Are you meat and potatoes…or lyrical prose full of emotion and beauty? Either way, we must work hard at improving our craft. We’re not a fine wine. We don’t get better with rest in a dark, cool place. Our words need constant action and movement. Too much stillness and we rot and decay like shriveled grapes on atrophied vines. Plunk. There we fall. Squish. We become the underside of a tourist shoe.
Yep, writing…its hard work…and we never get it right the first time. We need to do the hard work it takes to make our writing better. And it is hard. Does that thought make you excited or depressed? Either way, we can only call ourselves writers if we WRITE. That means every day. I want criticism! I want someone to tell me, I love this but add MORE, say it like THIS, remove those clichés, eliminate those adverbs, show us your characters motivation…be unique.
But wait, it’s been a long week I was going to take the weekend off…no wait, I’m not. Jonathan Maberry said recently in a Write Stuff conference session I attended that he only took 3 days off from writing in 20 years. Once was when he was in the hospital after being hurt in his bodyguard job. Yet even then, in his grumpy mood he got the idea to write sarcastic greeting cards and became the first “Maxine.”
Don’t take the weekend off or even a day off. Mr. Maberry told us to reward ourselves by putting $1 in a jar each day we make our word count. Give yourself a reasonable word count each day and reach for that. Each day we don’t make our word count we don’t get to put $1 in. Each day we don’t write we have to take $3 out (or was it $5?)! Ouch…That’s because if we don’t write, we lose our edge. If we keep writing we will get better. Practice every day. It makes our writing spicier.
And that’s not just for your creative writing. Even if you’re a meat and potatoes kind of person, add some spice to marketing yourself in your own way. Practice your marketing brand as a writer. It’s never too early to get who you are out there. Keith Strunk said in his Write Stuff session, The Art of Storytelling, we must have polished answers on-hand as an author to build our own unique brand. We must tell our own story. Yes, we can sell our own voice, not just that of our characters. We can market who we want to be and be in control of our image. When someone asks ‘Where did you grow up?’ don’t give a meandering tale of “I was born here, then lived here, then there for awhile.” BORING. Have your answer ready in story form.
Your book is not just your story – YOU are. Create answers about yourself that become part of your dialogue and brand. For example, my story: “My parents moved 9 times before I was 9, from a Victorian estate in England that came with its own gardener to running a campground in New Hampshire. We eventually settled in Upstate New York where the purple Catskill Mountains loomed large in my window. I roamed the woods there with my two frumpy dogs and a notebook – and thus a writer was born.”
And final revelation discovered this past month at my first writer’s conference: Agents don’t bite. They are people just like us. A pitch is a conversation. No different than a job interview where I sell myself. And I DO have the right to exist across from them! Just give me some comfort food after, like meat and potatoes….don’t forget the gravy. Oh, and pass the wine. Lots of it. I’m gonna need it on my almost-day off.