Monday, September 22, 2008

13 Things I've learned from Writing...in no particular order

1. The worst line you’ve ever written is better than the one you didn’t write at all.
This is a quote (though it may not be exact and I don’t remember who said it – the Fabulous Nora, I think but I’m not sure) and I’m forced to agree with it. Due to pressures from the day job, I’m left with very little spare time which often leaves me whining that I just don’t have time. Ahem. Can we spell ‘cop out’? Yeah, it’s time I got off that wagon.

2. The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. Mark Twain
Okay, so this is another quote (at least I remember who to attribute it to, LOL). But it’s so true and it’s the reason a lot of us glare hopelessly at our computer screens as we try to haul that ‘right word’ up out of our sub-conscious.

3. The key to writing is discipline
I suppose this goes hand in hand with #1. You have to be disciplined enough to park your derriere in front of the computer so you can write. I’ve been doing 15 minute writing intervals just to keep writing. It’s not much but it’s a lot more than nothing.

4. Good plots can come from iffy ideas
Some of the most interesting stories I’ve written have started out as half baked ideas. One book was a collection of everything I could toss into it (the book was actually a ‘in your face’ retaliation for a string of endless rejections I had on another book that was actually very good. The funny thing is…once I got going, the characters took over and we all ended up with a very interesting plot.

5. Everyone thinks they could be a writer
This is so true. I have co-workers who think they can write…or that think their story ideas are so good, that I should be willing to write them. Ahem. I also have had doctors and teachers express the wish to write. I always encourage them to go ahead but mostly they don’t and it remains a dream.

6. The same idea does not equal the same plot
Two writers can have the same basic idea for a story but when they write it, they’ll end up with very different tales. I actually proved this out in a basic writing class I was teaching when I gave the class of 20 students the ‘idea’ and told them to plot out a story. While some elements were similar, the end result was 20 unique plots.

7. Writing can vent frustrations
Sometimes I feel like Bruce Banner, of Incredible Hulk fame, and think I ought to give out the warning ‘Don’t make me angry. I’m a writer. You won’t like me when I’m angry.’ Of course, I don’t warn anyone, I just go ahead and make them into a sniveling, weasely, no-good bum who would be entirely recognizable IF…I left it there. Since I’m no into being sued, I go back and change physical descriptions and mannerisms so that the character is not recognizable. But, for that little time when they are, I feel GOOD :D

8. Editors can be wrong
Most often we writers feel that editors are always right. And most times they are (especially if they’re offering or have bought your mss). But occasionally, they’ll reject that mss and they’ll sometimes give a reason or two for their rejection. We writers will take those reasons to heart and rend and tear our mss up trying to correct the problem…when there may not have been a problem there at all. Accepting or rejection a mss is purely based on subjective opinions. Be sure you agree with the reasons for the rejection before you start ripping your mss up.

9. There is no substitute for good grammar
You’re writing to communicate. If your grammar is poor, you won’t be able to communicate effectively. Period.

10. There is no substitute for good spelling
There is a difference between their, they’re and there. There is a difference between than and then. Learn the language. Don’t rely on a spell checker.

11. Cats do not like to be ignored (while you’re writing)
At least my cat doesn’t like to be ignored and she perceives me to be ignoring her while I’m writing (any time I’m not petting or coo’ing at her is ignoring her to her way of thinking). So she’ll either a) pet my leg and utter a plaintive meow or b) eye the most breakable object in which and stretch those long legs and dexterous paws until she can reach it with the intent of yanking it off the table. I, of course, know her nefarious schemes so I generally stop her before something is broken. But sometimes….

12. The more intricate the scene, the greater the chance that your child/husband will need to talk to you right now
It never fails. The minute I’m totally immersed in what I’m writing due to its complexity or depth of emotion, some member of my family (besides the cat) will stroll into my office, sit down and start chatting. They totally break my concentration and they do it with no malice aforethought. They. Just. Don’t. Realize. How freaking hard it is to get into the right frame of mind to craft the difficult scenes. Luckily, murder is against the law but #7 above is legal and, in this case, you don’t have to disguise the characters too much…bwah ha ha ha ha ha

13. No matter how ‘smart, pretty or successful’ you are, there will always be someone who is smarter, prettier, more successful and you will hate them passionately. That’s the downside of human nature.
But you’ll get over it. We all do. Jealousy is a sneaky little bastard but we’re the masters here. We can control it. That isn’t to say that we don’t let it run rampant for a few minutes (especially if we’ve just received a rejection or a bad review) but if we let it set up house, well, it will suck the life out of our writing and ourselves. What we need to keep in mind is that there are other writers out there who look at us and ‘hate us passionately’ for being where they haven’t quite made it.
The upside of human nature is that we can extend our hands to them with an offer to help them catch up to us by teaching them some of the lessons that we’ve learned along the way. It’s a form of payback because, unless you’ve lived in a bubble, someone at sometime offered you a hand. Writers do that. Romance writers do it more often than any other group.
So hold your head up with pride as you say I’m an author. Be true to yourself and your abilities and take joy in your writing.

-- Lynda

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5 comments:

Bernadette Gardner and Jennifer Colgan said...

Great list, Lynda!

Pauline B Jones said...

Wow, these are great lists!

Lynda K. Scott said...

Thanks, ladies!

Savanna Kougar said...

That's why I love checking in, and reading the blogs. I always learn something and enjoy myself.
Your kitty would make a wonderful character, is she?

Lynda K. Scott said...

Heheheh, my Wookie-baby IS a character :D But all cats are the queens (or kings, depending on their gender) of their universe and don't hesitate to let their humans know it :-D