Thursday, September 22, 2011

Tips from a writing pro (not me)

I recently won a book from K. M. Weiland, and when I received it in the mail, I noticed it was accompanied by a bonus: a bookmark.

This pleased me, because I use (and lose) many bookmarks. Most are mine of the homemade variety derived from small adhesive notes, but I am open to using "real" bookmarks as well. K. M.'s bookmark put mine to shame, and it had such great advice on it, I wanted to share it with you.

Here are K.M. Weiland's 10 Habits of Successful Authors as found on her bookmark (but minus her extra comments). For more tips on writing and the chance to win (or buy) your own spectacular bookmark, visit her website. She's made it her business to educate writers, in addition to writing her own books, and it's a happy writer who benefits from her generosity.

K.M. Weiland's 10 Habits of Successful Authors (with my thoughts added)

1. Write every day

At first I felt a little condemned by this one until I realized that I do this. I write constantly—it's just not always on my WIP middle grade sci-fi book. I am, however, trying to make sure I work on that every day as well.

2. Complete stories

Most of my stories are completed, but as my kids will tell you, they were frustrated to get to the end of my Nanonovel from two years ago and find out that, although I had typed a tidy 50k, I had failed to include an ending. Oops. I'll have to fix that.

3. Learn the rules

I have learned the rules of writing. I am learning the rules of writing. I will be learning the rules of writing. (Probably for the rest of my life.)

4. Break the rules

Hard for me, since I'm still trying to follow the rules. I'll leave this one to the experts for now and play it safe until I'm more confident as a writer.

5. Create your own inspiration

I find my best inspirations come while I'm daydreaming in the morning before the day gets going. My brain is so engaged during the rest of the day that there's no room left for anything else, sadly.

6. Don't slack on the hard stuff

By this, K. M. meant that you have to do the hard work of writing as well as the fun, creative part. Harder things would include research and editing. She's right. You'll look like a unprofessional yo-yo if you don't take the time to learn your craft so that you can tell a story accurately as well as effectively.

7. Follow your heart, not the market

I hear this a lot, and I suppose it's true. You have to write first for yourself. If it doesn't jive with the market, too bad. You can only write what you have in you to write. (But here's a secret that I believe in: excellent writing makes a place for itself in the market.)

8. Develop a thick skin

No kidding. You're going to have to be teachable. There are over six billion people on this planet. If even half of them liked your work, it would probably be a miracle, but that would still leave over three billion who "rejected" it. Many will be editors and agents who know what they're doing when it comes to the written word. You'll have two choices when criticism comes your way. You can shrivel and collapse over a quart of double chocolate fudge ice cream, or you can listen, consider, and proceed.

9. Set your stories free

When you're done, be done. Enough said.

10. Love what you do

...or find something else to do. Honestly, I can't imagine a person who would write if they didn't love it, because it's a ton of work and a mostly thankless occupation.

So there you have them: K. M.'s top ten habits that will do all that is possible to make you a successful writer. I would only add that you read lots of books in your genre, study writing books continually, go to conferences when you can afford it, and read James Scott Bell's book Plot and Structure. Please understand these are additions to the list, not replacements for K. M.'s top ten. Do those first. Then the others, too.

Happy writing!

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