Tuesday, June 15, 2010

10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know

I never forward chain emails. I've never republished a previously published article from another writer on this blog.

Until today.

When 10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know by CJ Redwine popped up on one of the writers loops I subscribe to, I knew I needed to pass this advice on:

The following article appeared in the June 2010 issue of Love Notes,
official newsletter of the Music City Romance Writers. Permission granted to
reprint or forward with proper credit given to chapter
and author.


1. Finish a book.

Stop starting every shiny new idea and find the discipline to type one idea
all the way through to The End. It won't be perfect. It probably won't ever
be published. But what you'll learn about yourself and the process will be
invaluable and every subsequent lesson on craft will make a lot more sense.

2. Don't be so eager to share your work with others.

It's important to protect the creative process. Staying away from too much
outside input until you're sure of the story and the characters is a good
idea. Write until you're sure of the story and THEN invite critiques from
CPs. And if you're posting chapters of your work willy-nilly online, stop.
Editors are leery about selling a book when much of it has already been
offered for free.

3. Less talk, more typing.

There are many ways to network with other writers. I agree that can be an
important resource. However, many newer writers spend more time talking
about writing than actually writing. Write more. Talk about it less.

4. Read.

Reading within your genre gives you a firm grasp of the genre and what's
already been done. Reading outside your genre gives you inspiration for new
ideas you could bring to the table. Read.

5. Linger.

Set the scene. Explore the emotions. Record the sensory detail. Don't be in
such a hurry to get from point A to point B that you neglect to deliver the
entire scope of the scene to your reader. If you don't know how to linger
without filling your pages with exposition-- fill your pages with exposition.
You can revise later.

6. Understand that writing is largely about revising.

Revising is often harder than writing the first draft. Your novel won't be
perfect the first time around. It doesn't matter. What you didn't learn
about craft by finishing your first draft, you'll learn by revising.

7. No book is ever perfect.

There's always something you can change. There are no perfect books, but
there are excellent books and the trick is knowing when you've hit that
level and can let it rest.

8. Some books won't ever be published but you should write them anyway.
I know you think the book you're writing NOW is the one. You may be right.
Then again, you may be wrong. It doesn't matter. What matters is pushing
yourself to write the very best book you can and then surprising yourself
with how much better you can make it through revising. No finished draft is
ever a wasted endeavor.

9. Self-doubt comes with the territory.

All of us share one thing in common--we worry that we won't measure up. We
worry that we will. We worry that no agent/editor/ reader will snatch up our
book and when they do, we worry they won't like it. When they do, we worry
our next one will bomb instead. You can't get rid of every shred of doubt
and you don't need to. The trick is to answer the doubt with action. Keep
your head down and write. Take praise and criticism with as much humility
and wisdom as you can and then write some more.

10. Interest and inspiration start books. Determination, perseverance, and
stubbornness finish them.

If you're waiting for your "Muse" to return before you discipline yourself
to write, you won't finish your book. If you want life to slow down, your
schedule to clear, or the people around you to suddenly come to their senses
and support your passion before you make the commitment to finish your book,
you won't finish. Finishing a book takes giving up sleep, turning down
invitations, and refusing to watch tv so you can write instead. Finishing a
book means writing a scene that refuses to go smoothly even though you'd
rather do just about anything else. If you want to turn your writing from
hobby to career, find the determination, perseverance and stubbornness to
finish a book.


About the Author:

C.J. Redwine is repped by Holly Root of Waxman Literary Agency and teaches
online writing workshops. For more info, go to

Emily here again. All I can say after that is "Yea verily, amen!" #8 is particularly important, IMO. My sad little unpubbed first tries were my training-wheels novels. I was going to school on the writers craft with them. Even though only the dustbunnies under my bed have access to them now, I'm glad I wrote them.

Did any of CJ's advice ring true for you?

PS. I'm blogging on my evil twin's site today. Please join me at www.miamarlowe.blogspot.com. The topic is "In Praise of Honorable Men!"


Jane L said...

I took a query class with CJ, she is awesome!! She helped me so much and I really appreciate all her advise!!

Mary@GigglesandGuns said...

These things should be committed to memory.

Giggles and Guns

EmilyBryan said...

That's great, Jane. On the subject of queries: I always found the biggest challenge was reducing my story to a manageable nugget of info. A query class can help an author do that.

EmilyBryan said...

Mary- I found a couple I could take with me, for sure!

Nynke said...

Jane, Emily, what is a query class? Is it a class where you ask the teacher/expert questions, or where everyone asks you questions about your story and what you want to do with it?

EmilyBryan said...

Sorry, Nynke. We were engaging in writerspeak. A query is a letter sent to an agent or editor presenting the author's manuscript and asking if they'd be interested in seeing it. How to craft that letter and what to include in it is the subject of no little debate among writers.

Penny said...

For some dumb reason, I always think other authors write "clean" the first time, and I'm the only one who does 10 million (or gazillion) rewrites/edits/revisions as I go along. But I just keep rewriting and rewriting until it feels right. It's such a good feeling when you finally read the chapter and think "I nailed it"--and then I go out and get a mango martini! ;)

Gillian Layne said...

Just excellent advice! I'm big on #2. If you try to explain an idea too early, then you're too easily influenced by others throwing their two cents in. Muddies the waters too much.

EmilyBryan said...

Penny, I think you have more company than you know.

When I studied music, I learned about great composers' methods. Mozart composed in his head and merely had to write the notes down, so his delicious melodies dripped from his pen, perfect and whole the first time.

Beethoven left us reams of notebooks filled with his torturous chicken scratches as he worked and reworked and developed this musical ideas from embarrassing beginnings to polished genius.

They were both masters and both worked in completely different ways.

Ditto for writers. Put me down in the Beethoven column.

EmilyBryan said...

Gillian--Yes, #2 hit me as well. Because I discover the story as I write it (or so my agent says), the opening chapters are very malleable as I'm figuring things out.

I'm sure my critique partner gets comfused because I often go back and change things we've already worked on because something new turns up that requires some groundwork to be laid in earlier chapters.

Nely said...

Great post Emily! Thank you for re-posting on your site. Rings true from start to finish. Yesterday I wrote 3 pages while my husband and three kids made noise, ate, messed up the house all around me. I went to bed very happy that I accepted the noise and mess level and just kept writing. Have a good day!

EmilyBryan said...

Good for you, Neely! We all need to find a way to get into our "book head" regardless of what's swirling around us.

Glynis Peters said...

A great list to live by, thanks for sharing Emily.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I love the advise. It's somthing to live by as a writer.
I have written little short storys. they always seem easier to finish. But I started writing something a couple of days ago and I liked it and decided to keep going with it. I was wondering if you would email me (a_raylene.young@ymail.com) so I could send you what I have so far. I havnt written that much but I'm working on it. And I would love to have your opinion.

EmilyBryan said...

Hi Anonymous,
I don't do private critiques because of time constraints. If you'd like to be part of the Red Pencil Thursdays, please drop me a note through the Contact page on my website and I'll let you know how it works.