WRITERS’ TIPS: TEN WAYS TO WRITE LIKE A BEGINNER
If you read my last blog from last Monday, you might have gotten a chuckle out of several of the points in my “writing like a beginner’s” list. However, I believe that all writers at one time or another have experienced one or many of these strange encounters of the fourth kind in their writing careers. One of my friends recently told me that she’s lived through all ten points, and sometimes still does; yet, she’s still writing faithfully. Kudos to her!
I, too, have suffered from “beginning writer’s syndrome” from time to time over the last 20 years of my serious writing. Every once in a while one or two of these evil little entities will poke their ugly heads into my writing business, attempting to throw a monkey wrench into my creative machine. But the key is to keep pressing on.
Let’s look at this ridiculous beginner’s list a little more closely. I’ve made some comments after each one so you will know my opinion about each.
1. Never read any books in the same genre in which you are writing. After all, you don’t want to steal another author’s voice, style, or story!
Well, it doesn’t mean you can’t read Peanuts in the newspaper or an old Nancy Drew mystery that you find in your attic, for crying out loud!
2. Write when you feel like it, even if the radio or TV is blasting or your family is demanding supper.
Sometimes when the noise level is at its highest might mean writing time for you. If the kids are fighting in the bedroom and hubby is blasting the ball game on TV, at least they’re all busy. Grab your laptop, run for the closet, and go for it!
3. Without trying to publish anything else, start writing the Great American Novel that has plots, subplots, foreshadowing, and complicated characters.
Rarely does a newbie begin nothing else but a book manuscript and get it published. It does happen, but probably one out of five million. There’s SO much to learn before tackling a book project. Work on short stories if you like fiction and articles if you’re a nonfiction writer. All those little nuggets will teach you proper style and good grammar to help you with your book idea in the future.
4. Start your fiction manuscript with five pages of narration and description from five points of view. Have 600 pages in your manuscript.
Bad idea from the getgo! Modern-day readers, and editors, have no patience with the writing style of many of our classics from yesteryear. Our reading society today wants action, action, action!
5. Develop a boring plot with no climax, characters with no depth, and dialogue that is flat and the same for all your characters.
I think you would be better off applying to write obituaries for your local newspaper.
6. Don’t seek any help from anyone or anything like a critique group, “how-to-write” books, or writers’ conferences because God told you to write, what to write, and how to write it.
Honestly, I’ve crossed paths with a number of newbies who have this attitude. (Sorry, guys, but it’s mostly you.) But God is not the author of bad grammar, poor spelling, or lousy sentence structure. Any work written in His name should be at its finest quality. Get help!
7. Send your manuscript everywhere without querying first. Buy the Writers’ Market Guide, start on page 1, and don’t stop until you get a sale!
You might get a sale by 2020 if you go this route. Better still, here’s a big tip. Study the market. Find out which publishing companies want what you’re writing. Work on an eye-catching query letter and send it to five or six editors at one time. As soon as you get a rejection, send another query to a different company. Make a list and check off the companies as you query them.
8. If you decide to write a query letter, write one that is “unique.” Smother it in chocolate or perfume smells and start the letter like this: “Dear Editor, this is your lucky day. My family has read this, and they absolutely love it.”
Oh, my goodness. All my editor friends tell me these techniques turn them off immediately. These ploys are a sure sign that they are dealing with a newbie and won’t give the project a second look.
9. Send your very first draft of your very first manuscript to a different editor once every six months, then go into deep depression when it’s rejected.
While you’re writing your manuscript, send out queries. And while the queries are circulating, write an excellent proposal. (Next time we’ll discuss the components of a proposal.) Unfortunately, it sometimes takes from three to six months to hear from any editor, so you can’t sit around waiting for just that one response. And get use to rejection letters. It’s part of the writing/publishing business.
10. Throw away all rejection letters, including those who suggest changes or editors who would like you to submit other work. After all, if the editor didn’t like your first manuscript, he/she won’t like any of your other stuff, and if you make suggested changes in anything, the manuscript won’t be “your” work anymore.
Danger! Danger! Danger! Do you want to be published or not? What are you willing to sacrifice as far as bad writing? Editors and agents know their business. If they make suggestions about your manuscript, that is a GOOD SIGN. At least, they see some potential in your writing. Take their suggestions to heart, work on improving your manuscript, and revise, revise, revise. Sooner or later you just might see these magical words: “We are pleased to inform you ….”
If you’re dead serious about being published, take my suggestions and run with them. Then let me know when your work is accepted, and I’ll rejoice with you.