For my first YAtopia blog, I had so many ideas running through my mind. Being a writer and an editor creates a multitude of knowledge-banks of writing processes, editing tips, and Industry insights. So what to blog about?
The questions I receive most from writers in my various forms most often have to do with the basics. There is a plethora of information out there, but to some writers it can look like a sea of jargon. After all, as an average writer, the world of agents, rights, plotting vs. writing from the seat of your pants, marketing, social media platform, blogging… well, I don’t need to go on. It’s daunting to say the least.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the state of the literary universe. Navigating twitter can seem like endless promotions, blog tours, cover reveals, submission tips, what to do, what not to do. But the least talked about topic is really the essence of storytelling.
For a moment let’s forget about publishing and the headache that comes with it. Let’s look at the very soul of what we do and why we do it, and what all writers can use to improve their book—not for an agent or an editor, but for the story.
1. Never forget why you started writing in the first place.
As writers, we all have the same blood running through our veins. We love books. We love stories. Most writers are voracious readers who, at one time, started being plagued by their own worlds, their own characters. This is the birth of a writer, and the birth of a passion that should never be forgotten.
Our lifeblood is our world and our characters, and even though we are all continually learning, that is the one ringing constant through it all. It’s like that scene in Center Stage (I know) where Zoe Saldana is told by her teacher to come back to the barre whenever things get tough. The same is with writing. No matter what, remember that your soul is the story, and nothing can take that away from you.
2. Trends are just trends. Write what you want to read.
I’ve heard this advice a few different ways, but I think it sometimes get misconstrued to mean the same thing. If you want to read what’s trending, then you’re still in the same boat. The biggest factor in this for writers to consider is that what is popular today was signed two or more years ago. The publication process through the big guys is long, so what’s on the shelves today is really two or more years old. It’s like looking at the stars and realizing what you see is really light-years in the past.
The best skill a writer can have is to know how to make their world and characters original and captivating. This isn’t easy. Part of it is knowing the trends and knowing what readers are saying. Check out some of the “negative” reviews of books and you’ll find out what turns off readers. Things like “insta-love” (falling in love faster than the speed of light), bland main characters, and worlds that aren’t original are some big offenders. If you notice your book has any of these things, that’s a cue to go back and ruminate on a way to change that, to make it fresh. With some good reflection, plotting, and work on your characters, you can develop the skills to make your book something new, something captivating, and something you love.
3. Characters make your book.
Characters are ambassadors to the book, and they should be the main focus in pretty much every genre. The trick is to make those characters feel real. Look to your friends, family, and people you’ve met. Analyze what makes them tick. Every person is a multi-faceted being, with positive and negative traits, mental baggage, likes and dislikes. So should your characters be.
Knowing your characters’ backgrounds well can turn them into real people. If you know where they were born, how their childhood was, which schools they went to, their best friends, their worst enemies, their most humiliating memories, their laughter, their despair, then the characters will cease being your creation, and instead become entities of their own.
4. You have your entire life to write. Don’t rush just to get published.
Obviously every writer’s dream is to be published, but so often we see our writer friends signing contracts, or younger writers living the dream. This can inspire rushing, and writing books just to get them out there to be published.
But the truth is, every journey is different. If you’re not published, it doesn’t mean you aren’t a writer. Writers write, plain and simple, and published writers aren’t any different than unpublished writers; they’re just at different stages in their careers. So take your time. Take the utmost pride in your book. Learn, connect with others, and create the art that you want to create.
Some people will tell you that your book isn’t your baby, and to treat it as such, but be careful not to treat it like an alien work just to get your name out there. Every character, every word holds a piece of you in them. Your book may not be perfect, but books rarely are. The important note that I want to convey is that you control your destiny, not anyone else.
You’re a writer, damn it, and you have every right to be proud of that.
Lindsay Leggett is a writer and an editor for Month9Books. She loves the juxtaposition of beauty and grit, urban crawls, indie everything, and time well spent in the woods. She currently lives in Northern Ontario, with plans to dominate... er, travel the world.
Lindsay is the author of Flight (http://www.burningtree.ca/
books/flight) and has a number of works-in-progress on the way. She spends most of her time writing and editing, but can often be found watching copious amounts of anime, playing video games, or riding horses.
Find her at www.burningtree.ca for fun blogs and vlogs, interactive writing, and random fun.