Monday, June 18, 2012

Radical Writing Advice

I have stacks and shelves and magazines and files and, now, e-documents (books, articles, links, bookmarks, blogs, quotes) of advice for writers. I've been to some writers' conferences and writing workshops and have been (still am) in writing groups. My first Associate's degree was Liberal Studies with a focus in Journalism/English. My second two-year degree was in Sign Language Interpreting - so it doesn't really relate to writing; well, maybe it does if you look at it as a communications and linguistic degree. Then I went for a BS (I love that!) degree in Liberal Studies, with emphasis in Writing and Theater. I've written for newsletters, edited newsletters, had some poetry published, a few short stories and essays, and some flash fiction - including an ultimate short fiction of only 50 words. I also have a creative nonfiction/memoir in revision and a novel in revision.

My point is, I have many resources, education, and experience in writing. In what it takes to be a writer.

So I can say with confidence that I do have advice for other writers.

Right now, if you only listen to me about one thing, listen to this:

Find what works for You.

That's it.

I have read articles and listened to successful authors tell me that I must write daily and blog frequently in order to be successful. I've been told that writing is a solitary act and one must have expansive time alone in order to write. I've been told that a real author's books are picked up by agents who convince publishers to print them. I've been told that setting aside specific writing time is the way to go and daily writing becomes dry and habitual, uninspired. I recently have been reading that frequent blogging is not a good idea; it overwhelms or saturates your audience : slow day, pace it, spread it out. I've read or heard that writing in community is the most beneficial; keeps the words alive.

Finish the book before you pitch. Only finish the first few chapters before you pitch, don't waste your time. Contact an agent with a proposal, then write the article. Only send queries on what you know. Query about things you're interested in but don't necessarily know a lot about, but can research.

Write what you know. Don't reveal too much about yourself. Be honest. Don't lie. Make it up if you have to. Tell the truth. Fictionalize to make it engaging.

I am not saying there isn't good advice out there. There is. And there is a lot of it. What I am saying is that there is a lot of conflicting advice out there.

If you want to get published by one of the Big Six (or however many are left now), then look into what they require. Who has the connections to get you into their doors. And do it.

If you want to write memoir: read a few. See who you like. And by "like" I don't mean just to click "like" in Google+ or on Facebook or whatever social networking tools/sites you use. I mean to check out some styles of writing, content in their stories, read their articles or blogs. Read what they do and read others who read or follow them. Where do they publish? Who works with them? Read what those authors say about writing memoir.

If you are more into small presses, read some. Find an independent bookstore or a local coffee shop with zines and related material. What is there? Who publishes it? Where are they? Read them. Read about them.

If you want to do freelance writing, poke around in different publications you're interested in writing for or which you read regularly or support. Who is writing for them? What do they have to say about publication as a freelance writer? Where are their blogs or books of syndicated articles?

Find what you like. Read it. Read about it. Read about who writes it. Read the writing of those who write it or publish it or represent it.

I believe that this is how you will be a successful writer. You are your best tool. If you need to polish up your grammar, do it. If you need to enlarge your vocabulary, register for a class or find language partners and work together. If you want to write a mystery about the desert but you live where it's cloudy + rainy + green 350 days of the year, take a couple weeks off or 5 days and take a trip; experience the dry the heat the golden landscape. If you want to be indie published, find the zines and the books and read them, find the authors, look at the variety of publications. If you like to write rants and raves and vent your opinion, find bloggers with similar styles; subscribe to them; read them; contact them.

If you try to mimic someone who is not like you, it may fail. It will probably be hard. Part of you may rebel and you won't enjoy it and you may quit.

Don't quit. Look at your options. Have a sit-down meeting with yourself to see what is in your heart. Do that. Follow your heart. You writer's heart.

Trust your writer's heart.

If you're the next Stephen King, then read what he has to say about writing. I am not the next Stephen King, but I do recommend his book, "On Writing." It is one of my all-time favorite books on writing.

If your writing style is like Ariel Gore, the ultimate hip mama rebel writer, then read her book "How to be a Famous Writer Before You're Dead." Again, I recommend reading it anyway, for pretty much anyone. Definitely recommend to the indie-leaning writer. And you can check out her Literary Kitchen class offerings: online and in person.

More spiritual or zen-like? Try Natalie Goldberg or Dosho Port. Definitely listen to "Zen Howl," which is only available on CD and is by both Natalie Goldberg and Dosho Port. For general spiritual writing in the Buddhist direction, read some Pema Chodron. Or read that just to help calm and give perspective on life.

Speaking of Zen, I recently read Dinty Moore's new book, "The Mindful Writer." Great nuggets of useful information, insight in there.

A poet? Try Judith Barrington, who also has a book on writing memoir.

Spoken word? Look up Queen Juliana, Juliana Luecking. She's in New York and has some great videos up on YouTube and Vimeo and some pieces on CD.

Looking for some editing and publication preparation information? I recommend Jessica Page Morrell. She has some great books and a blog. And she presents workshops.

Bonnie Hearn Hill (who has a great YA series, StarCrossed, as well as numerous mysteries worth reading) has books on a number of writing issues and recently co-authored a book on e-publishing, which can be found for the Kindle or cloud reading on Amazon.

I could give you a long list. But why? Look around at who you like. Who speaks to you as a reader. Read them. Read what they say about writing. Read what others say about them. Read editors, agents. Find their blogs. Find small presses blogs and websites. Take a class on letterpress (IPRC if you're local has some great classes and an certificate program with a fast approaching deadline) or publishing software.

Look around.

Find what you like.

Look inward.

Find what you like.

And do it.

Again, one simple rule:
Find what works for You.