The Secret to Successful Writing Part 1

So, right now I should be writing about clamps.  Yes, you read that right.  I have three deadline posts to write about clamps that hold your solar panels to your roof.  That’s some scintillating shit, right? So in procrastination I was looking at Facebook instead.  There I found a great post from an old friend about a writer’s conference she is attending.

To sum up, the author presenting had a list of writing tips.  To be fair, I haven’t read her book, but I will shamelessly shill it here, because I am all about putting other people over.  Tara Gilboy writes YA and it looks interesting!  Check her out!

Here is her list of writing tips:

1. Talent is overrated
2. Talent=reading
3. Write crummy first drafts
4. Character goals, character goals, character goals

From the time I was an undergrad to about ten minutes ago, I have heard all sorts of tips and tricks to successful writing.  I have attended symposiums, conferences, creative writing classes, and read so many books on writing it isn’t even funny.  In fact, I realized there is an entire market of publishing out there that is dedicated to writing about how to write successfully, and oddly enough, that is just about the only thing some of those people have published.

Let me break down Ms. Giboy’s list.

  1. Talent is overrated.
    • Absolutely. Sorta.
    • But I think this is oversimplified. Why?  I mean, you actually do need some talent to write.  Just like you need some talent to play a musical instrument.
    • Writing requires not only a certain ear for the language, but also honing a voice, understanding the mechanics of language. It also requires patience.  Not only with yourself but the process, which comes in strong with #3.
  2. Talent=Reading.
    • Writers should also be readers!  That’s what everyone says!  I suck at reading.  I have kids, I work full time, and my attention span is for shit most of the time.  Unfortunately, I have fallen to the same illness that has afflicted everyone else.  Reading is an investment.  It takes a lot of time and effort.  And honestly, I get frustrated because there is a lot of writing out there that just sucks because the writer didn’t have a lot of talent, but they did possess a lot of the other things I’m about to illustrate later on.
    • It’s easier to watch a 2 hour movie or binge watch a series than it is to read a book.  It’s why I like the Outlander series better than the book(s), and I think the series is pretty much soft porn and so corny it makes my teeth hurt.  (think thin enamel and corn chips).  I do, however read tons of stuff, mostly online.  Articles, news stories, Wikipedia–pretty much anything.
    • From what I was later told, the author goes on to explain how to publish in one’s genre, you are better off being widely read in that genre.  Yes, I have heard this too.  Stephen King says it in his book On Writing.  He talks about how if you want to become a bestselling author, you are better off reading best sellers.  The reason for that is because you will know how the formula works.
    • Case in point.  C.S. Forester made his living writing books about Horatio Hornblower, a fictional British Navy officer.  The books and subsequent television series are widely popular.  Aspiring writer Bernard Cornwell read the crap out of these books and decided to write his own, only about his fictional character, Richard Sharpe.  He structured his novels almost identically to Forester’s only using the land campaigns against Napoleon as the backdrop.  Boom.  People ate the books up.  So, arguably, if you want to write a Tom Clancy political thriller, there is an excellent chance you’ll gain readers who just like his formula.  But as Truman Capote said, that’s not writing, it’s typing.
  3. Write crummy first drafts.
    • Yes.
    • And shitty second drafts.
    • And alright third drafts…and so on and so forth until you polish that turd into something people might read.  It is said of short stories, “Short stories aren’t written, they are re-written.”
    • Basically don’t stop until an editor says “Okay, now you can stop.  Which artwork do you like for the jacket cover?”
    • Your story will suck for the first few drafts.  But this is the time to be bold, to vomit all of those words onto the page and then figure out what to do with it all later.  This is where the fun takes place. Unless you are some kind of sicko who actually likes editing (for the record, I love editing).
  4. Character goals. Character goals. Character goals.
    • Ugh.  Too “Hashtag summer vibes/squad goals” for my taste, but yes.
    • This saying used to be “It’s the characters, stupid.”
    • Joseph Campbell has a whole cycle about the hero’s journey that most plots center on.
    • The key is also making them likable characters.  Or at least relatable.

You can read Part 2 here!





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