I’m a writing newbie. With pencil, typewriter, and keyboard, I’ve captured, and been captured by, words during the last forty odd years. You’d think I could claim at least a smidge of literary maturity. Nah.
When an old friend asked me what advice helped the most, I tossed off the ‘write what you know’ adage without much thought. Yet, the best part of writing is the learning curve. Masochistic? Perhaps, but it’s pacing for life – the hook to keep us moving forward.
My learning curve guarantees newbie status. I root out my obsession with the word ‘just’, then bam – POV nightmare. I master POV and pace dogs me.
The following three tips are the biggies to me on this final Tuesday in May 2011. Please note that this list evolves as I revised #1 after reading a poignant bit of advice in the latest Romance Writers Report.
#3 ~ “She wouldn’t have sex with that boy so soon.” A critique partner (CP) offered this gem after she reviewed my synopsis. A well-written synopsis has become a Holy Grail of sorts for me. A year ago, I dumped every detail and subplot in. Then, I learned that a 30-page synopsis was a tad uncool, so I cut – cut – cut, and proudly offered a three-pager for critique. Yikes, too spare! The hero and heroine flitted from point A to B without cause. My CP’s comment sparked a ten minute discussion on character arc, foundational material (Twelve Steps of Intimacy, anyone?) and synopsis structure. In combination with storyboard ideas from the Theresa Meyers workshop, this advice improved my synopsis and I’m using it for my current WIP.
#2 ~ Show don’t tell. Always a classic, especially as another CP spiced it up. She devotes an editorial pass to checking for the ‘five sense show’ – sight, touch, smell, sound, and taste. I was in a body language rut. I rambled through an entire murder scene (imaginary . . . really) without a whiff of urine, the not-so-respectful hum of bystanders, or the tech’s double thump pound on the transport door to signal he’d finished loading the bag and tag. This advice stays in the top three, though I have a new #1.
#1 ~ Honor your calling. My primo tip is less about craft than writing as a vocation and journey. Shirley Jump weaves the experiences of writers and other industry experts into a powerful support piece in When the Home Crowd Boos. The ‘honor your writing’ theme comes through her article in the painful disdain of beloved relatives and writing relegated as incidental rather than sacred. An interviewee observed a hard truth: if we want our children to pursue their passion, then we must respect our own. Ouch. I’d argued variations of this point with my kids a million times (okay, maybe a hundred). “We love you. Take care of yourself.” “You’re important, missy; I didn’t go through 17 hours of labor to watch you throw your life away.” “Focus on your future. Believe in yourself.”
I always want to be a newbie writer. Published newbie, sure, but mostly? A writer. More ‘aha’ moments will snag my attention and newbiety grants me latitude. I know it’s not a word, but don’t you love how it rolls off the tongue . . . say it with me . . . “new-bee-it-ee.” In this skin, I can mix it up; even change my approach at a tip from every writer I meet, which brings me to my question.
What advice do you have for this newbie?