Tuesday, July 24, 2012

How To Write Well by Scott M. Baker

“So all I have to do is write a page a day and in a year I’ll have a novel good enough to be published?”

Not necessarily. You’ll have a novel. Whether it’s good enough to be published is another matter.

Remember, writing is an art, much like figure skating, singing, acting, or painting. You have to practice at your craft to be become good at it.

I used to write espionage/techno thrillers. I don’t even admit to the first book because, in retrospect, it was crap. The second book was better, but still not quite publishable. By the third book I had found my style. It dealt with North Korea acquiring nuclear weapons and blackmailing four U.S. cities. I quickly picked up an agent who presented it to several publishers, all of whom liked the book. Unfortunately, this was right after 11 September, and the market for those books had dried up. So I switched genres.

So go out and write, and submit you work. Don’t get depressed if it gets rejected – that’s the nature of the game. And if an editor sends you feedback, consider yourself fortunate. Most publishers reject stories/manuscripts with a simple form letter. That an editor took the time to offer you feedback means he/she sees potential in you work.

The best way to hone your skills is to get readers who will provide critical feedback. Your mother and significant other do not count – chances are they’ll say it’s good, even if it isn’t. My suggestion is to find a good writer’s group with published authors or aspiring authors who are also interested in improving their craft. I’m a member of The Washington Fiction Writer’s League, and the feedback they provide on my stuff has proven invaluable to improving what I’ve published.

If you do go this route, remember two very important things.

First, find critique groups that will provide honest feedback. I’ve seen too many groups where the members will tear someone else’s work to shreds, but become indignant if you provide any critical feedback on their material. Avoid those groups like you would a horde of ravenous zombies. Those groups are filled with people who think ripping apart your work will somehow make them better writers. Trust me, it doesn’t work that way.

Second, and this is the hardest thing to do, is lock away your ego in a dark room during feedback sessions. As long as the feedback isn’t personal, listen to it and adopt it where appropriate. Every author is wedded to his/her work and hates to here that it is not quite as good as he/she thought it was. Get over yourself. I did.

No matter how well you write, there is always room for improvement. We all have our favorite writers who, over time, sacrificed quality for the sake of pumping out another book. There are several authors who I once loved but stopped buying their books because they started to disappoint me.

Your goal is not to write the best book ever written. Your goal is to write the best book that you possibly can. Every book or story has flaws. But if a reader can overlook the occasional grammatical error or plot flaw because the rest of the story is so entertaining it keeps them glued to the edge of their seat, then you’ve succeeded as a writer.

NEXT BLOG: What To Write About.

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