Friday, December 08, 2006

New to the Craft? Take Heart....

An excellent question was posed by K.H. during an ongoing 'virtual' conversation.

"What kind of advice would you give to a first time writer that has no clue about writing a book, the book industry, and what not?"

Oh, boy. Now this is a tough one. If one has a no clue about how to write a book, that's a blessing in disguise though you might think that lack of experience is a detriment. Your brain won't be in hyperdrive bitching at you that you haven't got a hook at the end of the scene/chapter, that the dialog is stilted, etc. You write because you love to. The story captures your heart and sweeps you along, like a scorching love affair. That's the way writing is supposed to be.

It's when you get further down the road that you realize all the stuff that has to happen in each scene to make it flow, compel the reader to continue reading. At the beginning of your career that's too much to worry about, especially during a first draft. I don't worry about that kind of stuff during my first drafts. I let the story carry me away.

Once you get a decent first draft, let it 'age' for a couple of weeks and then go back and edit it. That's where most first time writers go wrong. They figure the first draft is it. Not even close. I revise at least three times. Used to be five or six times but I write tighter now. I have a buddy of mine who does one draft and one revision. She's a very tight writer (she's a creative writing teacher -- she'd better be!) Since I'm a "Fog Walker" there will always be more editing.

Once you finish that first manuscript, set it aside and start another. Each book teaches you new skills. When you're sure that the first mss. is the best it can be you have two choices: stuff it under your mattress to enjoy it every now and then or send it out into the cold world. Either choice is honorable. Just know that the moment you send your fair-haired child off to 'camp', someone will tell you they don't like it, that they think it's ugly, etc. This is nature of the business. If you can't handle rejection, don't go there. Save yourself the emotional pain. Enjoy the novel on cold nights curled up by the fire with a hot toddy. If you feel you can handle "no" then send that mss. out for consideration.

If you find someone who finds the spark in your book that you felt, then you have the start of a career. If not, write another book --- lather, rinse, repeat. Just know that overnight successes in this business usually involve about a decade. For every J.K. Rowling there are thousands of folks trying to get their first manuscript read by some editor in NY.

I'll answer the second part of the question about the publishing industry in the next post. My printer has just spit out the 300+ pages of Book #3's first draft. Time to get to work...

1 comment:

Patry Francis said...

Great advice.