Wednesday, January 25, 2023

If it’s in there, get it out.

A lot of folks will have resolved that 2023 is THE year when they write the book they have inside them. Any tips for absolute beginners?

by Dietrich

If you feel the urge to write, don’t let anybody tell you different, especially that little voice in the back of the head.

Don’t put it off, and don’t kick the can down the road. Sit down and get started. Be in it for the long-haul and have fun every inch of the way.

You work at home, so there are plenty of distractions. Don’t play with the cat, switch off the phone, and stay away from the internet. I like to crank up the music before I start. I know that’s not going to be for everyone, I get that, but it’s good to find whatever works to help get yourself into that writing zone.

Don’t aim for War and Peace. Do some trial and error, find what works — find your voice. I wrote short stories, quite a few of them, trying to find what worked for me.  

Read the kind of books you want to write — and read a lot of them. Personally, I love to read fiction, non-fiction, biographies and autobiographies. There’s so much inspiration in any great book. And there are some good how-to books too. If you haven’t, check out Stephen King’s On Writing. It’s like the how-to bible for writers. 

And there are classes and courses that are worth checking out, many of them online. 

Refrain from reading the daily noise, and anything else that might distract, depress, or keep you from planting that bum in the chair.

Find a mentor. Meet some published writers. They hang out at writers’ conferences, festivals, writers’ events. They’re generally a fun and helpful bunch and easy to approach — especially in a bar.

Create your own best set-up for writing. A desk, a quiet corner, and if possible, find the best time of day to write. And by all means, jot down those little ideas that come to mind, and keep them handy.

Don’t be in a rush to send your masterpiece off in hopes of finding an agent or publishing house. Get it right first. There’s nothing worse than sending something off that has potential before it’s ready. It’s like self-sabotage and a set-up for hearing, “No thanks.”

If you’ve been out of school for awhile, you may want to brush up on your grammar. 

When you get through a first draft, set it aside for a few days before going back through it again. And don’t have a total number of drafts in mind. Four, five, six, or more — who cares. Rework it until it feels ready. How do you know when it’s ready? When you write enough, the confidence will build, and you’ll know.

Get set to hear, “No thanks.” Then get ready to hear it again. You’re putting yourself out there, and that takes a certain amount of courage. Go for it.

Last thoughts: When you edit, look for anything that doesn’t move the scene forward, and cut it. You want to make them laugh, and you want to make them cry, but mostly, you want to keep them turning pages. 

When you read a chapter over, read it aloud. 

Never worry about what anybody thinks of your writing. Write it bold.

Lastly, I asked fellow author Eric Beetner to weigh in on the topic, and he had some pearls:

“My biggest tip for new or aspiring writers is to lose the notion that writing a book is a monumental task. I think too many people treat it like scaling Everest or circumnavigating the globe alone in a boat. Go into any bookstore or library and look around you. Books everywhere. Millions of new books every year. How can it be that hard and be done so often by so many people?

Now, writing a good book is no easy task, and that should be where the hard work goes in. But if you free yourself with the idea that starting on page one is the beginning of an arduous journey that will bring you to the brink, then you can focus on the real work of writing a good book. The rest is just typing.”

“Can we please stop this nonsense attitude that a first draft is supposed to be crap? Why would you write a terrible first draft? The work of a first draft, to me anyway, is to get it as close to right as you can. Then the rewrite process isn't spent "figuring out the story" as too many people seem to do, it becomes refining, making it better, elevating what you already have. If you need a whole first draft to find the story, then you're doing it backwards. Make notes, outline, keep voice memos on your phone, but know your story when you start so the first draft isn't awful. So your rewrites and revisions aren't torturous. Writing is supposed to be joyful. If it's a slog then that will come across on the page to the reader.

But, you do you. If you like the tortured artist thing, then go ahead and write a terrible first draft. Just please stop complaining about it.” — Eric Beetner


Brenda Chapman said...

Some terrific advice here, Dietrich!

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Thanks, Brenda.