Hello, writers. Many thanks to TayTay for her interesting and insightful Write On! diary last week in which she discussed the importance of failure.
I read it while I was at a writers' workshop last week. I had had a goal of writing 30k words during the week, or 6k words a day, beginning a new novel each day. Here's how that went:
Monday: 5200 words, beginning novel A, which was pretty well pre-planned.
Tuesday: 5600 words, beginning novel B, which was not pre-planned.
Wednesday: 4100 words, beginning novel C, which was somewhat pre-planned
Thursday: 1700 words, beginning novel D, which was pre-planned and now looks unwritable.
Friday: About the same. Mostly revised earlier work.
It came out to about 18k words. I discovered I can draft 1000 words an hour when I can stop myself from getting online, so that's good to know. Novel B looks most likely to fly.
In addition to the 18k, in response to TayTay's diary I started jotting down some of the things that the authors I know know. (Despite the diary title, I'm going to call these people “working authors” rather than “successful writers”. I'm referring to people who make a living principally by writing.)
Some of these I've mentioned in previous diaries. After I had written my list, I realized it was mostly a description of different kinds of failure. So that's interesting.
Anyway, here it is.
What do working authors know?
- They know that what they're writing may not be marketable. If it ends up not selling, they'll put it aside and write something else.
- They have a clear idea of what market they're writing for: the audience (readers), the publishers, what is and isn't acceptable within that market.
- They know that not everything they begin to write will end up getting finished. It may get put aside, for years or forever.
- They approach the publishing industry from a position of strength. I don't mean they're rude, I mean they assume that they are offering something of value which the editor may or may not want. Kind of like selling an old dining room table. (You won't talk it up more than it deserves; you won't diss it either. Nor will you freak if the prospective buyer says no.)
- They listen seriously to critiques, especially from within the publishing industry. They put editorial letters aside for 24 hours before reacting to them.
-They consider themselves learners. Most authors I know have one or two aspects of fiction writing that they feel they're good at. Never do they think they're good at everything. They regard themselves as constantly learning new techniques and polishing old ones, and they regard every book as a new learning experience.
- They are the most severe critics of their own work. Often after an editor has said the book is ready for publication, they'll insist on rewriting a scene or a bit of dialogue that they think isn't quite right.
Since the above doesn't lend itself to a Tonight's Challenge, try one of these from The Amazing Story Generator. However, instead of writing the beginning of the story, write a bit of dialogue or a description from the middle.
-Under a witch's spell/ a pathological liar/ uncovers a family secret.Try to limit yourself to 100 words.
-Suddenly able to hear others' thoughts/ a Shakespearean scholar/ refuses to leave the bathtub.
- After graduating from charm school/ an obsessive-compulsive bus driver/ makes a deal with the devil.
Write On! will be a regular weekly diary (Thurs 8 pm ET) until it isn't.
Before signing a contract with any agent or publisher, please be sure to check them out on Preditors and Editors, Absolute Write and/or Writer Beware.