Monday, October 2, 2017

Dear Susan, Circa 2008

Q: If you could talk to the person you were when you were writing your first-published novel, what insights and guidance would you give yourself about the writing life?"

- from Susan

1.     The laundry can wait. So can Facebook and closet reorganizations and TV reruns. Make a commitment to your professional goal of finishing the first book and honor it, and yourself.

2.     Trust your instincts. You may have been to one or a few writers’ workshops, picked up a lot of advice, taken a lot of notes on the do’s and don’t’s of writing. But, as helpful as they may be, they are given earnestly by writers who aren’t writing your book. I am not suggesting you ignore them, just saying that you need to weigh general advice against the powerful drive that got you writing in the first place. 

3.     Don’t make mountains out of molehills. Yes, writing a good query letter is important, but too many beginning writers obsess about what is really a business letter, not unlike many you may already have written. I know, it’s your soul you’re offering that agent or editor and that’s different. But it is a business letter ultimately. Follow the guidelines you will have heard everywhere, make your case, and put it in the mail (or email) box.

4.     Dress for success. No, not clothes, but that manuscript. Spend time – a lot of time – making it as perfect as you can. No sloppy writing, no big errors. Don’t decide to send it to an agent or editor in a half-baked form with the notion you’ll fix it later once they’ve bought it or you. Guess what? They won’t look twice. Would you show up for a job interview in cut off jeans and a dirty tee shirt?

5.      Believe in yourself, but don’t be arrogant. You believe in what you’re doing, you share it in part of whole with a writing group or a single reader, you have a faculty member read 10 or 20 pages at a writers’ conference. You’re brave enough and you think you have something good. Excellent attitude. But that doesn’t mean you should toss aside any feedback that doesn’t say you have written a New York Times bestseller. Listen without defensiveness.

6.     When you write “THE END,” reward yourself. That’s no small accomplishment!


RJ Harlick said...

Great advice, Susan. I think I would offer my newby writing self the same.

Unknown said...

Yes, don't wait to reward yourself when all is perfect - it never will be!

Susan C Shea said...

Robin, if only we could send the message back through time, eh? Or get some newbie today to listen and believe.

Susan C Shea said...

RM, Boy, that's true. Great reasons to reward yourself begin with writing your first 20,000 words - a sign of commitment. Then, "THE END." Then, sending off 10 queries fearlessly. Then, getting an agent. Then, having your agent sell the manuscript, Then...Obviously I'm a great believer in celebrating!

Dietrich Kalteis said...

All great advice, Susan.