Monday, December 28, 2009

Getting Experience

Matt at Pensive Sarcasm had a post about self-publishing and getting your writing chops. He made an analogy to how he managed to get his airline pilot job by working as a flight instructor so he could rack up flight hours and get some experience, which solved the paradox of needing to have experience to get a job, which would give experience. He said you only need your license to work as a flight instructor. His story was a good example of thinking outside the box in order to get your foot in the door.

He went on to talk about self-publishing as one of the ways to get publishing experience. You can read what he had to say about that, but I'm going to focus on what you need to do to get the experience to write a cracking story in the first place.

Read
This is an easy one. Read a lot. Read widely. And watch how published writers do it. Pay attention to their plot! Pay attention to characterization! Pay attention to dialogue, pacing, scenery!

Review
In my writing group, you're only admitted in after you come to a trial meeting where you show how you both give and take critiques. How you give it is important. You learn so much through reviewing and reading the work of others. Don't get cocky here--if you review someone's writing and it's not at your level, do not dismiss it. Your feedback to them will help you identify when you make those same mistakes.

Be Reviewed
Like learning from what you critique, you will learn so much from what people say about your writing. Take all of it, none of it, or part of it--but carefully examine every bit of feedback you get, and cogitate on it carefully. Don't get defensive. If someone points something out, then it tripped them up as a reader. Remember that. Your writing may be brilliant, but it tripped someone else up as a reader.

Practice
Write a lot. Write short stories. Write blog posts. Write a column for your church bulletin. Write whatever you can, but do it a lot. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that your first effort is your best. It isn't. Write more.

Toil
This isn't the same as practicing. Toil over your story and manuscript until it's really, really good. If it isn't good, and never going to be, chuck it and start on something else. Few people produce genius literature right out of the gate. Take a few YEARS to work hard on your writing and your story. I know no one wants to hear that, but generally you have to toil, unless you have no day job (and no children to raise), are a celebrity, or brilliant.

Take Baby Steps
Can you write a column for your church bulletin, homeowner's newsletter (I used to write the whole thing), or an editorial? All of these can pay you for what you write. These are small, but that doesn't matter. It's the fact of putting yourself out there and being paid for what you produce. It instills a certain discipline. (Which brings us back to Matt's post...you should read that if you haven't already!)

Do you have any suggestions to add? What are your experiences with these methods?

5 comments:

Tina Lynn said...

I would also say to attend conferences, classes, read books on writing, anything that will help you learn the craft. It also helps to network with published authors and learn what is expected. Nothing like learning from the people that are already doing what you want to do. Great post, Sierra. I definitely will be referring back to this. You and Roni are my girls!

Matt said...

All good tips. Thanks for the link.

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

Great tips, Sierra. I think joining a crit group and learning how to give and receive feedback has definitely made a world of difference. And I agree with Tina, too, conferences are awesome.

Sierra Godfrey said...

Thanks for the comments, guys. Tina, your additions are great.

Meghan Ward said...

Good advice! What I need to do most these days is write more — not blog, not research, not revise, just good old-fashioned butt-in-the-chair putting words on paper.

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