Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The First Shelf

Now that's some shelf space!
Some first time writers are confounded, confused and bewildered by the sheer scale of sitting down and crafting a story from whole, virgin nothingness.  It’s a daunting task that, for the uninitiated, can seem daunting, if not downright impossible.  Back in the bad-ole/good-ole days before the internet, it could be even harder to get started.

But here we are.  You’re reading, and I’m writing and we’re as close as two people can be who aren’t actually sitting across from each other at a table sipping hot chocolate.

(It’s rainy and cold today, which always puts me in a hot chocolate frame of mind.)

The first, best piece of advice that any writer will give to any new writer is that you must write.  If you don’t write, you won’t be a writer.  It’s right there in the title.

But then what?

Well, the honest, cold, brutal truth is that as a new writer, you’re not very good.  Oh, you may have the genetics, or the soul, or the supernatural ability of a thousand reborn writers coursing through your veins (and seriously, can you hook a brother up?), but in this reincarnated life, you’re still a newborn in swaddling.  You’re going to be good.  You’re going to be great!  You aren’t right now.

You need help and hope and help.

Find it.  Find a couple of friends who are willing to read your writing and give you good, strong, honest, brutal feedback.  Find a writing group where you feel comfortable discussing process and obstacles and issues.  Find a writing process that you like, possibly from an author you admire, and engage.

You tell 'em!
Then shelf your first draft.

Don’t kill that book.  Rather, finish it, put it on the shelf and leave it there.  Let it get good and dusty.  Work on a second book.  When that’s done, put it next to the first and work on the third book.  All the while, you have test readers and beta readers and reading groups answering your questions and giving you advice (some good, some not applicable).  When you've done all that, come back to your first book, pull it back off the shelf and start the editing the process.

You'll be amazed.  With time, experience and knowledge, you'll find that you've grown as a writer, that you know how to handle obstacles and issues better, and that you can communicate the story in a more advanced and competent manner.  The core concepts of the story will remain usually remain unchanged, but the way in which you tell the story will be better.

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