Not that I am now a magical know-it-all because of my book deal, but these are some things I've learned (and some I wish I would have learned sooner rather than later!) as I've struggled to become a decent writer!
2. I mean it, WRITE. Get your butt in a chair and write every day until you get the feel for writing scenes, dialogue, character development, and figuring out what the hell they mean by voice. All of us would love to be a magical genius where the first thing we ever put to paper would be publishable and become an Oprah pick but: It. Doesn’t. Happen. Everyone fills pages and pages as you get into the practice of writing that will never see the light of day. That’s okay. It’s necessary. Jack Keroac filled thousands of manuscript pages developing the free style jazz-writing of On The Road and Big Sur, and most great writers have written thousands of what turn out to be practice pages. For every other discipline, musical or otherwise, years of practice are necessary before you become comfortable enough with the medium to be able to bend it to your will and style. Writing’s no different.
3.Accept critique. This is the single most important thing I’ve learned. No matter how many pages you fill up with chicken scratch or how many thousand words are rung up on your word count, if you aren’t getting strong and straight talking critique, and even more important, LISTENING TO AND INCORPORATING THAT CRITIQUE, you are seriously stunting your own growth. Everyone takes critique differently: some people want harsh, others need encouragement to keep going; you just find a group or situation with an atmosphere you’re comfortable with. I find I work best with a little of both. My writer’s group rips into my work sometimes, but it’s a group I trust, and they are almost always right. They see what I can’t, question character motivation, story-logic, comma placement, plot arcs. But at the same time, gimme a frickin’ break! If critique is too negative for too long, it wears on you. Even the most confident of us get unsure. We’re doing this thing we love, pouring hours and sweat and occasionally tears, because WE LOVE IT. We need a little bit of positive nourishment too, some sunlight with the rain, if you’ll allow a cheesy pun.
Part II to come next Friday! Let me know what you think! What tips have helped you as you've learned how to write?