Writers need to have thick skin. I've written about this before, but it bears repeating. That's an interesting word: repeat. Real writers have to do this often. It's called editing. Rarely is a first draft, or first effort successful. Real writers scratch out, delete, rewrite or redirect until the piece is correct. We not only have to please ourselves, but in the case of traditional publishing, also agents, editors and publishers. It takes a lot of work, and there will be rejections. But, real writers press on. The prize of writing a book, having an article accepted for publication, landing an agent or securing a publishing contract is too valuable to give up. Real writers stop talking about, and wishing for, something good to happen and work to make it happen. "Stop the presses!" isn't really a valid phrase. Real writers press on so that the presses will roll out our work. Extra, Extra! The next bestseller may be just around the corner. Don't give up on your dream. Stick with it. If the story's good, people will like it. You only need one "yes" for things to start falling into place.
Last week I read in a blog that the media basically covers only 9 topics. I can't remember all of them, but I know that politics, religion, money, sex and current and historical events were on the list. That's good news for me, because those areas of interest are included in my latest manuscript. Alright! The book should get some press coverage when it's released.
I've spoken to aspiring writers who are wavering on what to write about. Well, pick a topic that will garner interest. Then, the trick will be finding your writing voice. It's easier said than done. You have to work at it on a consistent basis. But don't worry. Practice makes perfect. I'm on my third book (I've lost count of articles) and I am just now finding my voice. Now, everything I write, no matter the subject or genre, should sound specific to me. That's one key to building a following.
I'm currently reading "Gone For Soldiers" by Jeff Shaara. It is about the Mexican War, but it reads just like his Civil War books. His father, Michael, sounded the same when he went from a Civil War novel to a baseball novel. Reading works by authors in the genre in which you are writing is a great way to learn the craft. Read as much as you can, learning how they craft sentences and paragraphs. Don't copy, of course, but pick up pointers from those writers who are successful. Before long, you'll be on the road to success. Of course, there are books, blogs, manuals and conferences that will also be beneficial on the art of crafting, but reading what is selling is the best teacher for me.
The next logical step is then writing something that will sell well. Remember, pen something the media will salivate to cover. Once it's on their radar, word will spread.
With the NFL playoffs ongoing, and the college bowl season wrapping up on January 12 with the first-ever national championship playoff game, I've been watching a lot of football games lately. I got to thinking the other day of how much writing compares to the sport. Whether crafting a novel, short story or one-page article, there are lessons to be gleaned from football.
Firstly, football players, no matter the position they play, have to be trained in the fundamentals. So do writers. Concrete nouns, active verbs and descriptive adjectives are requirements for any writing project. Secondly, successful plays in football begin in the trenches. The line of scrimmage is the key to success. Offensive and defensive linemen, those doing the "grunt work", control the flow of the game. All of the sexy stuff - touchdowns, interceptions, quarterback sacks - occur as the result of the line play. Writing requires strength. Research, preparation, interviews, etc. go a long way in determining if your piece will have any merit. Once those notes are gathered, everything else should fall into place, and you'll be set to impress.
Of course, a game plan is absolutely necessary. I am a plotter, so that would be my outline. Once into the piece, the characters can then determine the direction the story takes, much like the adjustments made to an opposing team's strengths and weaknesses during a football game.
Now, when we watch a game, what we are seeing is the culmination of weeks of work. Players have regimens they follow: eat properly, weight room sessions, film study and repetitions on the practice field. When a play runs smoothly, it is the result of constant practice. Same with writing. A first draft is exactly that - a first effort. It is not ready for publication. Just like reps on the practice field, writers need to go over their piece as many times as it takes to mold it into something as close to perfect as they can get. The reader needs to be impressed. He or she does not need to know what took place behind the scenes in order to place that masterpiece in their hands.
Obviously, a head coach is necessary. That's you, the writer. It's your job to have all of your players on the same page - literally. The singular purpose is winning. Strive to inspire, enlighten and entertain. When everything clicks, you'll have success.
Okay, there are two more games today, one of which features my favorite team. Seven more hours of football! If anyone complains, I'm going to reply, "This is research. It's helping me to become a better writer." I think I'll stretch out on the couch and work all afternoon.
I've never been one to make New Year's resolutions. It's been my experience that they're hard to keep, and a little aggravating to try and stick with for a month or two. Instead, I just try to get a little better with handling life. I have a secret I'll share with you.
The best way to tackle whatever life throws at you is to square it up and complete tasks sequentially, rather than let them overwhelm you cumulatively. Knock out a chore or two, rest, then go on to another. Don't worry about how others do things. Go at your own pace. Before you know it, you will have finished projects you thought would take a long time to complete.
Try not to procrastinate. For me, when I'm on the computer, I tend to jot down notes and leave them on my desk. I had been meaning to clean up a year's worth of mess for some time, but put it off because I thought it would take forever to straighten out. The more time that passed, the more I had to sort through. Finally, yesterday, I set my mind to it. I even missed part of an NFL playoff game. But you know what, it was only the first half of the game. Once I concentrated on the task, it didn't take me as long as I thought it would. Had I gotten on it sooner, it wouldn't have taken any time at all. Now that I have everything in order with my notes, it'll be easier to access whatever information I need. From now on, I'll put everything in its proper folder. Same with computer files. Delete whatever is no longer necessary, and have everything else in its proper folder.
Perhaps being in edit mode with my manuscript has me conscious of polishing. I'm not a housekeeper, by any means. But, now when I see something that needs dusting, I just go ahead and do it. I've even starting noticing mistakes with movies and TV shows I watch. One that really bugs me is the Christmas movies that are supposed to be set in December, but have trees in the background with full, green leaves. This is wrong, wrong, wrong. I wonder if anybody else notices this?
Oh well, no one is perfect. I know I'm certainly not. But, I'm attempting to get better, one task at a time. Complete it, then move on to the next one - without letting them stack up and overwhelm me.
Greg is a writer of fiction and non-fiction. He has penned articles for newspapers and magazines and authored two books to date.