Vincent’s Seven Tips for Writing: (not for the uber-sensitve)
1 . Turn off the damn television! You can’t feed the muse if your mind is cluttered with the Meaningless Acquisitive Crap that is most television. Develop the inner resources to entertain yourself without the outside stimulus of someone talking at you, preaching to you, or trying to sell you something. There’s nothing wrong with contemplative introspection in moderation.
2 . Learn the basics: grammar, spelling, mechanics, POV, correct dialogue tags. If you screw these up on the first page of your story, editors won’t even get to page two. I mean it.
3 . Study the writers you admire, really analyze how their stories work. Is it an immediate grab-for-the-throat action scene? Is it the proportion of dialogue to narrative (think James Patterson and Jonathan Kellerman vs. Annie Proulx and Jane Smiley). All four can write compelling stories but they hook the reader in a different way. Learn how Thomas Harris is different from Stephen King (both doing suspense/horror), who is different from Maggie Estep who is different from Sara Gruen (both doing first-person horsey tales).
4 . It’s worthwhile to join a critique group, a writer’s organization and attend conferences and workshops. Just remember: writers write. Over the last decade I’ve met scads of folks who love to talk about writing and publishing and selling fiction but not all of them actually Do The Writing. If you’re serious about publishing professionally, at a certain point in time, you’ve got to shit or get off the pot. Either finish something and submit it or shut up.
5 . Once you’re happy with what you’ve written and are ready to sub, study the market. This can mean buying a copy of Cemetery Dance, reviewing The Pedestal online, and perusing the many market listings available online (Ralan.com, ERWA.com), and in print. Don’t waste your time subbing something wrong for the market: Alyson Publications ain’t gonna take a traditional heterosexual romance, and Carnifex Press isn’t remotely interested in Westerns. Do your homework
6 . Once you do complete a work, honor it by celebrating in whatever way makes you feel as though you’ve accomplished something. Whether it’s a bottle of champagne, a box of Fannie May turtles (just speaking for myself), or a massage, take the time to acknowledge your hard work. Done celebrating? Okay, sit your ass back down in the chair and write something else.
7 . The books I’ve used most in writing and revising:
a. The Weekend Novelist by Robert Jay Ray. I cannot recommend this book enough. It really focuses on the nitty-gritty details of background material, plot, structure and character development. And all developed with the idea that you have that pesky full-time job to eat and limited time to write. When my first novel is published, Ray’s getting a copy with a note of sincere thanks from me.
b. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. The bible, truly. Chapters to help you with cleaning up the mechanics, POV, narrative vs. scene, etc. Terrific stuff.
c. Fiction First Aid by Raymond Obstfeld. Another fixer-upper style book that has chapters on punching up settings, twisting off plotlines and growing rounded characters.
d. The Artist’s Wayby Julia Cameron and her Right to Write. I’m not much for touchy-feely writing books but these two are the exception. Focuses on the process of creativity and treating yourself well in order to nurture the muse.
e. The First Five Page> by Noah Lukeman. Stellar. He explains how little time you have as a writer to get an agent or editor’s attention and that you must have your writing shit together to impress these folks. Based on his premise, they are looking for reasons (a typo, pink paper, a coffee stain) to get your story off their desk and into the trash.
8. Turn off the damn television!