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What is a successful writing career?

January 24, 2011 7 comments

Hmmm?

What say you, blogger friends?

The thing is, it seems to be different for everyone.  Some people want to get rich, some want to just make a living, some want to win awards, others want to sell loads of books.

I’d like to win awards AND sell loads of books.

Okay, I’m kidding.  Well, sort of.

When I think about this sort of stuff, I always remember meeting Orson Scott Card, back when I was young and naive.  I had just read Ender’s Game, and my entire world (universe even) was altered.  It was a little workshop with my school – nothing fancy – but I remember being awed to meet an author of a book I loved.

He talked about finally getting a film deal for Ender’s Game.  I still remember how it seemed like that was his moment.  Like he figured if he could get this film made, and get it to do okay, he would finally have ‘made it’.  That was over ten years ago, and I haven’t seen an Ender’s Game film yet.  In some ways, it’s like Orson Scott Card never really ‘made it’ – he never became a household name.  Sadly, neither did Ender’s Game.

BUT.  I love this book.  Love it.  I was about fourteen when I first read it, and it still sticks with me.  It means something to me.  It changed the way I looked at the world, and myself.  It made me think about understanding, and love, and what makes us human.  It mattered to me. It still does.

If I can do this, I will have a successful writing career.  I will happily write advertising to pay my bills until I retire, and long as I can write a book that will mean, to someone, what Ender’s Game meant to me.

I want to write something that matters to someone.  It doesn’t have to sell loads, it doesn’t have to win awards.  I want it to mean something, to someone.

That is enough.

The one super secret to excellent editing

January 4, 2011 8 comments

Ready?

(drum roll)

Save as.

No really.  Save as is your ticket to being absolutely ruthless.  It is your ultimate chainsaw for hacking out those passages in your work that are funny, cute, profound, and just lovely, but are sadly unnecessary.

I’ll give you a scenario.  You have a passage that you love, love, LOVE (i.e. you think this might just be the best, most clever little piece of writing you’ve ever put to paper and cutting out will give you a MASSIVE HEAD EXPLOSION!!!).  BUT, it’s not really driving your plot or character development (or, for you copywriters out there, does nothing to make people want to buy the product).

No worries.  Just hit “save as” and create a new version.  This can be your cut to the bone version.  And you can hack everything out.  It doesn’t matter.  Because you have your full version with all the lovely passages that you can’t bear to lose.  You’re not really deleting anything!  It’s so liberating!

Of course you’ll ultimately have to make the decision whether to include those lovely, though perhaps useless, bits.  But by then, you may find you’ve got a far better piece of work than you started with.

So the next time you need to do an excruciating edit, save a new version and hack away.  Believe me, your final will be better for it.

Categories: Copywriting, Fiction, writing Tags: ,

How to write with voice

December 12, 2010 6 comments

So we’re going to have a break from the usual gin-fueled rants on London’s public transport and actually talk about what this blog is supposed to be about: writing.

When you’re trying to write a novel, everyone tells you that the most important thing is to find your voice.  So.  What is this nebulous ‘voice’ of which I speak?  The thing is, it’s pretty hard to put your finger on.  It’s a sort of style, a distinctive voice and flow.  I like to think of it as your personality on paper.  It’s who you are, to people have never met you.  If you do it right, people will know who you are without having to read the by-line.

I struggle with this.  If you’ve been hanging around this blog long enough, you probably know that in my day job, I’m a copywriter.  And that means I’m not allowed to have a voice.  Or a style.  The mark of a good copywriter is the ability to write in lots of different styles.  So how am I meant to turn it off and on?

I’ve now decided that copywriting is great for helping develop voice (it does, also, have the happy side effect of ensuring I am able to pay rent and buy food).  It’s great because I’ve found that the best way to find your voice is to write lots of stuff in lots of different styles.  You’ll eventually find a style you are most comfortable with.  And then you’ll write like that for a while and it will start to morph and change a little bit.  And then it will be your own.  Hooray!  That’s your voice.

So.  It’s taken me over three paragraphs to tell you that the way to write with voice is…to write.  A lot.  Not exactly a revelation, but true all the same.  So happy writing.  In whatever voice is yours.

Pre-Resolutions

December 1, 2010 5 comments

So, beloved Rejectionist is holding a Participatory Self-Actualization Opportunity, otherwise known as a pre-resolution un-contest!  Hooray!  December resolution goodness!  Here are resolutions for ABlankWhitePage (ABWP):

1) ABWP will stop worrying about what others think of her (this is SO SO HARD you have no idea how much TIME and EFFORT ABWP spends worrying about what others think of her WRITING, her COMMENTS, her PHONE CALLS, even her CLOTHES.

2) ABWP will write at least 1 post a week (stop laughing Blogger-friends)

3) ABWP will be more honest: she will write what she wants EVEN IF IT OFFENDS PEOPLE, and wear what she wants (thank God she works as a copywriter), and BE HERSELF and if people don’t like who she honestly is THEY CAN JUST SOD OFF

4) ABWP will finish editing her MS (OH GOD SO MUCH STILL TO CHANGE AND REWRITE IS DAUNTING AND OVERWHELMING AND SHE HAS NEW DAY JOB AND NEEDS TO IMPRESS BOSS DO HER BEST…BUT SHE WILL NOT NEGLECT HER MS OR WIP because they MEAN MORE to her than AD COPY even if ad copy is mostly for good charities)

5) ABWP will spend at least 7 hours a week on non-work related writing EMAILS DO NOT COUNT for ABWP, but BLOG POSTS DO

6) ABWP will not make decisions based on fear, and if she is scared to do something but knows it would be good for her SHE WILL DO IT, BALLS TO THE WALLS

7) ABWP will acknowledge DAILY that she is an amazing WRITER, an amazing WOMAN, an amazing FRIEND, and an amazing PERSON, and she will stop feeling that she is NOT GOOD ENOUGH to get anything that she wants.

