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Friday, May 27, 2011

Advice needed!

So it's my turn to post and I bet you're expecting me to show off the wonderful cover for my August release from Carina Press, Dead Silent. Well, no. The Carina artists are awesome and every cover is spectacular. I also suspect I've bored people to death by going on - and on - about my cover. So I'm not going to say a word about it. Not a word. Zilch.

Instead, I'm asking this group of mega-talented authors for advice. Recently, I've given talks to writers' groups and hosted a fiction writing workshop. There was one question that came up at every event. People stared at me, breath suspended, as they waited for my words of wisdom. The question?

What's the best piece of advice you could give a writer?

For what it's worth, this is how I reply:

1/. Write. Sounds obvious, yes? Well, it is. Write, write and write some more. Don't plan to write. Write. Write every day, even if you can only spare fifteen minutes. Write even when garbage is spewing from your fingertips. Writing is like a muscle. The more it's exercised, the stronger it becomes. Also, remember that words can be moved around, deleted or made stronger. It's impossible to edit a blank page.

2/. Read. Read recently published books in your chosen genre. See what works and what doesn't. Ask yourself what made the editor choose that particular book over the hundreds that land on her desk or in her Inbox.

3/. Write from the heart. Forget the fad that's currently taking the literary world by storm. By the time you've written something similar, people will have forgotten and moved on. Write the story you would love to read. If you're true to yourself, chances are an editor will love your story too.

4/. Stick to "he said" or "she said". "He said" belongs to your character. There's no need for you, as author, to go interfering.

5/. Remember that we write because it's what we love doing. Don't let deadlines or editorial requirements steal your passion.

I could go on about adverbs, cliches and those pesky words like "just" that, um, just creep in, but I'll leave it there. What advice can you offer? I'd love to know.

I'm off to deal with my own deadline now. Oh, wait. I hear voices. You want to see what? You do? Really? Hey, you're hurting my arm. Come back here with that chocolate. Okay, I give in. You win. It's here:

Dead Silent releases on August 22. :-)


MaureenAMiller said...

Hmmmm, I've seen that cover somewhere. :) It is a perfect cover.

I particularly like your suggestion to "Write". My father claims that he can write a book...that he has ideas, and that he can be an author too. I tell him he has to write something in order to be an author. LOL

Rita said...

Brillaint Toni. You are right on.
Great cover.

Shirley Wells said...

Maureen - You've seen the cover? I wonder where... ;)
I think the writing bit is a stumbling block for a lot of people. There's no doubt about it, it's the trickiest part of being a writer.

Rita - Glad you like the cover.

Clare London said...

*lol* Damn fine cover, I must say :).

Your suggested answers are spot on. I remember opening a book on "how to write a novel" and the first piece of advice was "start writing it" LOL. I see now what they mean, the importance of getting the words out onto paper (or screen), our need to tell a story hopefully spurring us on.

Maybe one day they'll invent some software that can tap into our imaginations and do the leg (or fingers) work for us automatically :).

Wynter Daniels said...

Great cover - love it.
I offer most of the same tips to writers that you do. One other thing I say to newer writers - The only way to guarantee you'll never get published is to never submit. Sending their work out and risking rejection seems to be a stumbling block for some.

Marcelle Dubé said...

Was it Harlan Ellison who said if you can be discouraged from writing, you should be? I think that's the harshest, truest advice I've ever heard about writing. It can be such a hard profession that if you don't absolutely have a fire in the belly to write, then baby, don't.

*Love* the cover, Shirley. Who's the artist?

Toni Anderson said...

Errr...I am assuming Rita just (pesky word) thinks I'm brilliant in general. :D

Great post, Shirley. And great advice. Simple, but simple works for every writer.

Shirley Wells said...

Clare - Thank you. It is damn fine, isn't it. :)
Oh, I dream of that software! I use Scrivener and that comes with a 'name generator'. It throws up 500 random names and, guess what, I've never yet found one that I could use. :)

Wynter - That's an excellent point. With rejection comes feedback (sometimes) too.

Marcelle - I'm not sure who said it, but it's so true. It is hard and you have to be determined and/or stubborn.
The cover is one of Frauke's. She's awesome!
(PS: Halfway through The Shoeless Kid and I am *loving* it!)

Elise Warner said...

Fabulous cover. I agree with all the advice.

PS I clicked the wron button and somehow a blog I wrote appeared on NYUS and it's not my turn. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry.

Shirley Wells said...

Toni - You are brilliant. We know that. :)
Yes, I like simple.

Elise - Glad you like the cover.
Don't worry, your post is only up as a draft. It hasn't published to the blog and won't until you post/schedule it.

Rita said...

Shirley, I am a dolt! trying to do too much at once. this is a great post.

Shirley Wells said...

Rita - I've been having the same problem all day. It took me 3 attempts to write a comment on my own blog. Thank goodness it's Friday. :)

Joanne said...

Lots of great advice here. Maybe I'd add to somehow set some sort of schedule that your are committed to, even if it's just a half hour a day. That commitment will bring you to the page.

Shirley Wells said...

Joanne - Good point. Yes, I think we all need some sort of schedule. I know I do. Thanks!

Anne Marie Becker said...

Great advice, Shirley. The more I get sucked into promo and social media and such, the more I realize that your #1 is SO important. Just find the time to write, and save everything else for later (if there is a later). The ONLY important thing is writing a good story, so readers will want to come back for more.

Of course, following that advice is difficult, as evidenced by my commenting on the blog. ;) But I'm off to write right now... I promise!

Marcelle Dubé said...

Shirley, thanks for the kind words on The Shoeless Kid! And I love Frauke's work, too. She did my cover for On Her Trail.

Joanne, I couldn't agree more. I set myself a minimum word count of 500 words. That way, if I can only spare 20 minutes, then I can still meet my daily goal. Of course, I almost always go over the minimum, but it's amazing how quickly the word count mounts up even at 500 words a day.

Shirley Wells said...

Anne Marie - Social media is my biggest problem. I think I 'ought' to do it, then spend hours checking people's links, talking about chocolate, generally having a fun time .... and I forget that if I don't get writing, I won't have another book to promote. :)

Jenny Schwartz said...

It really is a gorgeous cover. Happy sigh.

As for writing advice -- I think yours is spot on. I'd add, join a writing community, either online or in your local area. Somewhere you can moan and celebrate with people who understand, who know the "doubt bug" and often can save you a ton of hassle re-inventing wheels by sharing what they've learned.

Julie Moffett said...

OMG!! Love that cover. Carina has been totally rocking the covers!

Congrats on the new book and I also agree with your #1. The book is not going to write itself. You have to park your bottom in the chair and get to work!! :)

Shirley Wells said...

Jenny - Absolutely. I don't know where I'd be without my monthly fix with like-minded writers. It's so inspiring to be with people who actually understand.

Julie - Carina covers are amazing, aren't they? Just amazing.
Yes, I hear of too many people who are 'planning', 'thinking', 'plotting', etc., who never get past the first chapter. The first 10,000 words are (usually) easy. It's the other blighters... :)

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