Friday, November 13, 2009

Learning the Ropes: A New Writer's Viewpoint on Writing

This month’s topic was a request for ‘writing tips and tricks’. As a newly published author I feel absolutely hypocritical providing others with ‘tips and tricks’, after all, isn’t that for the real writers? The multi-published gurus? The people with experience? Or education? It can’t possibly apply to me, after all, I’m just, well, me.
Writing has been an interesting journey for me. At nearly 40 I have only recently managed to tell strangers I’m a writer without ducking my head and looking bashful. It was difficult at first and I literally had to force myself to say the words but the more I did, the easier it got. (I think I had a bad experience in the second grade because I truly expected people to laugh when I announced I was a writer.) Imagine my shock when people were supportive, excited and even encouraging.
So while I’m still learning (and I hope I never stop) I will share the two most valuable lessons I’ve learned thus far: (1.) Never be afraid or intimidated to involve others in my writing. This includes everything from owning the fact that I am a writer, to showing my work to others, to joining a group or chapter.
One of the hardest things for me to do as a writer (aside from admitting it) was to involve others in my writing. If a friend hadn’t challenged me to a contest, I might never have published anything. If the same friend hadn’t practically dragged me to an RWA meeting I probably would never have gone. Thank goodness she did because I learned that no one was there to laugh or make fun, instead they were there to support and encourage. It was such a welcome relief to learn that I didn’t have to be alone. Of course, we are all solitary practitioners producing our stories a word at a time, but we can network, support one another, critique and throw out ideas. We can stay in touch via email, phone and impromptu coffee shop meetings.
I also had to get over my inhibition of letting someone else read my work (I think this also stems from that bad second grade experience?). At some point over the years I must have grown a thicker skin than I realized because from moment one I decided that critiques, changes, edits, re-writes and corrections (from anyone other than my editor) are only suggestions. I can take ‘em or leave ‘em. If my editor makes the same call, maybe then I’ll take notice but until then, if I like it, it’s going to stay. Why? Because it’s my story.
Point number 2. Write. All the books in the world aren’t going to write my story for me. I can (and do) have an entire library on plotting, scene and structure, characterization and viewpoint, writing fiction, writing romance, writing science fiction. I have books to help me name characters and entire encyclopedias on mythological creatures. I have books on angels, demons, tarot and astrology. However, no matter how many books I have (or read), I still have to sit down, tune out the world and write.
Some days it’s easier than others. Some days the words flow like water in river, other days it’s a battle to get a single page. Some days I don’t write at all, but I forgive myself and try to do better today. In his book “The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write” Mark David Gerson says that ‘writers often have the cleanest windows, floors, fridges and toilets because in the moment, just about any task seems more palatable than sitting down to write.’ While I certainly don’t have the cleanest house (that ranks lower than writing) I completely understand what he is saying. I can check my email, play solitaire and run to the grocery store, anything to keep from having to sit down to that keyboard. Yet once I do, I’m so glad I did. I’ve had to learn to recognize my own signals of avoidance and overcome them. I hope that someday I will get past this procrastination but for right now I work on overcoming it one day at a time. (If you haven’t seen Mark David’s book, I highly recommend it. You can find it here):
Writing is such a solitary endeavor but I think our need for support and encouragement are only human. If you aren’t in a writing group of some sort, I urge you to seek one out. Take a class online or at the local community college. If there isn’t a writer’s group in your town, consider starting one. Don’t know how to find other writers? Hang out in the writing reference section at your local bookstore. Be patient, it’s like fishing, but sooner or later a likely candidate will come along, and chances are they will be just as excited to meet you as you are to meet them. Run an ad in the local paper or post one on an online classified site. Don’t be afraid to put yourself and your work out there instead, embrace the support and encouragement others want to give you and most importantly, write!
Autumn Shelley is the author of "Blood Moon" a paranormal romance featured in the 'Taming of the Wolf' Anthology.


  1. Hi Autumn. Great post. Well, you've got all the write-right things listed here. Except the really clean windows... I only write when it moves me; don't have time to do it everyday - then it pours out!

    I also wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed "Blood Moon" - Congratulations on a well writen story. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I look forward to reading more of your work!

    Wishing you many, many sales, too.

  2. Mickey-
    Thanks so much for the kind words. Keep letting it all pour out sister!! :)

  3. Great post, Autumn! I can identify with feeling like a hypocrite - that's why I call myself a "peer tutor" - haven't graduated to "real" writer status yet, but we can continue to learn and share as we go :)

  4. Hi, Autumn. My critique partners and I have had this discussion before. We (novelists) call ourselves writers until we're published. Then, we're authors (small press or not). ;) I lump novella-ist in there too!!! Anyway, humans ARE the most social creature we've ever studied. But the human need for self-expression is just as powerful. Isn't it funny how writing fills one need while creating a void elsewhere? Best of luck with your book! ~the anthropologist

  5. Hi Pen! "Peer tutor" huh? I like that. I think I'm going to use that one!
    And Skhye-you are absolutely right about humanity and the dilemmas we seem to create for ourselves. We may be the most social creatures we have ever studied, but even more fascinating to me is our ability to change, adapt and contstantly react to our environments. (BTW, I loved your numerology discussion!)

  6. Amen on the most diverse creature on the planet!!! It's a pity we haven't evolved some sort of antifreeze like certain plants... Or I'm just weird because I love ice caves and glaciers. ;)

  7. Great post, Autumn! You're right. Writing is a solitary thing. Right now, I like it as it means I get time for "me", but I'm sure that will change when the kids are older. =)