I read voraciously, a habit I recommend to any author who doesn’t already have it. You’ll subconsciously pick up on what does and doesn’t work. Characterization, dialogue, pacing, plot, story, setting, description, etc. But more importantly, someone who doesn’t enjoy reading will never write something that someone else will enjoy reading.
I don’t write ‘for the market.’ I know I can’t, so I just write for me and then try to find readers who like what I like. I’m not trying to whip up the next bestseller and get rich. Not that I’d complain. Nope, I have to write what’s in my heart, then go find a market later. It makes marketing a challenge at times, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
When you write, be a dreamer. Go nuts. Know that you’re writing pure gold. That fire is why we write.
An author who I truly admire, Kurt Vonnegut, sweats out each individual sentence. He writes it, rewrites it, and doesn’t leave it alone until it’s perfect. Then when he’s done, he’s done.
I doubt most of us write like that. I don’t. I let it fly as fast as my fingers can move across the paper or keyboard, rushing to capture my ideas before they get away. Later, I change and shuffle and slice.
James Michener claims that he writes the last sentence first, then has his goal before him as he writes his way to it.
Then there’s me. No outline whatsoever. I create characters and conflict, spending days and weeks on that task, until the first chapter really leaves me wondering ‘How will this end?’ Then my characters take over, and I’m as surprised as the reader when I finish my story.
Some authors set aside a certain number of hours every day for writing, or a certain number of words. In short, a writing schedule.
Then there’s me. No writing for three or six months, then a flurry of activity where I forget to eat, sleep, bathe, change the cat’s litter… I’m a walking stereotype. To assuage the guilt, I tell myself that my unconscious is hard at work. As Hemingway would say, long periods of thinking and short periods of writing.
I’ve shown you the extremes in writing styles. I think most authors fall in the middle somewhere. But my point is, find out what works for you. You can read about how other writers do it, and if that works for you, great. But in the end, find your own way. That’s what writers do.
Just don’t do it halfway.
If you’re doing what I do, writing a story that entertains and moves you, then you will find readers who share your tastes. For some of us that means a niche market and for others it means regular appearances on the bestseller list.
Writing is a calling, but publishing is a business. Remember that AFTER you’ve written your manuscript. Not during.
I’ve been paid to edit since 1991 and still love it, which has made people question my sanity, but they were doing that before I started editing. I got serious about my writing in 1978. Although I’ve retired more times than Brett Favre, I’m revising my 19th book. Learn more about me at MichaelEdits.com.
© Michael LaRocca 2019
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