What 2013 Taught Me About Being a Writer

Outlining the NovelThis year surprised me.

I started two new novels entirely.
I edited Planes Shifter to the point where it makes sense.
I went to writing workshops, meetups and a convention.

Here are thirteen things I learned:

– If you go to a writing convention, you need to have prepared a) business cards (so glad I did this!) and b) your pen-name autograph!!!! (I did not, and so the few autographs I gave looked nothing like each other… which is fine for some, but doesn’t sit well with me.)

I can enjoy editing marketing copy; and thus made my first non-fiction editing paycheck.

– Everyone has their own ideas on what a ‘writer’ should be, or how ‘to publish a book’ and so on. They’re valid ideas, but so are your own.

Editing is writing. In my case, it’s a lot of re-writing. But I like writing, so I’m kind of okay about that.

Reading the ‘how to edit’ books are so helpful; but I either need to follow the steps as I read them, or I need to finish reading the book within 2-3 weeks. I began one of these books in April, and I’m still part-way through it. It would have been worth putting things aside to finish it (which is my new aim once I finish the book I’m currently reading).

– Once I have the plot fixed, reading different types of fiction is really important. This is a piece of advice I see hundreds of times, but still felt it “wasn’t for me”, because my mind tries to steal ideas from other fiction without me noticing. However, once the plot is sound, this risk is minimal. By reading a lot of different fiction and immersing myself in different stories (this includes gaming), the chances are I’ll take a tiny bit from that and another bit from there and end up with a fairly unique idea when they come together. Which is all any other writer does.

– Studying how good books suck you in and bad books don’t is something I’m really getting my head around. I began reading a book in December and found myself thinking “that would have drawn me in quicker if it had been earlier” but then realising I was actually on page 50 and something must have been okay to get me there…

– I have more weaknesses than I first thought. but also more strengths. In the last month or so, I’ve recognised that I struggle not to name an emotion. Now I’m aware of this weakness, and have an idea of how to fix that (looking at things like The Emotion Thesaurus), I can check for it and make my stories stronger.

– Although I decided earlier in the year that short stories weren’t for me, I enjoyed writing a short mini-saga for A J Dalton’s competition. Sometimes things change, and it’s important to be open about new things, even if you don’t think it’s right for you. 

I could always do more. Like a presentation for university – I could always rehearse it once more, tweak the transitions, add more detail… In writing, there is always more to do. I could always re-word that paragraph and re-read the beginning. I could always edit again, making another aspect sharper or more of the focus. And that will never stop being true. So I printed it off,  so I can’t tamper with it until I’ve read it all at least once.

– Without reading the whole story through, you don’t have the full picture. Cutting some corners in editing once you know what you’re doing may be okay. This one is definitely not – it cost me four months of editing time. Then again, it’s all learning, and I’m glad I learnt it now, not later. Without the full picture, you’re putting plasters on a wound, not realising the blood is coming out of a neck that’s fifteen feet away from the head. It’s kind of not going to make a difference in the long run…

– Being forced/expected to write EVERY day blocks me. I gave myself an extra three weeks for NaNoWriMo this year; to fit my 30 days of writing into 45 days. But even this wasn’t enough. I also gave myself options to either edit old material or write the new.
So this year I’ve just made a resolution to track what I do write, alongside a “aim to have as many consecutive days” using WriteChain as a motivation.

What I write is massively shaped by what I read when I was younger. I tend to write in multiple-POV, even though the last couple of books I’ve read have been single-POV. Having read a lot of books with a point of view of the villian and the main protagonist when I began writing; I see the perks of that method, and thus even the books I start with one view end up with a second view sooner or later. I’m not yet sure if this is a good, neutral or bad thing; but it’s something I really noticed in 2013.

What did you learn last year?

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