8) ABWP will not procrastinate

9) ABWP will email her amazing mother (who will pass news on to her father) at least ONCE A WEEK (and will start saving pennies so she can fly home to visit)

10) ABWP will limit MASSIVE HEAD EXPLOSIONS to one a day wherever possible

And what of you Blogger-friends?

Twitter Fail

August 23, 2010 6 comments

So, I was all ready to get on twitter (for the first time in over a month) to rave about Serial Central, which is not a collaboration of serial killers, but rather an amazing new idea that gives you a piece of fiction every day, (rock on Lua, Miss Rosemary,Barb, et al), and then I saw this:

But then I tried again and it was all okay, so not that big of a FAIL after all.  But I got a screen grab.  And those last FOREVER.  Take that twitter.  Also, when I was on twitter I saw I had a direct message.  Ooh, exciting!  Someone randomly followed me (but, hey, that’s good right?), and as I must have been feeling rather welcoming, I followed back.  And this person sent me a direct message!  Oooh, the intrigue.  Imagine my disappointment, then, when I got this…

Huh.  So I thought about it a while, and sent this in return:

I haven’t heard back, so I guess he’s not in the extermination business.  Or maybe, like me, he only checks twitter once a month.  This is why I am anonymous.  But if you’re gonna send me messages on twitter, you’d better have a sense of humour.

Someone please send me something funny on twitter.  I’ll totally reply.  Probably a month later.  But still.

Binge Blogging

August 19, 2010 9 comments

So needing to write another blog post has been weighing on my mind for ages, and I haven’t gotten around to it for all the same reasons listed below.

My last post (over a month ago now) was on Procrastination and Rationalization.  Oh, the irony!

(really, this is at the MASSIVE HEAD EXPLOSION!!! level of irony)

It seems that I belong to the binge school of blogging.  If you’ve been around this blog you know what I’m talking about–I’ll be off the radar for a week or two, and then I’ll go back and read all of your blogs, comment on all the posts I’ve missed, respond to my own comments, and finally write another post.  You know who you are–you’re about to get a month’s worth of comments on your blogs!

Just counting how many of your posts I have to read to get up to speed is making me blush!  (Bethany, Lua, Rosemary–seriously?  You’re putting me to shame!)

The thing is, I’m like this with most things in life.  I was like this in University (you know, starting the term paper three days before the deadline and then not sleeping for two nights straight).  I’m like this with dieting (I eat chocolate and muffins until it becomes impossible to breathe in my jeans and I resemble a muffin myself, then switch to salads and lengthy runs around the park).  I’m even like this with laundry (you know, I’m out of clean knickers and down to my last pair of bikini bottoms before I do five loads straight).  I’m like this with my MS (nothing, then I get a burst and write a bunch of chapters).

Copyblogger calls this being a Sprinter, and I thought…totally not true copyblogger, when I run I’m pretty slow, but I can go for a long time.  Which means, I suppose, that there’s a bit of endurance runner and sprinter in all of us.  The trick is finding balance.

I’m (obviously) still working on it.  Suggestions welcome.

On rationalization and procrastination

Okay, so clearly it’s been a while since I’ve written a post.  And here’s a big list of all my excuses:

1) I was moving flats (clearly necessary to avoid stabbing, being devoured by mice, or similar)

2) I had to do work for clients (you know, the people who pay the rent in my new, non-mouse-infested flat)

3) I had to catch up with old friends (after many texts and emails with lots of scary capital letters and excessive punctuation using scary words like “intervention”)

4)  London has been sunny (okay, so I totally had to sit outside because London is NEVER sunny and this was perhaps my last chance to soak up and store some sun so I don’t die of vitamin D deficiency or similar come autumn)

5) I had to apply for jobs (yes, still, and some job applications are like NOVELS with the notable exception that novels are actually quite fun and interesting and job applications most certainly are NOT)

6) I had a MASSIVE HEAD EXPLOSION!!! and was, understandably, unable to write coherent sentences thereafter

So.  This is a lovely bit of rationalization.  And it isn’t good enough.  But I do this all the time, with this blog and–scarily–with my current WIP.  But there is no excuse for letting something that matters so much to me to slide for so long!

What do you think, blogger friends?  How do you beat the procrastination and rationalization bug?

Also…an aside: I wanted to give credit to Bill Waterson for the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip above.  Because, let’s face it, Calvin and Hobbes was brilliant and the “funnies” just aren’t the same any more.  But I couldn’t find an official site.  Best I can do is tell you to buy the books here. I have all the books.  If you don’t, you should buy them because they are amazing and you’ll smile for months.  (Disclaimer: I am not in any way affiliated with Calvin and Hobbes or publishers, booksellers, or similar but I totally wish I was because, as I said, they are amazing)