Saturday, December 10, 2011

If I Knew Then, What I Know Now

It's been a long time since I espoused on the craft of writing and this post is going to be conglomeration of tidbits I've picked up over the years more than it is a comprehensive look at any particular facet. But for whatever reason I feel compelled to chat about the craft today. These are things I wish I had understood a decade ago.

Be Bold, Be Daring, Be a Pirate 


Like the first 20 seconds of that video, I heard a lot of stuff about the rules, the code if you will, when I first began writing. A decade in and I can tell you there are no rules, sure there are some guidelines but nothing, and I repeat nothing is completely off the table.

But not all pirates are created equal. The lazy, the sloppy, the careless wind up swinging from a rope or hanging with Davy Jones. It pays to know the so-called rules so that you know when you are breaking them and you do so with swagger, with style, with a purpose.

It's Who You Know 

Yeah, it would be nice if Jeff Bezos happened to be your next door neighbor, or if Sessalee Hensley happened to be your husband's first cousin, but few of us are that fortunate. Besides I happen to view "IT'S WHO YOU KNOW THAT REALLY MATTERS" as more more Cerberian creature with three distinct heads. And not one of those craniums is tied to being kin with a giant in the business so this is no monster to fear.

photo by ukdavew via PhotoRee

Head One -  Network. Get to know other writers and people in the publishing business. Make friends with them. And by make friends I do not mean hound, harass, and harangue by pleading those folks to read your books. I mean interact, be sociable, be friendly. You can do this by attending conferences, workshops, facebooking, tweeting, and a variety of other means.

Head Two - Know your characters. Before you start writing their story. Sure surprises and new twists will develop but if you know your character beforehand the writing will go much smoother. I write vignettes for every character. I try to choose emotional significant events from the character's life. First kisses, traumatic heartbreaks, fights (verbal or physical) they may have had. I don;t try to make these complete stories but voyeuristic capsules into my characters emotional reactions at a variety of times in their life prior to the beginning of my story. For POV characters I write 5 or 6 of these and for secondary characters one or two.

Head Three - Know your audience. And write with them in mind. You have to please yourself first but by having a target audience will keep you on track.

Trust Your Gut

Unless of course it's telling you to eat a salad. In that case it is most likely possessed by the devil but that is a blog for another day. What I'm saying is writing is a personal endeavor and while you must be objective enough to realize constructive criticism when you see it, you smut also have to ability to politely smile and then do whatever the hell you think is necessary to tell the story you want told. If it feels wrong, even if your mentor, or JK Rowling, or a college professor with a PhD in English says so, have the conviction to leave it the hell alone. Write the story you want to write.


You started writing because you love with reading and great literature. You wanted to spin tales that other will talk about for years to come. You were eager to release the colorful and imaginary words swirling within your skull. It was fun to write ... right up until it became a publish at all costs quest. Right up until it became a business. Right up until it became deadlines, expectations, and disappointing rejections.

I'm not naive to think you can totally escape those shackles once they've clamped on, but as a guy who has struggled with this at times let me say it is important to sit back, breathe, and reflect every once in a while how and why you came to be chasing the writing dream. it is important to reread those authors and books that inspired you in the beginning. it is important to remember the joy of writing.

And for those that do not follow me on Facebook or Twitter THE FEEDSTORE CHRONICLES is now available for both the Kindle and Nook formats as well as paperback.



Cloudia said...

Oh the humanity!

Very honest, and I know: Helpful,

You are one of the good guys.
Happy Happy Season, my bloggy friend.

Aloha from Waikiki

Comfort Spiral

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Charles Gramlich said...

You got it man. Good thoughts for us all to recall.

Jerry said...

I think patience has to be thrown in there...the insane ability to not get bored with what you are writing after two weeks. Or maybe persistence is the right word.

Good stuff.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Just keep doing it as long as it's fun.


gmost important ..if your writing about real people and want to tell the truth..wait till they die.

laura b. said...

Great insight. I have many friends who are writers and I see how hard they work.
Me, I'm a reader :) Thanks for visiting my blog, which led me to yours.

DrillerAA09 said...

I suppose that if we all knew then what we know now, we wouldn't need to live through some of life's experiences. I could live with that...I think. Great post.

Mr. Shife said...

Thanks for the great advice, Travis, and congrats to you for all of your hard work paying off. You deserve it.

Dawn Anon said...

Kindle version?! that's the news i was waiting for.

And thank you for sharing what you've learned along the way.

dee said...

good post travis...the problem with being on the publisher side is that I don't get time to write my own stuff... but this year I think I'll do just that and finish revisions on one that's been chomping at the bit for a while...

Danette Haworth said...

Yes, so true-remember why we write.

Crystal Posey said...

A great post!