once again, it’s time for the Insecure Writers’ Support Group, hosted by the awesome Alex J. Cavanaugh. this month, i’ve asked other writers to encourage you.
the response was much larger than i’d expected and i want to say a huge thank you to everyone who contributed. i had hoped to include a little blurb about each contributor, but due to the length of this post, i’ve only linked to their blog or website. even then, this is still pretty long.
Heather M. Gardner:
Best writing advice I’ve ever received, from numerous sources, WRITE.
This is not the typical quote, but it is what I try to do in my women’s fiction and contemporary writing. Well, works for fantasy too in creating believable characters: Don’t let the daily grind go to waste. Find the germs for stories in the mundane, but mix in something extra, that what-if factor....You’re limited only by your personal creativity and your ability to connect disparate events and characters to create grist for a story. (Writing For The Soul, Jerry B. Jenkins, page 81)
The most important thing I’ve learnt is not to give up, that what one editor/agent dislikes, another will love, and that it’s not personal!
I think the most encouraging thing I’ve learned from writing is this: we are not alone. The writing path is filled with many wonderful people who have the same goals, and we can support, encourage, teach and cheer one another on during the journey. Writers embody the word “giving” and this is a wonderful community to belong too. Help is everywhere, in all forms, and all we have to do is reach out to get it.
Alex J. Cavanaugh:
A lot of this business is about timing, so don’t get discouraged if your time hasn’t come yet.
After being creativity (sic), and professional, and diligent as a writer, the next step for me is to be a little selfless. I’ve learned to reach out and help other authors in anyway I can. I promote books and authors because I think authors should be just as important to the world of entertainment as music groups or movie stars.
My one suggestion for a struggling writer would be to follow Al Diaz, the Father Dragon. His posts are full of inspiration and advice for the soul.
Robin Lee Hatcher:
One of the most encouraging things I’ve learned over the years is that I cannot trust my “feelings” when it comes to my writing. Whether I feel it is great or horrible, my feelings are untrustworthy. Much of writing, at least for me, happens in the subconscious, both story and craft. Even when I am feeling like a wretched writer, what shows up on the page is not necessarily wretched. So I press on and don’t allow “feelings” to derail me.
1. Think of your logline: Who is your character? What are they feeling? What do they learn? 2. Attract the reader: Show the world an intriguing setting. Foreshadow and event. Get the reader in the right mood by setting the tone.
My only “real” writing encouragement came from my high school English teachers, who loved my essays and creative writing. That was a long, long, long time ago and encouragement (from the outside) has been slim pickings since then. Critique partners are great at pointing out sentences they like, maybe a character they “identify with” or a piece that “has potential”, but encouragement comes mostly in the form of “we know what you're going through, we're going through it too.”
I have found my greatest encouragement has come from the words themselves, especially the ones that pour out of me at times with a will of their own, and from the characters that keep stirring in my head, begging for their story to be told. I imagine them up there, hoping for life, wincing when I “don't quite get them yet”, touching down on the page but only half-formed, still a little shy, sending me hints about their passions and fears but only opening up gradually as we get to know each other better.
Each little insight is an encouragement, and even the setbacks (when a critique partners says “your character is too whiny!”) have been encouragements on the way, because they usually point me closer to the heart of the character. They challenge me to think deeper, to search harder, so that I'm able to find and release more of the real character and less of my own self transposed on them.
My favorite encouraging verse that keeps me going when the writing gets hard - Philippians 1:6 “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
I wrote for ten years before I got my first book published. On that fateful day when I received my first contract, I had 20 finished books on my computer. Now, if you do that, if you write all those years and finally sell a book, they say, “She never gave up on herself! She’s living the Great American Dream! She worked hard and persevered and finally she triumphed over the odds.”
If you do that, write for all those years, and NEVER get a book published, they say you have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and they try to get you on some medication and maybe in a ‘special facility’ under 24 hour observation (and they might take away your belt and shoe laces!). So I got a book published (and since then 26 other books!) and here I am, walking around free. Stick with it (and watch out for white coated men with a net).
Lisa J. Yarde:
Some of my favorite quotes can be found here: Timothy McSweeney's. 1) “Writing is a muscle. Smaller than a hamstring and slightly bigger than a bicep, and it needs to be exercised to get stronger. Think of your words as reps, your paragraphs as sets, your pages as daily workouts…”
2) “It’s no secret that great writers are great readers, and that if you can’t read, your writing will often suffer. Similarly, if you can read but have to move your lips to get through the longer words, you’ll still be a pretty bad writer. Also, if you pronounce ‘espresso’ like ‘expresso.’”
“It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.” - Ernest Hemingway
If you believe in your story, and you love your characters—warts and all—and their story seems worth telling, then do it. It might take you 25 years to get it down right, but if you give up, you and they are left forever in the shadows of your imagination. I thought Brady and Jessica (from Pieces of Sky) deserved their time in the sun. And after a quarter of a century, they got it. Don't give up. Ever.
wow! thank you again to everyone who sent me something.
reading these has reminded me that no matter how long we’ve been writing, or where we are in our writing journey, or how many books we’ve published or not published, or how well-known or obscure we are, we all have this insane thing called writing in common. we all live with characters in our heads. we all have the insatiable, sometimes overwhelming, need to get those characters and their stories onto paper or computer screens so they don’t drive us to the brink of insanity.
and even when we want to give up writing because it’s become this wild beast we can’t tame, we still go back to it. no matter how much we try to deny it or run from it, we are still writers.