Not to sound uppity, but I find that when I read advice from a well-known author, I read it more closely than that of other writers.Best-selling authors do not tout their abilities. They list their accomplishments instead, letting them speak for themselves.
Bragging about our abilities without substantial measure of success is like telling someone you're on a diet and going to lose 25 pounds. It's a good idea; it's a starting point. But don't expect me get excited about it . . . because the work has yet to be done.
That's why I preach for writers to shout out about their strengths not their dreams, even if those strengths have nothing to do with writing. Strengths are proven and tangible. They make you credible. I started FundsforWriters because I couldn't sell my mystery manuscript. And for years, I led with Freelance Hope for Writers instead of Pending Mystery Novelist. I knew grants and markets. I had experience in those arenas. I was a newbie in the fiction and mystery department. In the background, I read dozens of mysteries, studied fiction, and wrote hundreds of pages that landed in the trash as I tried to understand that part of the craft. It wasn't until I placed in a few contests, landed an agent, and signed a contract did I mention my mystery interest. You won't find me teaching fiction at a conference, however. I'm not qualified. Once I publish three or four books? Maybe.
Gotham Writers Workshop, I sit on the edge of my seat. Take Jodi Picoult, for instance. When asked what was the most valuable advice she ever received, she replied: "My mentor, Mary Morris, taught me that I wasn't nearly as great a writer as I thought I was. If not for her, I wouldn't have challenged myself—and kept challenging myself—until I was where I am today."
Today we run around patting each other on the back about how hard we try, as if being busy at it merits award. We shout "good for you" to people who talk about wanting to be writers instead of asking them to produce what they've accomplished or asking how many copies they've sold. Saying "at least you wrote a book" or "at least you sold 200 copies" is not accomplishment. If Jodi Picoult had felt warm and fuzzy and grown confident when someone told her "at least you write beautiful characters" before she'd mastered plot development and dialogue, we would not see all her books on Barnes & Noble shelves because she would have settled too early in her career. That's quite profound if you stop and ponder it.
Jonathan Franzen stated that writers block is a sign of tackling a piece that maybe wasn't meant to be. "In my experience, it happens when I'm trying to write something that I'm not ready to write, or that I don't really *want* to write."I can relate to that.
When I'm working and working a sentence, trying to bent a word to make it fit, I catch myself, delete it all, and start over. It wasn't the right angle, or the right paragraph, or the proper thought. Franzen validated my inclination to delete rather than force my writing. I'm going to listen to his experience rather than someone who's published two books that sold 1,000 copies. Why? Because he's obviously better at this. He's followed through. He's studied hard, made publishers sit up and take notice, and sold millions of books.
Enjoy this site. It's a quick read yet full of remarkable advice. Hearing how-to's from masters just makes sense. They don't readily hand out their secrets. On the other hand, be careful of those who shout out their writing ability from the rooftops (i.e., blogs, Facebook, etc.) If they have to shout it rather than you absorb it through their publishing credits, there's something wrong with that picture.
Work hard. Brag when you have bragging rights. Otherwise you wear out the words and diminish their luster when you finally see success.