…I’m delighted to run a five-days consecutive series of posts from my terrific pal, Author, Susan Toy, for every author to enjoy and prob’ly learn lots from… here’s PART TWO :
10 Ways to Kill Your Writing
This 5-part article is from a talk I gave at the Calgary Public Library Writers’ Weekend Feb. 4, 2012.
Thanks to all of you for reading this series that is very kindly being hosted by the ONE, the ONLY, SEUMAS GALLACHER!
- Copy others and don’t search for and develop your own voice
When I first began writing creatively, I had already enjoyed a long career in bookselling and as a sales rep for publishers. During that time, I got to meet everyone – and I mean everyone!
Gail Bowen was one author I worked with who became a friend and I wanted to be just like her – writing mysteries set in a specific locale.
Then I began taking writing classes and I’m embarrassed and ashamed to admit to you now that I actually said to Paul Quarrington, my mentor, that I had not read any of his books before beginning the course because I didn’t want his writing to influence the “voice” I was trying to develop.
I know! What an idiot!
Writers should always find an author whose writing they can aspire to emulate. Not mimic or imitate, but a standard of accomplishment and success to aim for.
I realize now how arrogant and insulting I must have sounded to Paul at that time. The only consolation I have is that I hear the same words from other beginning writers – that they need to develop a unique voice and cannot risk being influenced by such-and-such a great writer.
You should be so lucky to learn to write that well!
By the way, that unique voice I was so concerned about developing? It eventually came to me, and without my actually realizing it, because the more I wrote the more ME I put on the page. It was unconscious at the time, but I have been told by readers that they enjoy the voice I’ve created in my stories, so I’m pretty chuffed about that.
I never would have reached that point though if I hadn’t just kept writing, reading, revising, and learning my craft.
- Believe you are the first to have . . .
- a) written a particular story
There are very few new ideas in this business, but there are fresh approaches to those ideas. Shakespeare gave us the twelve great stories, the original themes, and everything else tends to be a variation of one of those themes. The key here is to be able to tell each story with a twist – from your own personal perspective.
b) made mistakes in your writing
I could include here, “Believe that you are the first to say stupid things,” as I mentioned I did with Paul Quarrington.
I bet if I could ask here for a raise of hands we’d see a lot of them in answer to a question whether anyone has ever made a mistake in their writing, especially early on in their careers.
It happens – get over it! But do make sure you learn from those mistakes.
- c) struggled to write
Again, asking for a raise of hands would probably garner a response from everyone reading this blog post.
- d) heard from readers that perhaps you should consider finding a day job . . . Or a new hobby.
Writing isn’t for everyone and definitely it’s not for the faint of heart. If you can’t take criticism then step away from the computer. If you can withstand the slings and arrows, then learn from them. Learn how to work with an editor. Find a writing instructor who can help you.
If you truly have a passion to write, and a story to tell, you will overcome those early critiques and learn to write so that readers believe this IS your day job!
And don’t kvetch about mistakes, difficulties, embarrassments, criticism, rejection, etc. We’ve all been there. We all know what you’re going through. So just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back to writing!
- Think that “everyone” will want to read what you write
If you tell me this then I know you don’t have a clue who you are writing for. You must know your market. While every one of us hopes our books will sell a million copies and that Oprah or Mark Zuckerberg will invite us to be featured in their book clubs, the reality is your book will likely appeal to a rather small segment of the population. Know who this is you’re writing for, who your writing will appeal to, or at least have a good idea of your audience. This will really help your writing develop when you focus on a particular group.
Or take that even further … Aritha van Herk told us in a workshop that she always thinks of Alberto Manguel as being her perfect reader, and that she writes specifically with him in mind. Who would be your perfect reader, the one author you would write for and whose approval you seek?
Susan Toy has been a bookseller, an award-winning publishing sales representative, a literacy teacher, and is now a published author, publisher, and promoter of fellow authors and their books. Born and raised in Toronto, and after completing a degree in English Literature at Queen’s University in Kingston, she moved to Calgary in the late 70s and immediately found a job in a bookstore, beginning what has become a life’s career working with books and their authors.
Link for Island in the Clouds: https://islandeditions.wordpress.com/2012/08/23/where-in-the-world-can-you-purchase-island-in-the-clouds/
Link for That Last Summer:
…yeez can catch some of m’Lady, Susan’s WURK and links here :
…see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!…
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