Tuesday, June 29, 2010

So, now you're published...

What I love about urban fantasy and paranormal stories is that, well, just about anything can and does happen. Whether you're writing a crime thriller or a steamy romance, the weirdness factor often takes the tale in a completely unexpected direction.

And more often than not, I reckon, we authors get a little carried away with our inventiveness to the point that we ignore the fact that we should constantly be looking for ways to improve our writing.

Being in the situation where I wear both an editor's and writer's hat, I know what it's like on both ends of the spectrum. As an author, I love it when I receive reader feedback telling me that book two is an improvement on book one. As an editor, I'm absolutely thrilled when I receive a submission from one of my existing authors and I can see she's improved vastly in her writing since her previous manuscript.

So, as an author, what can you do to improve your writing?

1) Read widely, and outside your genre. Don't just read the kinds of books you write. Do your writing a big favour and read books by authors who are considered classics. Who are the Beat writers? How about some Tolstoy? Yes, I can see you rolling your eyes but much like eating your greens were good for you as a child, this is the kind of writing that's going to open your eyes to a world of possibilities that can only enrich your style.

2) Take your editor's words to heart. Contrary to popular belief, your editor is not "out to get you". Often underpaid, she's most likely only doing her job because she's passionate about it. Many editors for small presses have demanding day-jobs on top of wrestling with words after hours. Trust me, I'm not doing my stint for my health. There's nothing more satisfying than seeing an author twig how to curb her little writing gremlins and make an honest effort to improve. Similarly, authors who rush through manuscripts, who are resistant to good advice, make editors weep. We have so little time, rather work with us to make your writing so much better. Although we are only human, we take pride in our work and want to see you become better at what you do.

3) Find a dedicated group of beta readers. This may be as simple as getting hold of other authors who publish the same genre through your one of your publishers. Take the chance to get to know these people then find out if they'll scratch your back if you'll scratch theirs. Hell, start a writers' group if you must. It's really not difficult. Feedback from people who are at the same or slightly different level to you is often invaluable. I would be lost without my dedicated group of betas and although I don't always follow their advice to the letter, they often offer me valuable insight into my writing depending on their viewpoints.

4) Read blogs, follow tweets. You may not take the internet all that seriously, but if you know where to find the information, there are scores of blogs out there by authors, editors and agents, who share valuable information about the industry. I only wish I had had these resources when I was growing up and I had to bump my head quite a few times before I finally started getting to the point where I could fumble my way around the submissions process. You really don't know how lucky you are. (Yes, I'm that old.)

5) You're never too old to learn. This last point is perhaps the most important. If you can admit that the old dog is never too old to learn tricks, you've equipped yourself with one of the most important tools to becoming a successful and better writer. Never stop learning. Never be too proud to take criticism. Never be too wise to apply new technicques to your writing.


Sondrae Bennett said...

Very interesting post. I like the idea of a dedicated group of BETA readers. I've been having a couple friends pre-read my scripts but they aren't really romance readers. I never thought to ask other authors to start a group but I love that idea.

Cheeky Wench said...

Great post! A good group of beta readers are priceless, imo.

Cathleen Ross said...

Great advice, Nerine. I'm in a fabulous writer's group. Slowly over time, nearly everyone in the group has sold to big publishers, which means as they learn more, the better the advice.

Nerine Dorman said...

One of the biggest joys for me has been seeing the newer members of my writers' group I started about three years ago go on to making their first short fiction sales. Very heartening knowing something is happening.

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