Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Other People's Wisdom

What with Tyler-Rose's visit and the end of summer, I've been doing a lot of writing.  And, since I'm going into my senior year of college (eep!), I've also been thinking a lot about writing--where I'm trying to go as a writer, and how to get there.

Especially at stages like this, one can get totally bogged down in reading too much writing advice.  The internet is full of it.

I've come across some helpful and encouraging tidbits lately, however.  These aren't all foundational things you need to know in order to be a writer.  They aren't even all the most inspirational things I've read.  But they're what's been helping me lately.  So, without further ado... 

Susan's long, short list of writing advice from the summer of 2014:

1.  "Eyes Up, Writers" -- a truly inspirational and needed piece of advice from Shiver author Maggie Stiefvater.  This is what you need to hear when you start researching agents before you're even done with your manuscript, or when you start freaking out because of someone else's success, or when you get thrown off by someone else's cynicism, etc, etc...  Tyler-Rose and I have said "eyes up" to each other more than a few times since reading this.  And we can tell you, it is helping.

2.  Goals, hopes, and doubts with Brent Weeks --  I recently finished The Black Prism (Loved it!) and was perusing this interview, in which Weeks talks a lot about that series, but also spits out some writing advice along the way:

"I define a goal as something you have control of. Getting published is a hope. Finishing writing your book is a goal. Getting an agent is a hope. Sending your best query out to 30 agents is a goal. I used to confuse the two, and it caused me a lot of heartache."  (He continues in this vein.)

Heartache is not what I aim for, believe it or not.  I'm guessing it's not what you aim for, either.

Weeks also has a large hoard of writing advice on his website, and if the lack of happy-happy-inspirational-time in that last quote made your stomach squirm a little (first, follow the link to the interview and read the context, and second--) try what he has to say about "Overcoming Self-doubt":

"Do the work. That’s the solution. You don’t manage self-doubt. You ignore it. You don’t look at the fifty thousand sentences that are going to make up this book. You look at the one you need to write next.  ...  There’s only one way to address that voice that tells you that you can’t do it. It’s not by arguing with the voice. It’s by doing it."  (Also excerpted from a longer treatment of the subject which is worth reading.)

3.  Not writing advice, but -- Allow me to interrupt the program to introduce you to my favorite funny Twitter account:  Chaucer Doth Tweet.  You're welcome.

4.  In which George R. R. Martin makes a simple but important point -- I cleaned up my room recently, which involved sifting through a large pile of Writer's Digest magazines.  In the November/December 2012 issue, they interviewed Martin, and the theme was clear:  quality over speed.  He talked a lot about writing slowly in order to write well.

Now, you may be thinking, "Duh, Susan.  This is the man who's famous for taking forever to write his books.  This is also someone whose success has earned him the ability to write like a snail.  What's the point?  How is the Ent-like speed of this guy's writing life relevant to you or to me?"

Well, impertinent imaginary reader, I'm glad you asked.

The online writing community I come into contact with is very interested in speed.  Groups and events like @FriNightWrites (which I love!!  Check them out here.) and NaNoWriMo emphasize getting words, any words, down fast.  (Granted, @FriNightWrites is totally open to small word counts.  I'm just saying that it is easy, in any wordcount-mentality situation, to become personally very focused on speed.)

Getting words down is important.  I know it's important. But speed isn't everything.  I've seen CP's send out drafts wayyy before they were ready.  I've almost been that writer myself.  (Thank you Tyler-Rose, for stopping me.)  I've sat next to people in writing workshops who were too impatient to accept the (in this case, exceptional) teaching that was going on right in front of them.

And, before this becomes one huge blog post on why it's okay to take your time, I will just add this:  George R. R. Martin isn't the only one who is able to take his time.  There exists a class of writers who have even more time to hone their writing than he does:  the as-yet-unpublished aspirers.

5.  Finally, everything Donald Maass has written about writing -- He's the best.  And oh--will you look at that?  Huh.  Check out the top of that Twitter feed.  What a coincidence... 



  1. I'm still not over it. Still SOOO not over it. SQEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

  2. Inspiring post! I love the idea that it's okay to go slow. It seems like most of the messages out there, as you point out, suggest that it's best to get that first draft down as fast as possible. It's liberating to consider another route. (Especially because my first draft is taking me forever!) :)

    1. Glad you were inspired, Laurel! Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Great Caesar's Ghost! Congrats on getting a shout-out from the Magnificent Maass (totally his name now)! And your point about writing speed is EXACTLY what I needed to hear right now - I feel like if I don't report to my peers with 'Yesss, got 5,000 words down in one setting!' then I might as well give up all hope for being a writer.

    So, thanks for the major boost! Now, to writing! *runs away at a snail's pace*

    - Caitie

    1. Catie, *so glad* to hear #4 helped you!!

      And thanks. Not gonna lie, we were pretty excited about that shout-out, too. ;) Positive reinforcement of any sort is a rare and wonderful thing for aspiring writers...but nothing beats the Magnificent Maass. :D

  4., I have all sorts of things to check out. Thanks! As to speed writing - not my thing. I tried NaNo. Failed miserably and am totally okay with that. Writing isn't about pumping out words as fast as possible. It's telling a story - an art. Can't rush art ;)