Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How to Write Right

"You should write, first of all, to please yourself. You shouldn't care a damn about anybody else at all. But writing can't be a way of life; the important part of writing is living. You have to live in such a way that your writing emerges from it." ~ Doris Lessing

I love this quote. As genre writers it is easy to get caught up in page counts, trends, "rules," contests, etc. Especially in the current environment when multi-published authors, what used to be called mid-list authors, are struggling with the newbies to sell work. Publishers are struggling to stay in business. Editors are losing their jobs and turning into agents and advances are so low that agents can't support themselves full time. It feels like desperate times and as writers we can get caught up in it all. I've been in a mood lately to say-"Stop the madness!"
Take a deep breathe and a step back. Ask yourself why you started writing in the first place. Was it love of words? Love of story? To get the characters out of your head? (This doesn't work-when you get done with one another pops up. sigh.)
Were you lured in by people telling you that you are a good writer-gifted even? Did thoughts of success on the scale of Nora Roberts or Stephanie Meyer twinkle before your eyes?
Do you find yourself with a bitter taste in your mouth- wondering what the heck happened. Or are you still desperately chasing trends, beating yourself up every time someone else sells?
Again, I say, Stop the madness! Stay with me here-take a deep breathe and let it out slow.
Now-let's review. 1) You are a gifted writer. You are. Believe that. But there are a lot of gifted writers. Just as their are a lot of gifted singers-some make the top forty, some make it to opera or Broadway, some sing at Disney world or on cruise ships and some sing at church. Each are as valid and gifted as the next.
2) Be yourself. Nora is Nora. That spot is already taken. Your friend who just sold three vampire books-that's her journey not yours. Stop trying to imitate.Yes, imitation is the highest form of flattery and we kid ourselves by saying-well, if it worked for them it will work for me. (This feels true when more than one friend sells in something you don't write. You start to second guess. You start to wonder if perhaps you should change over to YA steampunk. Of course, you'll have to research it and such because you were working on a cozy mystery...)
3) Live your life. Get a job, meet with friends, take a walk-you can't write about life if you are holed up in a closet pounding out four or five books a year in hopes that one of them sticks. Go into the city and watch people. Interview people in small towns. Discover occupations and the sorts of people who work them. If you are stuck at home with small children or job hunting, take walks. Make note of the seasons as they pass-the scents, the sights, the temperature of the air against your skin, the sound of lawnmowers or trains or traffic, the taste of water or seasonal fruit. All these things will make you a better writer.
And finally 4) celebrate your victories great and small and celebrate the victories of others. Life is too short not to have a party now and then. Or at the very least some virtual champagne and chocolate.


Linda Kage said...

Thank you for your inspirational words. After receiving rejection after rejection, this is just the kind of post to put things back into proper perspective.

I love the quote! I makes me want to put writing aside for a day and spend some time with my daughter!

Marilyn Brant said...

Nancy, you have a knack for posting exactly the kind of inspiration I need... Thank you for this. Thanks, too, for the Doris Lessing quote, which I'd never read (but I think I should have :)!! Most of all, thanks for being such a kind and wise spirit amongst the madness. You're appreciated. xoxo

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

I’ve been asking myself, “Why am I doing this?” lately, so I needed this well-written reminder. I took a couple of deep breaths as you suggested and now I feel much better. Thanks.

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Linda, (((hugs))) on the rejections. My kids help me through that. You can put those rejections aside and hug the "real" things in life. Yay for family.
Hi Marilyn, I feel the same way about you. Thanks!
Hi Jane, I think if we can all stop and look at our own personal journey as more exciting than anyone else's we'd all be better off. Don't you think?
That's my goal, anyway.