Monday, February 27, 2012
and Five More Don'ts for Writers
11. Don't take rejection personally. Publishing is a business. Despite all the horror stories out there, editors are not power hungry, grumpy, or sadists. They are people dealing with hundreds of stories, a magazine to put together, deadlines, and publishing and marketing--and sometimes a day job on top of that. They don't have time to be mean to you.
12. Don't justify what doesn't work. Your editor says you need to change something, then unless you can prove they're wrong (and yes, sometimes editors are), think long and hard about what they are asking. Remember, they have the advantage of experience and outside perspective you lack. Ditto on critique: don't argue about it or waste time trying to explain it. Like my husband once told me, "It's not the editor's job to understand the author. It's the author's job to be understandable."
13. Don't compare yourself to others. That doesn't mean you can't use other authors or books as markers: "I'd like to write books as funny as Pratchett's," is a goal. "I will be the next Terry Pratchett," however? Well, that can set folks on edge. For one, (as Terry commented on his website) he had no idea there were so many future hims around. For two, it can set editors and agents on edge ("The next Discworld, eh? We'll just see about that.") For three, you want to be Pratchett--you want to be you.
I just read a magazine editor who said we are a decade overdue for the next breakthrough in literature. You'll never be that breakthrough if you are busy comparing yourself to the established greats. Finally, comparing yourself to others can be very discouraging. You might be every bit as funny as Pratchett, but you did not have the same circumstances as he has, and thus you'll have a totally different experience. It might be even better than his, but will you know if he's your yardstick?
14. Don't expect the words to just "flow" (and thus stop when they don't). Athletes warm up. Musicians warm up. Even chiropractors warm up! (Mine told me that he's much more fluid and his tactile senses are stronger at the end of the day.) So why do we expect that writing only "works" when the words flow from brain to fingers like a Muse gently whispering? Forget it. Sit down. Start writing. Let it be clunky. If you stall, start again. Keep going until you hit that stride--and if you don't, keep going until you hit the goal and start the next day.
15. Don't be afraid to take chances. I saw an interesting note by a magazine publisher. he said we are a decade overdue for the next groundbreaking thing. Could it be you? On a lesser scale, I've seen (and written) books that break conventions by using forum posts and social networking styles to tell the story. Yes, complete with bad grammar, getting terribly off topic, and more. Even if it doesn't work out, and you need to rewrite, you exercised your creativity and had some fun--and maybe next time, it will work.