Today’s post is inspired by an article I just read where four people gave their personal ten tips on writing in the “What you shouldn’t do” category: http://threeguysonebook.com/50-things-a-writer-shouldnt-do. (Note: This is an old post. It dates back to 2009, but I still love it.)
I thought this was such a neat idea that I’d imitate them with a list of things I think writers should do. Keep in mind these are my opinions. Ultimately, you will have to decide what you want to do or not do.
So here goes….
Here’s what I advise other writers to do…
1. Tell a good story. Don’t sweat the need to make “beautiful language”.
No matter how sweet your prose is, if you don’t have a story that compels someone to turn the page, it’s a flop. The problem is that writers are so hung up on “how” they write, they often neglect to consider “what” they write. I was in a writing group with this person (X) who mastered the art of beautiful language. To listen to her read was like opening a bottle of fine wine and delicately sampling a piece of expensive dark chocolate. X was, to say the least, weathly in terms of how she wrote…until you listened to content. Most of the time, I was left wondering what the heck the scene she read was even about. It’s like those commercials on TV that are flashy and appealing, but at the end, you ask, “What product were they selling?”
Content is key. If you can tell a story that draws people in and makes them lose sleep because they have to finish it, then you have succeeded. BTW, a poorly edited book won’t keep someone reading because they’ll get stuck working through your errors. So good editing is assumed in telling a good story.
2. Make it clear who is talking.
In writing groups, I was told “don’t repeat” and mentioning the person by name over and over in a dialogue of three people was on the “don’t repeat that person’s name” list. But you know what? When I started getting feedback directly from my readers, instead of other writers, the readers said they wanted me to just say the name.
And another trick that writers say “don’t do” that you probably should is use the verbs ‘said’ and ‘replied’ just to simplify things, esp. if what you want is to make the reader focus on the actual dialogue.
I have a writer friend who still goes ballastic when I say the person’s name more than once in a dialogue scene and dare to say “said” or “replied”. But you know what? My readers are thanking me, and they’re the ones buying the book so… Yeah. Who is it wise to listen to?
3. If you write a scene, make sure there’s a point.
Every scene in your book should advance the plot. A lot of authors get hung up on word count or they learned something neat that they want to slip into the book. The problem? There’s nowhere to put that exciting tidbit of trivia fact, so they opt to write a scene to slip it in. The problem? The reader might end up skimming this fact so the author has just wasted their time. If a reader skims your book, chances are, they won’t read another book you write.
And let’s face it. If you make each scene count, what is the harm done? I say, better err on the side of caution and only include things that make the story stronger. Like I’ve been told in the past, “Sometimes less is more.” If a lower word count makes your story better, go for it.
4. Don’t take crap from readers who give you a hard time.
Seriously, this is a lesson I learned the hard way, and it wasn’t an easy one to grasp. The sooner you get it, though, the better off you’ll be. There is always a whiny, complaining, snobby person who thinks that your job is to bow down and write your book their way. It doesn’t even matter what the topic of their discontent is. If you used something in your book that matters to you, keep it.
The fact of the matter is that you can’t please everyone. So why try? Yes, readers get downright rude and nasty when you stand up for yourself and don’t take their “suggestions”, but they are free to write their own books or to find another author. You are not the only author on this planet.
You are unique.
Don’t let readers treat you like a buffet table where they dictate what you put into your book and what you throw out. And there’s never any reason why you should put up with verbal abuse.
5. Don’t let someone else tell you how to publish or tell you what success is for you.
This is your journey, not theirs. Their method of publishing and their definition of success is not yours. Some people write to have a memoir or a gift to hand their friends and family. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Others are writing in hopes of being the next JK Rowling so they can make it to Hollywood and be a household name. Then you have others (probably the majority) of writers who fall somewhere in the middle. If you’ve reached your goal, you’ve succeeded….and please don’t let someone come in and tell you otherwise. This is your life, your dream. Live it to the fullest and enjoy the fruits of your labor. If someone tries to tell you that your dream is not enough, tell them to “talk to the hand” because you’re not doing it their way.
6. Do the marketing you want to do, not what the “experts” tell you to do.
If you’re not having fun, then chances are the social media you’re doing is not going to be effective. Some people hate blogging. I love blogging. Some people love Twitter. I hate Twitter. There is no “one size fits all” marketing strategy (except for write the best book you can, polish it up, get a great cover, and write your next book). All the other things are optional. Should you run ads? Should you do book trailers? Should you go on Pinterest?
What do you want to do? I have my name set up on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, You Tube, and Google + but I spend most of my time blogging. I heard of someone stealing an author’s identity and pretending to be her on Facebook and Facebook refused to remove the person unless the author set up an account. (This was a traditionally published author.) After hearing that, I made it a point to have a presence on Facebook and on other sites. You have to do what you can to protect your identity. But it doesn’t mean you have to be active in these places. Now, I’m not saying you should go around and establish an account on every site you can find. I’m just saying I did it on the most popular social networking sites for this reason. But I spent most of my time blogging.
Bottom line: if you are enjoying it, you’ll stick with it. If you aren’t, it’ll bomb. So do what interests you. There is no “one” way to do this.
Well, those are my six tips. Anyone have any they want to add?