Since I’ve been attempting to write fiction, I’ve learned a number of lessons. I thought I’d take a moment and share three: Get as much advice as you can; Don’t take any advice as ‘gospel’; Let yourself be surprised.
Get advice. This can come in many disparate forms. At first, it was from other writers I met through my participation in NANOWRIMO. In various chat rooms, I’d toss out a question and I’d receive several helpful answers. Reading blogs is another way to interact with other writers, though it tends to be more one-sided. A few bloggers do a great job of asking questions and responding to the questions of others. But even simply consuming the information they provide can be helpful. A third way is to Go to ‘school’. This may not be an actual classroom, though that is an opportunity for some. I’m slowly working my way through Brandon Sanderson’s BYU lectures that I stumbled over on YouTube. Great stuff!
Keep the main thing the main thing. Very often, I’d find myself getting caught in the spiral of reading advice and NOT writing. If you want to write, you should probably be writing. While in that spiral, I’d also notice that I would place way too much emphasis on what “whoever” said about “whatever” and I’d start to second guess myself. Stop. What works for Hemingway (writing drunk and editing sober), may not be the best idea for me (it’s not). Yet, within that popular aphorism is a truth. Write with abandon. Don’t sweat the details (always a problem for me). Just get it on ‘paper’.
Be surprised. This is a wonderful moment. I remember the first time that a story surprised me. I sat back in wonder. “How did THAT happen?” The more of those you allow, the more surprises the reader will get. Readers love to be surprised. It keeps the pages turning.
How do you fall on these? Do you ever find yourself getting lost in advice? Do you ever get surprised by your own story? I’d love to hear about it!
-Mark

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