24 June 2007

Writing Crap

After several year of researching how to write, how to write better, then how to get published, I have come to the conclusion that there is a phenomenal amount of crap written about writing.

There’s a huge industry out there to help you write and get published, but there’s an even bigger one just waiting in make money out of you because they can. Writing is full of wannabe’s and that means it’s also full of sharks preying on innocent people’s dreams and desires. A lot of the stuff that is written about writing is either virtually useless, regurgitated from somewhere else or just out to make money from you.

If you are a beginner here’s a bit of sage advice (of course who am I to give you advice – I’m not even a published author yet):

  • If they are not published they are not an authority on writing – like me.
  • If they have published only one book they are not yet successful. Many authors seem to publish just one book before setting themselves up as a teacher of writing. Check out how many books someone has actually had published as before you pay t have your work assessed by them – a surprising number have published less than three, often only one. I suppose that teaching writing is a more reliable income than actually writing for a living – their need to make money out of you is greater then your need to receive their help. Only when this is no longer true is it time to pay for advice.
  • You don’t need a shelf full of books about how to write. One good book on writing, one on plot development/characterisation, one on grammar (I recommend elements of style) and one on punctuation. That is all you need. Wait until you know where your writing is weak before purchasing any more, then target those weak spots.
  • You don’t need expensive computers or writing/editing programs to get started. You can pick up a really cheap laptop off e-bay (I’ve had two for less than £200 each), or you can use pen and paper – many writers still swear by this method for their first draft.
    The same goes for courses and conferences – write your first full draft before seeking assistance, and then only sparingly.
  • Writing is a lonely hobby, but you don’t have to do it alone. There are plenty of groups on the internet where you can post your work and get feedback from other writers. Try out a few and see what suits you best, and remember, as you writing develops you may need a different kind of feedback so keep shopping around.
  • If you can find a face-to-face writers group in your area so much the better. Go along, make friends, share your writing. The hardest thing of all, though, is finding a group or buddy who will give you honest, constructive, and sometimes painful feedback – if you find them, stick to them like glue.
  • Check out writers/agents/editors blogs. There are some really useful gems out there, but also loads and loads of crap, so filter out the good ones and ignore the rest.
  • Don’t try to be like other writers/authors, unless it’s for a learning exercise. Develop your unique voice/style – it’s your uniqueness which will get you published not your sameness.
  • Above everything else, don’t let the books, magazines, blogs, websites or groups, distract you from writing as often as you can.
  • Finally: you know best.

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