Thursday 20 September 2012

Five Things I’ve Learned About Writing (Neptune's Tears Blog Tour)

As part of the blog tour for her novel Neptune's Tears, Susan Waggoner has kindly stopped by to tell us about the five things she has learned about writing...

Five Things I’ve Learned About Writing

I wanted to write before I could read. From the minute I understood that the black squiggles below the pictures were telling the story, I wanted to be the person in charge of the squiggles. If you’ve ever felt the same way, here are five things I’ve learned about writing between that day and this,

1. Don’t wait, write.
Writers, especially new writers, often wait for brilliance to strike before putting a single sentence on paper. They believe at the right moment, the story will flow perfectly onto the page. But writing is more of a skill than a talent. Just like ballet dancers, no writer gets on her toes the first time round, but puts in long hours at the practice bar. If you wait for brilliance to strike, writing will become more and more intimidating, and you will you never acquire the skills you need. So grab it, do it, and face the blank page every day.

2. Don’t be afraid of dead ends.
Although some people have an idea for a story that they love, they are often reluctant to write it down, as they are afraid that it won’t work out. Then they will have used up their idea and wasted a lot of time. First of all, an idea is never “used up.” You can always come back to it later, or change it to make it better. If you try to put it on paper and it doesn’t work out, you may have exposed a flaw in the story that needs to be corrected. This isn’t a failure. There are certain features in any story that you only notice when you start writing it. Many times, in the middle of a project, I’ve thought “Gosh, why did I decide to put this in? It just doesn’t fit!” or decided, when I was finished, “Well, I’m certainly not going to do that again.” You may lose interest in your idea or discover that it doesn’t have the potential you thought it did, or you may set it aside and come back to it when you have more experience. Whatever it is, you’ve moved forward as a writer.

3. Ignore people who tell you to “write what you know.”
This is the worst advice I’ve ever heard. If everyone followed it, there’d be no Alice in Wonderland, no Narnia or The Time Traveller’s Wife. Who would want to live in such a world? Who would want to write only about things they already know? Everything can be researched, so if your story takes place in a different world altogether, prepare to put some study time in. Beyond that, though, it’s your imagination and your ability to enter that distant world that will make your story a success.

4. Keep a notebook.
I don’t mean a writer’s notebook, I mean a reader’s notebook. In mine, I write down the title and author of every book I read and jot down my feelings and reactions as I go. What did the writer do that made me want to keep reading? Were certain writing challenges handled in a way I can learn from? I keep notes on books I don’t like as well. What irritated me or made me want to set the book aside? If there are magic moments in a book, I go back over the passage and try to figure out how the writer turned words into images and made them seem like real life. Leafing though my notebook, I find a map of where I’ve been as a reader as well as a writer. But the looking back is mostly for fun. The real value lies in the process of observing myself as a reader, then thinking about what I’ve read and pinpointing why some books work and some don’t.

5. Develop other interests and friends.
There is nothing more boring than a book about a writer writing about writing, so make sure you develop other interests and talents. What would you be if you didn’t want to write? Veterinarian? Tennis pro? Interior designer? Don’t leave these interests behind! Pursue them through volunteer work, part time jobs, or any way you can. It’s also important to have friends whose dreams are different from your own. You will learn things from them your own life cannot teach you, and be able to share experiences you would not otherwise have. Having a range of people in your life and developing as many of your own interests as possible will keep you open to the world and fill you with ideas and insights that will keep your creative spark burning far into the future.
Thanks Susan!

You can check out the next stop on the tour tomorrow over with the Bookbabblers.

Neptune's Tears is published now.

1 comment:

Cliona said...

What a a brilliant post! I totallyagree with number 3 - I always thought that was a a ridiculous saying! :D


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