There are so many blogs out there where writers offer valuable and insightful tips on the craft to others who wish to achieve a modicum of success in the field. There’s advice on planning a story, editing it once you’ve written your first draft, publishing it, writing cover letters and synopses, planning a marketing campaign, and so on. I know they are out there because I read them, like, loads of them.
So am I qualified to give advice on writing, having read plenty about it myself? Sure, I’d just be going over old ground, but with subtle touches, like how to fit a good torturing into your busy day. Would anyone read it, like it, even?
In the same way that a film critic couldn’t script and direct a film, or a food critic couldn’t prepare an indulgent fine dining experience, can an amateur author give advice on how to create great fiction? OK, it’s probably not quite the same thing, but hopefully you see my point.
So when do you reach that pinnacle in your writing endeavours where you can give advice to other authors? Would most of them listen to you over, say someone who’s been writing for 20 years? Of course, there’s no such thing as knowing everything and you can always learn something from the most unusual of places. But let’s be honest, if you saw that someone was giving a writer’s workshop who had only a couple of short stories hidden away on a website in hidden corner of the internet to their name, you may wonder how they feel qualified to provide information and advice on something they appear to know little about.
I know that may be a terribly snobby way of thinking, but come on. Given a choice between On Writing by Stephen King and Wanna Write Some Shit, Bro? By I M Unknown, even if the latter was a fraction of the price, I think we all know which we would choose.
As I said, I read a lot of blogs on this subject, and many do seem to be recycling the same ideas over and over, granted with a fresh perspective, most of the time. And I usually take at least one thing away with me from them. Even if that morsel of knowledge is then wedged into the darkest, hidden depths of my brain so that I never consciously consider it again, it’s there all the same.
So if I tell you to make sure you’ve eaten before you start typing away at your story, or fuelled yourself with enough caffeine, do you listen? If I inform you that you really should be reading as much as you possibly can, a sort of subliminal lesson for your mind on writing, so that your story kicks as much literary ass as it possibly can. Do you take this on board?
I have found, and I’m still relatively new at all this blogging stuff, that other writers are a pretty friendly and supportive bunch, so writing a blog on tips for authors should go down pretty well. I’ve been writing seriously, between butcherings and dismemberings, for around 5 or 6 years now. I’ve written loads of stories, although most of them are a little shite, and I’m being kind there. After a couple of rejections when I really knew that they were imminent, I’ve decided to leave them rotting on the hard drive in the hope of one day taking my (hopefully) improved skills and beefing them up somewhat, changing the endings or dialogue, or whatever. In fact, I’ve recently done this and am currently editing one, adding more gore and more romantic exchanges, awww!
I’ve written a novel, but I’m not really sure what to do with it at present. It took two years, but as they say, the writing’s the easy part, right? I’m just hoping that, in the interim while I decide how I’m going to take over the world with this, no one else publishes a book with the same plot – how annoying would that be?!
I suppose (bigging myself up here) I am able to provide a bit of advice to my fellow writers, there are surely others like myself struggling to make a name for themselves out there. I just wonder how likely anyone would be to take my word for it, when I go on about the importance of not saying ‘said’ all the time, or how to tell and not show (or is that the other way round???).
What am I going on about, though? I seem to ask that question in many a blog.
When I started typing this piece, I wasn’t sure where I was headed. I didn’t have any conclusions in mind, or any idea on how to wrap it up. But as I’ve written it and re-read some bits, I think now I may be able to sum it up.
Amateur authors, those of you who subscribe to blogs and are trying to learn everything you can, listen up.
Anything that you’ve come across as you write that flash fiction piece, or that short story, or even that massive novel that you doubt is actually any good, those things that occurred from which you then learned from, share them! No doubt others are out there experiencing the same thing and would love to read about a similar case from someone (I don’t want to use this term, but I will) on their level.
You could even share your playlist of songs and bands that inspire you or get you through that pivotal scene, although I usually switch off it’s not metal, I’m quite narrow-minded you see.
Even hearing about how you’re pulling your hair out trying to edit out 5000 words to make your story the ideal length, tell us about it, people will read that realising they are not alone. You’ll be inspiring them.
Shit, I’m inspiring myself just talking about this, thanks, Mr Tanner!! Maybe this is my first step into a larger world, and next time you check in I’ll be giving you all detailed points on how to improve your protagonist’s likability, or how to make your antagonist even more of a shit eating bastard!
So, to quote the title, when do you reach the point when you can give writing tips? As soon as you’ve written words and learned something from the experience. Tell the world, it’s so easy these days. Look, even I’m doing it!
Photo credit: duncan via VisualHunt / CC BY-NC