Danielle La Paglia, flash fiction extraordinaire after my own heart, tying photos to stories, tagged me to share five things that I’ve learned this year as a writer.
1. Writers Groups
Along the lines of it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a group to raise a writer. Being part of a writing group is probably the single most important and scariest thing I’ve done this year. It’s one thing to jot a few words down on paper (or rather, type them out in your favorite word processing program), but it’s another thing to present your creation to peers whose job is to look for what’s wrong with it. If you want someone to pat you on the back and tell you “I liked it,” crit groups are not for you. If you want to improve, join one, whether online or in person. There’s no way to sum up everything I’ve learned from my wonderful partners-in-crime at the OWG hosted on the talented Kelley Armstrong's website. I’ve also recently began participating in a face-to-face group known as the Pennwriters.
2. Trust Your Crit Partners
Your crit partners are there to pull the wool from your eyes, question character motivation, point out your lack of grammatical and punctuation skills, ask why your MC’s hair color has changed four times, critique pace and plot and do everything short of run your words through a shredder (well, some do that too). However, they are not there to crush, but to challenge. It takes guts to put your writing out there, and it takes even more to learn from it. Scream, cry, pout, complain, do whatever you need to do to get over that initial sting of a bad critique…and then go back and read their comments with an impartial mindset and thicker skin. Chances are, they’re right.
3. Back Up Your Work
Everyone says to do it. Many don’t. There are three computers in our house—my desktop for my photography, my laptop for writing anywhere but at my desk, and my husband’s laptop so he doesn’t mess mine up. In one day, we lost the hard drives on both my desktop and my husband’s laptop. Everything gone—photos, music. Gone. Fortunately, I had taken to saving my writing on a flash drive to jump from computer to computer, so my writing survived. And much heartbreak and expensive data recovery later, I was able to retrieve all my photos from my photography clients. But I learned the hard way. I now back up regularly to an external hard drive. Doesn’t mean that won’t fail, but I have duplicates of everything. And of course my writing is still on my jump drive, but that’s backed up now too. Lesson learned the hard way.
4. Carry a Notebook
Like the Discover Card, don’t leave home without it. Inspiration can and will strike at any moment, and usually the most inopportune ones. I keep a spiral bound notebook in my shoulder bag all the time. Most of the time, I carry my netbook with me, because you never know when you can get the opportunity to write (and when you live surrounded by cornfields, driving home to get your cpu to meet a friend at the bookstore is an hour long delay. No thank you). And my phone never leaves me—the old phone had Word on it. The new iPhone has a few different apps for brainstorming and note-taking. I’m covered for when I need to jot down the solution to a plot hole that’s been bugging me. Don’t be caught with your pants down when the idea for the next best seller hits you out of the blue.
5. Write with Passion
It doesn’t matter what’s hot, what’s trending, who sold what, what won’t sell. Write for you and write the story you want to write. Make it your own, make it the best you can, write what you love, write with passion and the journey will be worth it. Go write, the rest is just details.
In keeping with the tag chain of learning, I’m throwing the gauntlet down at Susan K. Mann, and Patricia Hollett, fellow OWGers.
Tag. You’re it.