Crossposted to the Deadline Dames, where there was RT madness all last week! Go check it out!
It’s Friday again! And I’m home. Which means a Friday writing post, right? Except I got nothin’. My brain is dry and bare as old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard. My wordcount has shot up now that I’m not scraping the bottom of the barrel for emotional energy, and the current novels are in shoving matches over every spare neuron they can find. So this week I’m going to serve up three random things about writing. Your mileage may vary, of course, all standard disclaimers apply.
Ready to get random? Let’s dig in.
* Know the rules–and when to break them. Language has rules. That’s what stops it from being meaningless grunting. People agree on those rules so we can communicate clearly to each other. Communicating clearly is a writer’s job. So keep brushing up on your knowledge of your language.
I keep four dictionaries and three thesauri (of differing sizes), two visual dictionaries, the Transitive Vampire, the Well-Tempered Sentence, the Writer’s Reference, Eats, Shoots, & Leaves, a Bartlett’s Familiar, the AP stylebook, the Little, Brown handbook, three Strunk & White’s, and several baby name books on my reference bookshelf. (I should also have a Chicago Manual of Style, I just haven’t picked one up yet.) I refer to them all. I still frequently make mistakes. (Thank God for copyeditors.) When I come across a word I don’t know, I spend the time to look it up. I love AWAD. I flat-out love language and the arcane rules of grammar.
Words are your tools. But most of the joy in writing comes from breaking rules effectively or using words and language in fresh ways. Without a thorough understanding of the rules, you absolutely cannot break them effectively. It ends up looking like an uneducated mess. Even the most talented writer in the world absolutely NEEDS to keep studying language and refreshing their memory or finding out new things.
So, get curious about language. Look up the rules and get to know them, buy them a drink and take them out for dinner. Then when it’s time, you can slip your hand up the skirt of language and produce something wonderful.
* Want to get good enough to be published? Write every day. Haven’t I learned my lesson? I always get flak when I post this. But I keep saying it, because I believe it’s important. No day is too busy that you can’t find ten or fifteen minutes to write. Plus, getting into the habit of doing it every day will help on those days when you Don’t Wanna Butya Hafta. It also makes the point, to yourself and to others, that writing is important. I won’t go through the entire list of why I give this advice and why I think it’s critical. I’ll let Sean Ferrell make the most important point here.
I write every day. Especially when I don’t feel like it. Especially when it’s not working. I can always choose to not use something that I wrote and that I realize later is the wrong tone, doesn’t fit, contradicts other parts. I can’t decide to use something that isn’t written. I can’t use something that is still in my head. Better to have something come out half right than have all of it perfectly in my skull. (Sean Ferrell)
You can’t revise what doesn’t exist. ‘Nuff said.
* Realize someone is not going to like it, no matter what. An agent might not like your submission. After you get an agent a publisher may not like the piece. After a publisher likes it an editor might not like it unless you revise x, y, and z. After the editor’s happy a Reader might not like it; even if a Reader likes it a reviewer may pan it. Someone, somewhere, is going to be unhappy with your book/short story/poem/song/painting/grocery list/whatever.
Deal with it.
Look, you can print out negative reviews and give them funerals or bonfires in the back yard. Pile up your rejection slips and swear at them as foully as you like, make a voodoo doll just for rejections. You can stamp and scream all you want in the privacy of your home. But in public (and the Internet is public, folks) DO NOT ENGAGE. Don’t bitch about how an agent/publisher/editor/reader/reviewer/fellow writer doesn’t get your geeeeeeeenius. Don’t sockpuppet Amazon reviews or get involved in Internet slapfests. It is not worth it. You end up rolling around in sh!t with a pig; you’ll get dirty and perhaps catch a filthy disease, while the pig will still be grunting and happy. It’s not worth it.
Instead, spend your time writing. Let every rejection, bad review, hard edit, or misunderstanding be an invitation do do better. Anything else is a waste of your time. (This is partly why I don’t respond to reviews, positive or negative, ever.)
Besides, the time you spend keening and moaning or engaging in Internet slapfests is time you could spend writing and getting better. That is the real point of this game, not level-pegging with someone who has decided they don’t like your work. You will not be able to convince someone to like you with pleading or threats, you will always come off looking like the asshole. Don’t do it.
And that, my dears, is a random Friday three. It’s all stuff I’ve said before, but it bears repeating. Now I’ve got to get that werwulf’s teeth out of the supermarket manager’s throat. I suppose I should add that: enjoy your work. Write what makes your socks roll up and down. Write, in other words, what you love.
Why else would we do this, anyway?
Over and out.