Sunday, March 11, 2007

Conventional Writing Advice that Didn't Work for Her (or Me Either!)...


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Conventional Writing Advice that Didn't Work for Her (or Me Either!)...

Is Conventional Writing Advice Always Right? Listen to your heart.


While searching for advice for writers, I can across the home page of Patricia A. Duffy, who says that when it comes to writing, "Conventional Advice Wouldn't Work for Me. After reading her article, I have to say that basically, she has said pretty much what I would have said, and what I do say, whenever someone asks me.

According to Patricia A. Duffy:

    1) Write every day.

    This piece of advice is repeated in almost every book on how to write. Maybe some people need this sort of discipline, but I would find it counterproductive. Sometimes I write feverishly every day. Sometimes real life intervenes. I have a demanding job and a family. If I believed I had to write every day, even when I absolutely had no time, I'd quickly grow to hate writing and I'd stop doing it. Mostly, I have more ideas than I have time to process, so forcing myself to write is not a problem. And during those periods when real life heats up and I can't write, I don't feel any guilt. Why should I? Writing isn't a religious penance or a health routine. It's something I enjoy.


My response to what she says:

You've heard it preached from the pulpit of every sacred book on writing: WRITE EVERY DAY!!!

Now ask yourself this: What does writing mean to you? Is writing a hobby or a career? How did you answer?

A hobby?

If you think of writing as a hobby, than who cares when you write? No one. If you write as a hobby, than who cares if your writing gets sloppy? No one. If you write as a hobby, than who cares if you ever get published? No one. If you write as a hobby, than by all means writer seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, because you know what? If you are writing because writing is a hobby, no one cares. Why? Because hobby writers write for their own pleasure. If they get published, it's a great big WOO-HOO! for themselves and their family. But very few hobby writers ever get published. Why? Because they are content to post their stories on message boards and web-sites and blogs. They are happy to see their work on the internet. Writing after all is just a hobby to them. They are content with what they do. So, for writers who write as a hobby, it is not important when they write, because their family is not dependent on the writing. Just search on Google for Fan-Fiction. Millions of stories are posted all over the internet, but because they are written by hobby writers, those stories well never be printed in books. They well never be published, but no one cares, not even the writer. So why than does it matter if the hobby writer writes every day?

Let's look at the other side of this story.

Now ask yourself this once again: What does writing mean to you? Is writing a hobby or a career? How did you answer?

A career?

I ask you: What is your day job? Do you wait tables? Drive a school bus? Are you a cashier at the local super market? Maybe you teach high-school geography? Whatever it is that you do for your day job, ask yourself this: How many days do you work each week? A few well say three, some well say four, almost all of you well say five. By law your employer is required to give you at least two days off each week. That's a law. That law is enforced. If an employer asks you to work more than five days a week, they are required to pay you time and a half. That too is a law. Why? Because even the government knows that you can't get the job done if you are not given a day or two of rest. If you work seven days a week, you well run down, wear out and get sloppy. Your work well suffer, because you didn't get a day off.

So, we come back to your answer: Why do you write? Hobby or career?

If you said career, than you know that being a writer is just like every other 9 to 5 job. Nine o clock you sit down at your desk and you start writing. Around noon you take an hour break for lunch. After lunch it's back to your desk to write until five. Five o clock comes around and no matter how compelled you are to keep writing, you put down your pen, turn off the light and don't go back to your desk again until tomorrow morning when nine o clock rolls around again. Like any other job, you take the weekend off. Why? Because for you writing is more than a hobby. For you writing is what puts food on the table. For you writing is what puts clothes on your children. Writing just paid for your teenager's PS3. Writing pays the mortgage. Writing pays the vet bills caused by the recent pet-food recall. You write because writing is your career, your job, your livelihood. For you writing is not a hobby. You can't afford to let you writing get sloppy and you know that, which is why you also know that it is foolish for you or any other writer to think that it is in your best interest to write every day.

And that is  why I do not write every day.

Moving on to myth #2...

According to Patricia A. Duffy:

    2. Don't Edit Until the First Draft is Done.

    I edit obsessively as I go along. I like rewriting things. I can't imagine another way to write and would be utterly incapable of completing that first draft if I didn't do it this way.

