Friday, February 19, 2010

Advice for the Young Writer by Alex Keegan

Here's an excerpt from an interesting article from the Internet Writing Journal. Please read every word and take seriously. That's if you are really serious about your craft. I love IWJ, you should go there for more on writing; even add it to your list of fave websites. 

Advice for the Young Writer by Alex Keegan
Becoming a good writer of fiction takes a mass of work. You have to read and read and read: the good, the bad, the ugly and the eye-bleeding atrocious, then some more of the OK, and some more of the good, some more of the very good, the classics, the stuff you don't get first pass, (so read it again) and then you can go back and you'll see that the OK is pretty bad too.

Foothills of Mt. Everest
It takes a minimum of three years' full time study, or 7-10 years of part-time study to get a university degree. Becoming a writer is harder! I think it was Ray Bradbury who said we need to write at least a million words just to make it to the foothills. Seems like a lot? Not really. 3,000 words a day for a year or 1,000 words a day for three years and you're home free. What d'you mean it sounds tough? It IS tough!

A writer is someone who on waking, always thinks, "Now how will I find the time today to write?" If you start writing every day and it becomes a habit, something which gets into your blood. If thirty days down the line the habit is set, then you're a writer, and you'll get there twice as fast as the six-day-a-week writer, ten times as fast as the weekdays only one. Exercise the writing muscles, exercise the soul, become pixel dependent.

Write about things that energise you, that make you buzz, get angry, get sad, emote over. Write about things with weight, meaning, a point. Don't be glib or trite, or clich├ęd, don't re-write Asimov or Chandler, write yourself, be brave, and while you're writing your million words, don't think you have to write LIKE anyone. You are a true original. Think originally.

And when you want me to believe you, paint me pictures, let me see the pain without having it explained. Understand what the pundits mean by show not tell, or better, understand my own term, seduction not instruction. And if you don't understand it, work until you do.

Think about language, style, flow and lyricism. There are great writers with ordinary styles and there are "stylists" who bore the pants off us. Nevertheless, mastering how words work musically and phonetically as well as semantically can give you an extra level of power and set you apart.

Learn about good dialogue, how it is NOT like real speech but artificially creates the illusion of everyday speech. Learn to hone dialogue and read great writers of dialogue -- I love Elmore Leonard for this.

I've said already, read, read, read, read, read, and we know we must write, write, write; but don't forget submissions! Submitting our work after it's had time to settle and then has been seriously reworked is one of the most overlooked essentials to becoming a writer. You write to be read. If you aren't writing to be read stop now and go do something else. To be read means getting published, and to get published you have to get rejected, and rejected and rejected, tens, hundreds even thousands of time. (Take that!)