- Never tell anyone that you’re writing a book, going on a diet, exercising, taking a course, or quitting smoking. They’ll encourage you to death.
- Lynn Johnston, For Better or For Worse, 07-15-06
Canadian cartoonist (1947 – )
When writing, your only friend is yourself. It can’t be helped. You empty your mind onto a page or screen, attempting to portray your world for others to see. Setting rules for yourself is a good start: no distractions, no spell/grammar check function on, etc. And especially being in the mood to write. Sitting in front of a blank page or screen with no idea in your head is probably a waste of time. I used to carry a notepads in my jackets and coats to jot down ideas that came to me when I walked or drove around. It was my ‘madman’s diary’. If I died and someone went through my pockets for ID they’d open this up and proclaim me insane as it was full of my own shorthand, scribbles, and references to other sections I ‘d already written.
First drafts are ugly because they’re supposed to be. If you let anyone read them you’re asking for an ass-kicking. Writing one page is a start, but not to be confused with writing a letter. Writing a first draft of a book is an accomplishment that very few people do. Crack the bubbly. Now comes the hard work of editing. Join an online critiquing site or a writers group in your area. You need feedback, advice on everything from plot, theme, characters, dialogue, chronological order, structure, etc. If you think you can do this on your own, forget it–you probably can’t. Next week I’ll let you in on some self-editing you can accomplish alone.
With eBooks many writers have skipped this process and posted their work for sale. It’s up to readers to download the samples and trash the offenders by posting negative reviews. These reviews stay on the site forever. You simply can’t hide bad editing.
Like the musician playing in the basement or the kid sitting in the car revving the engine, if you want some validation you have to put it in gear, play with someone. If you don’t then you become a legend in your own mind. When I played drums in a big band I was always trying to recruit good players to come out to one of our practices, sit in and have some fun. I’d meet a few people (dare I call them musicians?) with great equipment who said they can play this and that, and go on how good they are, blah, blah, blah, and make their own CDs to listen to themselves even more. These people wouldn’t dare expose themselves to others, test their talent, and get into the dynamics with another musician. Music is very challenging and skill levels are always tested in many aspects, but not in a basement. They are deluding themselves.
As a writer, if you intend to take yourself seriously, you have to expose your work to others. Self-editing is a dumb idea, as is getting critiqued by non-qualified relatives who won’t dare hurt your feelings.