Writing, as anybody will tell you, is a frustrating experience peppered with success for the lucky few. I’ve read so much about its process, but find it impossible to follow anybody’s advice as it doesn’t suit me.
For example, should you do an outline? Some writers say yes, but I find it impossible to do as I’ll always change it to such an extent that I feel I’ve wasted my time. Instead, I write the first thing that comes into my head, and write ideas above the title as I go along, which changes the more I write.
So anyway, here is what I’ve discovered about writing. Does it correspond with your experience?
1. One thing I’ve learned is how to use correct grammar (although I do make mistakes.) You can have the imagination of Tolkien, but if your grammar is all over the place your book won’t be taken seriously. As an English teacher I was surprised by how much I learned teaching English to overseas students.
2. Critique websites. Paying for it is all well and good, but I find a free website like Absolutewrite gives me a better critique than any I’d ever paid for. It’s peer review and easier to give honest feedback as it’s not face to face. But I had to grow a thick skin. I learned that a negative critique did not mean hatred of my material, just ways to improve it. And I made sure I sent in a final draft otherwise writers would spend more time picking up on grammar mistakes rather than analysing the story itself.
3. Rejection. I’ve experienced this far more than acceptance and wasn’t prepared to deal with it at first, but later I realised that the rejected story shouldn’t get thrown in the bin. It could mean that the story needs a slight change or there’s a bit of snafus or simply I’d sent it off to the wrong magazine. I’ve done that more than once. I fixed up one story that was rejected elsewhere and it got published.
4. Scam artists. There are loads of them out there, ready to steal from the unsuspecting author. I nearly got caught out with one, but by googling the offenders name I sussed them out immediately. I discovered later that an author doesn’t pay for anything. Part of getting published is the privilege that the publisher or agent pays for it all.
5. Magazines. Writing short features and articles honed my writing skills. A published feature here, an article there, also helped to build up a readership. A few years ago I got a feature published in Your Cat Magazine, the top-selling cat magazine in Britain. Not bad, considering I only chanced my arm.
6. Blogging. Offering part of a story allows potential customers to read and buy my stuff. On this site there are millions of bloggers out there, so I’ve offered part of a story or two to boost sales.
7. Free books. I realised this wasn’t a good idea even though theoretically, it introduces people to you work. I found it made no impact on sales of future books. And should we give away our hard-earned craft for free? Maybe if I’d published many books, but like I said, I didn’t find I benefited from giving away free books.
8. E-Publishing sites. I use Smashwords and KDP. Both easy to use although KDP limits you totally, but gives you access to a wider audience. I’ve nothing against these two sites and every year there are more coming on the market so I keep my eyes peeled.
9. Style. So many writers, so many styles. This is like a writer’s signature, which not everybody likes. Some writers prefer long flowing sentences full of adjectives, while others prefer short snappy dialogue. Present tense or past tense? First voice or omnipotent? Often, critics on websites claim that one style is better than another for certain genres. I disagree. I tend to use different styles, depending on the story.
10. Advice. Countless times I’ve read articles on writing, written by somebody I’ve never heard of. Often, they quote famous writers, but I find their advice usually doesn’t suit my writing style. Perhaps the best advice is to ignore all advice.
So folks, here’s my experience – no advice, no expert help, no Do’s and Don’ts. Now go forth and enjoy your writing experience, hopefully it will pay off.