2010

book house by juno_magic

Rules for Writers

(speaking in stentorian voice) It is now time for me to dispense advice to aspiring authors … because all published authors are required to do so. (It’s in the contract, people. If we refuse, they kick us out of the Published Club.)

Heretofore I have resisted the obligation, but my “opt out” period has expired, thus I must foist my wisdom upon the masses. You’re welcome.

What’s that?

You say you don’t visit my blog for writing advice … that you have your own process, thank you very much?

(frowning) Don’t you know there is only ONE WAY to write a novel?

I shall now generously impart this secret.

First, you must … hmm?

You say that you, collectively, are a vast expanse of gloriously various people? That there are many ways to write a book? You say you want to do National Novel Writing Month, and fast-draft an entire novel in 30 days? Or you say you want to take your time and write slowly, revising as you go? Or you want to write in bursts, then take a few days off? Or you want to hole up in a hotel room for a week and write until your eyes cross? You say that not only does each writer need to find what works best for her, EACH BOOK REQUIRES ITS OWN APPROACH?


Okay. Then just enjoy the silly analogy.

(giggling) Clearly, I was being facetious. There is no One Way to write a novel … but there’s a dizzying amount of advice (Free! Today only!) on the Internet about how to do, well, everything, including write a novel.

In the spirit of strained similes, here are some RULES FOR WRITERS … as illustrated by the life cycle of corn. In my garden. (Except for the last photo … I don’t have acreage.)


1) Start writing. That’s the hardest part. Really.

Before you know it, your seed of an idea will no longer be ephemeral. It will burst open and grow roots and force its way into the light. Once your idea grows into an actual story, don’t be afraid to explore its depths and spirals – you can always revise later. You can’t revise a blank page.


2) Protect against destructive pests.

Most of us struggle with doubts and fears during the writing process. But if you have a strong network of friends and supporters – chicken wire! – those moles of doubt can only scrabble at your work, but they can’t destroy it.


(This photo is a little blurry because corn tassels are never really still.)

3) Take chances.

Pollen has to drift from the tassels to the cornsilk in order to produce kernels. Stretch and tremble and take risks as you write. Trust that this will produce results.


(Bean plant climbing up cornstalks.)

4) Offer support.

Writing is a solitary activity, so it’s important to connect with other writers. Join a critique group. They are INVALUABLE at offering insights into your work that you may never see on your own. In turn, you will provide them with thoughtful feedback.

Be part of a writing community. Cheer your peers!


5) Let your work ripen.

The corn in this photo looks ready to pick, doesn’t it? But it’s not quite ripe … the silk will turn a little more dry and brown before the corn is ready for eating.

Once you finish your book, don’t rush to send it off to an agent or editor. Here’s where your critique group comes into play. Revise. Maybe let your manuscript marinate for a couple of weeks, so you can read it with fresh eyes. Then revise again. If you send your work out before it’s ripened … chances are it will be rejected.


6) Savor the fruit of your labors!

Go ahead … be proud. Admire your work. It took the right balance of courage, hard work, and careful crafting – soil, sun, and rain! – to produce that beauty.


(Scarlet runner bean blossom.)

7) Celebrate your friends’ success.

If you become a supportive member of the writing community, you get to enjoy the success of your friends as much as your own.


8) Be humble.

Lastly, once you become a published author … do not be tempted to think you are a special snowflake. It’s a huge accomplishment to have a book published, yes, but the Published Club is large.

So! Those are the rules. Now my Unsolicited Advice Obligation is fulfilled.

(chuckling) Okay, clearly this is meant to poke fun at flat pronouncements. There are plenty of authors out there with very helpful advice regarding the craft of writing and the path to publication. In fact, I link to some of them on my website. But there really is no One Right Way. I thought it would be fun to force a metaphor … and it was. :-)

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