My response to what she says:

This, I think, depends on the writer and what they are writing about at the time. Personally I do not believe in editing as you write, as a general rule. Why? I find that when I am writing, I write better if I don't stop. I have learned to ignore typos and spelling mistakes, to turn a blind eye to bad grammar, and to not listen when my mind says I should go back and re-write what I just wrote. Why? Because if I stop, it creates a speed bump. That speed bump slows me down and causes me to go lose track of what it was I was writing. So I find myself going back to where I had stopped, because I have to re-read what I wrote several times before I can remember where it was I was going with that train of thought. In a since by stopping to edit while I was writing, I have now derailed my writing train, and put it back on a new track, and it just can't get back onto that old track, because the old track for some odd reason is no longer there. On a road, a speed bump just jostles your car a bit and make you slow down, but on a train track, that same little speed bump not only jostles the train, but knocks it off track and sends it flying into the oncoming train on the other track. That speed bump is now a mangled mess of crumpled train cars, which ow must be towed away and tossed into a junk heap. A huge rusted junk heap towering high above your head. The next thing you know you can't write anything at all because all there is is a pile of mangled wreckage. You have hot a writer's block.

So, where are we now? Well, for me, stopping to edit while I'm still writing is the deadliest thing that can happen while I'm writing. Usually, but not always. This is just me though, and as I said, all writers are different.

Moving on...

According to Patricia A. Duffy:

    3. Use Note cards or Notebooks to Organize Ideas

    Even the thought of using index cards to organize fiction ideas is almost enough to make me run screaming into traffic. In my mind, these little cards will forever be associated with undergraduate term papers. I don't use notebooks because I hate to write longhand. I do all my writing on the word processor -- even background notes for novels. Actually, I prefer to do background for novels as short stories, even lame short stories with no chance of selling. I see things better that way.

My response to what she says:

As most of you know, I never went to school. I can't identify with term papers because I've never had one, let alone seen one, and I'm not really sure what they are, except that everyone who talks about school talks about term papers too. I'm not sure what an undergraduate is, I'll look it up next time I've got my dictionary at hand. For those who have followed my posts on the net since 1997, you already know that when I joined the internet world, it was my first time typing. I had never used a keyboard before in my life. Likewise, I had also never learned how to spell. I wrote at that time in what I have since been told is a form of a native lingo of my own invention, cause by lack of contact with humans. In 1997, I first I joined the internet, and became an over night celebrity, not because I posted on every forum and chat room I could find, but because people were fascinated by my complete and total lack of any ability to spell. In the years since that time, my fan following grew to a cult status as people set out to teach me how to spell via online forums.

Than came a revelation to the world, that no one had before known: My books, the Twighlight Manor series, several thousand pages, and countless drafts of each, had never seen typewriter, I had written all of them in longhand. The manuscripts where totally written in bright colored notebooks with Lisa Frank art on the covers: thousands of them. Some 40 boxes worth of notebooks, stacked floor to ceiling. Notebooks that I have been writing in since 1978. Thirty years worth of notebooks.

Today, I still write my books in longhand. I still hand write all of my manuscripts in bright colored children's note books. To date, I have only ever written one outline. I have never used index cards. I do not type my manuscripts until after having hand written several drafts. I do not organize my ideas, my ideas flow from my mind at a rapid rate, and I write them as they come. No notes. No note taking. They are not my style. They do not work for me.

And finally we come to:

According to Patricia A. Duffy:

    4. Keep a Story Circulating until it Sells.

    This is another piece of almost universal advice that I don't follow. I tend to select my markets rather carefully. If something is rejected at the market I've thought most probable for it, I will normally only try it on one or two other markets before giving up (or in some cases no other markets). Although there are a lot of magazine markets for speculative short fiction, there are actually relatively few professional markets for speculative short fiction of any given type. I guess my economics training makes me weight the possible benefit (payment for a story) by my subjective evaluation of the odds of being published in that magazine. If the weighted payoff is less than the postage, I put the story in a drawer and work on another one.

My response to what she says:

In some cases, this is true, in others it is not.

Some times I write for copyrighted characters not of my own making. For these stories there is only one publisher that I can legally send the stories to. If they reject the story, than that's it. It can't be sent to anyone else.

More often I write stories of characters of my own invention, and for these, I can choose any publisher I damn well please. I can also choose who I DO NOT want to publish it. Than again I can also choose to do what I usually do, and that is to self publish my stories. That is how I came to own my own publishing house. It is through owning my publishing house that I came to become an editor. Today I am a writer, a publisher, and an editor, because I reserved the right to choose when, where, and to whom I sent my manuscripts too: no one!

Well, that is my take on what Patricia A. Duffy says that when it comes to writing, "Conventional Advice Wouldn't Work for Me.

~~EK

This article Copyright  Wendy C. Allen 2007





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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

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For those asking "What is SHIVER?". SHIVER is my ghost story project that has taken me several years to get written down, but is finally seeing an end in sight. SHIVER is soon to be published by The Twighlight Manor Press and has a planned release date of: October 2009. Watch for it!

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I Won in 2006I've signed up for this year's NaNoWriMo 2007 (my third year at NaNo!) and this is my blog for it, where I talk about my thoughts about writing, my ideas for NaNo, and the progress of my contest entry for this year's National Novel Writing Month contest.


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