Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Anny's Commandments

The life of a writer is beset with trials and pitfalls. For the new writer, they are compounded by ideas about what a real writer does. So these are the rules I've devised for myself over the years I've been writing. As always, every writer has to devise their own.

For writers:
1. Write. Write. Write. There are a few--very few--writers who are disciplined, possibly even anal, who sit down and write a preset number of words every day. That's okay...for them. Then there are the rest of us who work full-time jobs out of the home, or are busy raising children/grandchildren, or are dealing with the devastating effects of medication, stress, and/or illness. For us, it's sometimes a struggle to set aside five minutes to write. So make it count. Whatever it is. It doesn't have to be a book. Write a letter to your mom or dad. Or your children. My father wrote to me once and I have that letter framed. Write a blog. Keep a journal. We write our truest thoughts in a journal. Write a grocery list. Just write. It stimulates the brain so it remembers what writing is all about.

2. At a certain point, writers finding sharing their work irresistible. If you just want to share, that's fine. But if you're looking for a critique of your work, be prepared to accept what you get. I will tell you a secret. 99% of the folks who read your work will never, ever tell you whether or not they liked it, hated it, or didn't even finish it and that is because they don't want to hurt your feelings and they don't want to lie and say they never read past the first chapter. So. Choose a person whose opinion you truly value, be up front about what you want from them, and ask them to be honest with you. When they are, pay attention to every word. Otherwise, you're just stealing their time.

3. Write only what engages your passion, your heart, your soul. No one--I say, no one can please everyone else. Hell, no one can please 1% of the reading population. Really. So you don't write for anyone else but yourself. Write the book you'll be happy reading over...and over...and over. And for those writers who say they never read their own work? Why not?

4. Set your own ruler. Don't base your expectations on what anyone else does. If you were a painter you wouldn't only paint Van Goghs or Rembrandts. Write your story. That's the only one that matters.

For Editors/Critiquers/Beta readers:
1. Don't whitewash the work I've struggled to produce. If it's crap, then say so--and tell me specifics. I can't fix what I can't see. And if it's reached you with problems, that's because I can't see them. Because I never share any work until I've edited it to death.

2. Having said that, don't change my work. Use tracking to mark the iffy sections and then make a note in the margins..."What the hell were you thinking???" I can't learn if you do all the work.

For Friends/Fellow Authors looking for someone to read their stuff...
1. Expect me to be brutally honest. If there's something I should know before reading your work, tell me. A fellow author who I admire very much once asked me to read her story. I commented that I was somewhat disappointed with the story as it was fluff without much substance and I knew she was capable of much more. What she failed to tell me was this: Her life had gone to hell and she just needed some fluff in her life. I wish she had said that. I really do. Instead, she withdrew from me and didn't 'speak' to me for more than a year.

2. Never, ever, ever slough off my comments about spelling and vocabulary. We, the writers are the last bastion for civilized discourse. If you don't know the difference between hostel and hostile, look it up!

For the Readers/Reviewers:
1. Here's what I ask you to remember. There's a real person behind the writing. There are many, many ways to say the book wasn't my best without shredding my soul.

2. And take responsibility for actually looking at the blurb. If it says the story is short...then it is. If it states there is sex, then believe it instead of acting shocked. If it's science fiction or fantasy, don't get all bent out of shape because it isn't contemporary or historical.

So, there ya are. My personal rules about writing. What are yours?

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