Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Turning your Writing Dream into Reality
1. START WRITING NOW
My advice to the emerging writer—is to start writing. If you’re highly disciplined, start blogging on a schedule. Just crank out stuff and keep writing. If you’re undisciplined as I am, sign up for deadlines in any way you can. Point is: You get better at writing by writing.
2. SEEK PROFESSIONAL CRITICISM
I once received a heavily marked manuscript back from a book editor with the advice, “Dan, you’re not Hemingway.” She meant that my manuscript needed polishing. She was right. If you want to succeed and grow as a writer, you need to develop a thick skin. Don’t hang onto every turn of phrase as if it cannot be touched. Instead, open your work up to those who can take it from good to great: a healthy stable of critics. If you want to step your work up to the next level, seek out professional-level critiquing. Your mom’s nice comments may boost your confidence, but they won’t help your manuscript.
3. WRITE BAD FIRST DRAFTS
In the movie, Finding Forrester, Sean Connery’s character gives a piece of advice to his young writing protégé. “Write the first draft with your heart, the rest of the drafts with your head.” Many times I sit in front of a blank screen, a deadline looming, time short. I have a wonderful outline, but the words for that first chapter just don’t seem to come. Or they come and are horrific. But I push ahead and get them on paper. I write until I can’t write anymore.
Then I close the computer thinking, What an idiot, why do I think I can write? But then I leave the manuscript for a few days, maybe a week. When I come back to it, I find hope again. Every major project goes through this same process, without exception. I have learned to write in short bursts. Every day, as I sit to write, I revisit a chunk from the day before, editing that first draft. I move this way through a book until completion. This write-edit-write method serves me well, ensuring that every chapter is rewritten to satisfaction.
4. LEARN, GROW, EXPAND
Sometimes you need to close the laptop and get out into the real world. That means you move beyond your project and refill the well of your soul with good music, entertainment, relationships, and good literature. What I mean is that to be a good writer, you, the person behind the words, must grow. I’m guessing, if you’re reading this blog, you’re well-tuned to the craft of writing through magazines, blogs, conferences, and books. That is good. Writers must constantly sharpen their skills.
But you might consider refilling your well by enriching the other parts of your life. I’ve that my writing always improves when I am reading well in a variety of disciplines: including novels, classics, spirituality, self-help, biographies, and more. Often a good movie or timely sermon will spark new levels of creativity. You also need rest. You are not superhuman. You’re human. When you’re brain is shut down, forget your project and enjoy your life. The well from which you draw your words must remain full.
I agree with him 100%. I especially like points #1 and #3. My good friend and fellow writer, Kelly Howarth at One Word Pundit, always tells me to write from the heart. She says she can tell when I've written a story or a post from the heart. Thank you, Kelly for your advice!
How about you? Have you already turned your writing dream into reality?