Saturday, June 8, 2013

What's a Writer to Do?



     So you think you'd like to try your hand at writing? You've predicted outcomes of several books and movies, and even had ideas for improvement? Welcome! You have symptoms that writing may be a future prospect. You gather up paper and pen, jot down ideas, consider the possibilities with excited anticipation, and begin your new career. What joy!
     However, if you are like many of us in the beginning, the tap, tap, tap of the typewriter (or computer keys) slowed over time as you realized there is more to writing than just sharing a story. A word you had to look up to ensure its correct spelling, or meaning, to match the context of your prose. Perhaps a doubt crept in after listening to an author interview about multiple rejection letters, some quite vehement, before an editor took a chance and published her novel? 

You erase the fleeting doubt by reasoning, I'm intelligent. I can research what I need about the publishing business; the how-to dos. My family and friends agree my story idea is good. Relieved once again you turn to the largest research library in the world - the Internet - and now you're good to go! 
What? You're not good to go? You’re more confused than ever? You find your confidence suddenly wilting into the salad of doubt? Don’t worry. To paraphrase Apple’s famous catch phrase “There's an app for that”, I assure you ‘There's of att for that'. As in attitude.
     Consider a couple truths. No two people are identical.No one truly thinks exactly like another. This has been demonstrated over and over again. Police ask witnesses to describe what they saw during a suspicious activity. There may be six witnesses watching at the same moment, yet when questioned privately the police will receive six different versions of the same happening. This is true of movie scripts and book plots. Individuals will analyze adn describe depending on their past collective experiences. One may think a character changes from brave into a coward and is digressing, while a doctor may see that character changing for the better – perhaps more thoughtful and less reckless. Our past experiences dictate what prefer, or don’t care for. How can one know, for sure, what is the best advice with so many differing opinions? Its really not rocket science.

     Writers must look at things logically. You’ve already decided you want to learn more about writing. Deciding what you need to know. That is your first priority. Is it proper language structure? What the most acceptable way to format a manuscript is? Which genre your story fits into for an upcoming contest? Consider who will provide you with the most accurate answer. In my opinion language structure is best learned through language teachers or education websites through schools. There are many free websites offering language education, examples and exercises. Many language teachers offer critiquing services for new writers work, particularly during summer months. They usually charge far less than a good editor or agent charges.

     Manuscript formatting advice is a bit more complex to decipher. It will change depending on the item in submission type and occasionally from publisher to publisher. Is the item to be submitted fiction or non-fiction? Will it go to a book, magazine, or online publisher? If you can do so I highly recommend subscribing to a reputable trade magazine.

I personally like the Writer's Digest trade magazine in hard copy so I can highlight items of interest. The hard copy subscription also includes online access for when you are on the road. Writer’s Digest publishes articles that keep writers up-to-date, guest editor and agent columns and articles, timely news on the ever-changing publishing industry, and interviews with well-known authors that are designed to help, and encourage, future writers. Other good trade publications are available, some aimed at specific genres. If you are near a Barnes & Nobles visit their magazine rack. Look inside each writer magazine offered and take note how they will or will not benefit you personally.

     Keep in mind that writers will always come across what seems to be conflicting information whether it is research related, local or online writing groups, in trade magazine, or trade news. If conflicting "never do" or "always do" advice comes from writers, editors or agents it is up to you to decide which opinion to go with while working on a story. There is no right or wrong way of telling your story. You are the creator. What some editors and readers hate, will be loved by others. There is a market for every writer, but it’s not all about the story. There are certain things you must get right to avoid extra work later on. For example, manuscript formatting is a technical question. Things to consider about the person providing the advice might include where did the editor graduate college? Which publishing houses have they worked for? Does the person come across as both knowledgeable and professional? Is the advice for your specific submission of non-fiction or fiction, book or magazine, ePublishing or hard copy publishing? 

Should you forget all else remember these common sense basics.
1. Research what you do not know (even with fiction it must sound realistic.

2. Editors, agents and writers opinions vary to their personal likes or dislikes when it comes to weaving stories. Be true to your gut instinct.

3. Are your mentor(s)encouraging you to grow in the direction you feel comfortable with and a good fit for your style of learning?