Thursday, August 30, 2012

Solid Writing Advice from Wilkins MacQueen

Today we look at writing advice from Wilkins MacQueen - a cherished subscriber - who already knew exactly what she needed to do - even when she was seeking guidance from myself and others.
She says: "You have to understand as writers our sense of what works and doesn't is our best quality/judge. And at the end, what three things do you want to leave the readers with, giving them the great "aaaahhhh" finish? Satisfaction, that's what we need to deliver. What ending is the only possible ending? What have the forgoing 80 odd thousand words that lead to it pointed to, and won't disappoint those who traveled with you word by word this far. Make it worth the read."


What To Do When You're Nearly Ready

To Set Your Writing Free

Rob Parnell

Most writers get nervous when they're just about to send out their work.
It's natural to fear rejection, criticism - even praise.
Many writers actually never get to submit their work for fear that their work isn't ready - that there's just one more thing it needs, one more edit pass - or some burst of self confidence or inspiration that needs to happen.
It's right to feel nervous and unsure - it shows that you have the right mentality about your work. 
Simply put, you care, which is good.
Too many bad writers don't. They put their writing 'out there' too soon, before it's ready.
But you're not like that, are you?
You want it to be right and good.
What are the final steps you can take - just before you start submitting your writing to publishers, agents and, if you're a self publisher, direct to your readers?
Here's what Wilkins told me in a recent email:
"I need a good editing job. I am so close to the end, I found some plot holes, worked out a few other kinks then thought - I can't do this. Overwhelmed. Panic ensued."
You can sense the fear, right?
And probably because it's familiar to you!
I for one knew where she was coming from. Sometimes you try to hold the whole novel in your head and you just can't do it - there seems to be so many flaws, so many things that need fixing. It really can be very overwhelming.
Wilkins thought that maybe I could take over the job of editing her manuscript - but I assured her I didn't feel that was necessary. The manuscript read well, she was obviously talented and careful about her presentation. I felt I couldn't improve on her work - and told her so.
(I always believe the best person to edit work is the author anyway - other people never really get what you're doing as well as yourself.)
She went on:
"Thanks for the encouragement. You know the lonely road we travel. Not having critique partners, I have no sounding board, discussions etc." 
This is a common enough experience for writers - especially as we improve, it's hard to find people at the same level - opinions we can trust. 
Plus, writers with the competence to help us are often way too busy with their own work.
It takes a lot of time and energy to read, edit and comment on a novel - which is why the process can be expensive. Quite apart from the issue that successful writers tend to only advise you on what they would do - rather than on what you need to do.
It's a fine line - and another reason why the authors themselves need to make the hard decisions about their work...
She continued:
"I have learned so much on this journey - write every day is the big one."
Ah, how this warms my heart! If you learn only this one thing from the Easy Way to Write, I will die a happy man.
When writers tell me they're not improving or that they're plagued by imaginary blocks, I know one thing for sure: they're not in the habit. They're not writing every day, as they should. 
Because writing is the disease and its own cure. You learn more by writing than is in any books. Write daily and you improve daily, it's as simple as that.
Wilkins added:
"Stay focused, carry a notebook for notes to self."
BE your writing at all times - whenever you're away from your desk. Let your writing command your thoughts and your attention. Fight like an addict to get back to your craft!
"Being this close to the finish I'm feeling queasy. Good enough? What obvious things have I missed plot wise, character development and all that."
And this is all good. This is how you should feel - uneasy until you're sure you've covered all the bases - and made the work whole.

"One of the most valuable things I've learned is when writing fast, that first blush on each section, imperative to go back and get rid of "was". Any sentence with "was" can be improved."
Yes, remove the passive in your work. 'Was' foreshadows any passive sentence. This simple lesson can improve your work no end.
"(Use) active verbs, so much better. Kill adverbs - they weaken any sentence. Make better word choices."
You see it's clear that Wilkins knows exactly what to do. She's answering her own questions - providing her own guidance.

"Control the sentences. Structure them. Kill the descriptive as much as possible, letting the reader fill in the blanks, they become part of the process then, they invest in the story when the imagination can participate - don't tell what you want the reader to know. They can get it without being pounded over the head..."
All superb advice - and not a word coming from me!
You really can trust that inner voice - the one that can see the faults and knows how to fix them.
Thanks, Wilkins, for all your wise words.

You know that you should always trust that the answer lies within.
As long as you:

Keep writing!
 rob at home


“Every new writer is but a new crater of an old volcano."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
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