Thursday, June 30, 2011

Enough with the navel-gazing; time to get back to work

Self-pity is better than none, but it don't pay the bills; and there isn't a damn thing I can do about Harlequin Enterprises and the slimy way they pay the people who produce their product.

What I can do is get back to my own writing.  The manuscript referred to as TSQ is waiting for my attention even as we speak, and I'll get back to it later this afternoon, along with revisions to the short mystery story I wrote some time ago.

One thing I'm not going to do -- and I certainly hope I never let myself be suckered into doing it again except under extenuating and extraordinary circumstances -- is help people with their writing unless they pay me for it.

What that means is I'm probably not going to be posting on other people's writing blogs with free advice on how to write.  I'm going to put all my expertise right here in this one blog post and then that's it.  In no particular order of importance or anything else:

1.  Learn to use the language you're writing in.  Grammar.  Punctuation.  Spelling.  Usage.  Vocabulary.  Learn the rules so you can break or bend them when needed for effect.  Do not rely on spell check.  Do not rely on editors.  Learn the damn language.  It is your ONLY tool.  The computer is a device; the language is a tool.  Guess which one is more important to a writer.

2.  Read.  Read everything.  Read in your genre and out of it.  Fiction and non-fiction.  Poetry.  Drama.  New stuff.  Old stuff.  Read for fun, and read analytically.  Never stop reading.  Never be afraid to read.  Never be intimidated by anyone else's writing.

3.  Write.  Write every day.  Write.  Write.

4.  If you want to write popular fiction -- which happens to be my field -- and you're not a natural-born novelist, pick up a few good books on plot construction.  Learn what the requirements of "a story" are, beyond the obvious beginning, middle, and end.  Understand the types of conflict and how they work in a story.  Understand the difference between internal and external conflict.  Learn to recognize internal consistency and logical cause and effect.

5.  If you want to write popular fiction -- which happens to be my field -- and you're not a natural-born wordsmith, find some way to learn the techniques of characterization, dynamic description, effective dialogue.  I can't tell you how to learn these techniques because I've just always known how to do them.  Is that bragging?  I guess so.  But then again, I've been reading voraciously ever since I learned how, so maybe I just absorbed all that stuff.  You can too, but you'd better start now.

6.  After you've written something, get opinions on it.  All kinds of opinions.  Friends and family, total strangers, editors and agents, published writers, teachers.  Listen to what they have to say about the good things, but especially listen to the bad things they say.  However, don't force anyone to read it.  Ask first, and don't get all pissy if they turn you down.  Some people really just don't have time for you.

7.  Get over yourself.  No matter what you've written, it isn't the greatest thing since Ulysses, The Lord of the Rings, The Ox-bow Incident, Dune, Murder on the Orient Express, From Here to Eternity, or The Far Pavilions.  Or anything else.

8.  Write.

Guess what I'm going to do now.

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