For New Writers–Part One

 At some point in my career, hopefully when I’m an internationally-known author, I would like to look back on the early blog posts, laugh, and think with nostalgia how much of a struggle life was. Hardship, when viewed from the far side, is like a near-miss car crash. You look in your mirror and think of how close things were and, with a few more inches of misfortune, how much worse they could have been.

In the meantime, all I can do is hold onto the wheel and hope I don’t get hit.

After taking some time off to think about what I want to write about here, I have decided that I will focus on writing more than the other aspects of my life. I may still discuss the odd facet of retail management or make a general observation about something in our culture that I feel passionate about, but from here on, I hope to use this blog as a place to compile my thoughts on writing–my approach to it, my feelings about it, and, hopefully, my successes with it.

Right now, I am an unpublished author, newly 31 years of age. I have completed one novel–a fantasy of 120,000 words–and am nearing completion on my second. My current project is a horror novel that will probably top out at 70-75k. Obviously, it is much shorter than my first, but it is also, in my opinion, much better.

The writing process is best learned on the job. You can read all the books about writing, take all the courses you like, attend all the workshops you can find, but the only way to improve is to do it. My first novel, while a pretty good story, has some serious problems that I could recognize even during the course of composition. That is why, good story that it is, it will likely never see the light of day. You, dear reader, might ask why I would spend three months writing a novel that I don’t plan to publish. The answer, the short answer, anyway, is that I have received more from my unpublished first novel than I could from my second novel, even if it achieves publication. By starting a long piece of fiction and, more importantly, finishing it, I have convinced myself that it is possible for me to become a writer. It is the foundation on which all my later writing will stand, the cornerstone for my life as a successful author or as a life-long struggling writer.

As I said in an earlier entry, I was inspired to pick up the pen again by Stephen King’s On Writing, using it to brainwash myself into believing I was a writer. From there, it was only a matter of finding the discipline to say what I wanted and to say it damn near every night until I finished. If you are a new writer, a fan of King’s fiction, or someone just looking for a bit of general inspiration, you could do worse than to buy the audio version of On Writing and listen to it about a hundred times.

Another book I would recommend to new writers is Your First Novel by Laura Whitcomb and Ann Rittenberg. The former is a published author who, in the first half of the book, offers sound and practical advice for writers looking for direction in their craft. The latter is a literary agent who picks up the publishing process with the manuscript submission and takes it all the way through to publication day and beyond. Their explanations of publishing protocol and the plain-spoken descriptions of the printing process demystify the daunting and sometimes-bewildering world.

So, quit reading this and go write something. Anything. Even the works that will never come close to publication teach us something about the writing process, and about ourselves.

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About Lee Smiley

I write things. Maybe you'll read them.
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