Sunday, October 2, 2016

Thoughts on writing (11 - 15)

11. ...but only at the beginning. Look: if you just want validation and sugar and sweetness, that's okay. But you need to admit it to yourself, and you need to admit that you don't actually want to sell anything. Thanks to the Internet, you can have a wide audience by opening a website, and that can be wonderful and fulfilling, and you won't ever have to listen to a single harsh word. There is nothing wrong with that. I post a lot of stuff online that I don't necessarily feel like being critiqued on. Those pieces say 'be gentle,' and their safe word is 'no.' If what you want is to improve as a writer, however, and if you're looking to publish someday, change 'be gentle' to 'bring it on,' and get ready to suffer for your art.

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12. Good critique targets the text, not the author. Good critique says 'this is sloppy and needs tightening,' or 'I don't think this word works here,' or 'I really don't understand the pacing in this scene.' Bad critique says 'wow, you really turned the suck knob to eleven on this one' or 'why don't you do something you're good at?'. Learn to tell the difference. Don't reject critique because it's harsh on the text; don't seek out critique that's going to make you lose the will to improve. It's a hard balance to strike. It can take a long time. It's absolutely worth it.

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13. Read outside your preferred genres. I'm an old-school horror girl. I love fantasy and funny genre fiction. I read more books on epidemics than anyone outside the CDC really needs to. But that won't make me grow, so I also read trashy crime thrillers and westerns, hard science fiction and romances, and pretty much anything with a plot that looks like it might hold my interest. Seeing what they're doing outside your comfort zone will help you understand what's inside your comfort zone much, much better.

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14. Even if you're not publishing right now -- even if you're just hoping to publish someday -- make sure you're reading as much as you can of the genres where you're writing or planning to write. The line between 'new and hot' and 'played-out and cliche' is a thin one, and while I'm not saying 'throw away your baby because somebody else got there first,' you need to know where that line is at any given moment, because you need to be able to defend your work from an informed perspective.

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15. Write what you want to write. I don't care if it's a total cliche, if that's honestly what you want to do, do it. You may never get it published. You may strike it big and wind up in a position to publish all your trunk novels. Either way, refusing to write what you love just because it's not commercial enough is going to do nothing but turn you bitter and angry at the whole industry, and that's no good for anyone.

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