Saturday, September 24, 2011

Some advice for writers

Lately my life has been a bit crazy thanks to a big move from New Zealand to Australia, doing some workshops and getting revisions done on one book and copy-edits on another, so when it came to thinking of a blog topic, my mind went blank (well, okay it didn't go blank but all it could conjure up was images of chocolate).

So like many writers before me, in my hour of need I turned to Twitter and asked what I should write about. Anyway, Catherine Haines (Kiwi writer, blogger and all around awesomely cool person) said this:

So Catherine, this is for you!

Find your voice

Voice is one of those strange things that we often ignore when really it's the thing what will help your books stand out in a crowded market. So don’t be afraid to write the story the way you ‘really’ want to write it as opposed to how you think you should write it.

I say this because for six years I kept coming up with all these weird paranormal romance ideas, but because I was trying to write regular romance novels, I would carefully cut the paranormal elements out of each book (I really wish I was kidding about this but I’m not). However, when I finally had the idea of a dead girl who gets kicked out of heaven and sent back to earth in a guy’s body, I realized that there was NO way I could cut it all out, so instead I finally embraced the voice that I had been trying to stifle for so long and I wrote the book in all of its glorious weirdness. It was called You Had Me at Halo and not only did it finally help me get an agent but I also got a book deal two weeks after it went out on submission.

Take risks

If you want to get published you have to send your work out to agents and editors because as a rule they won't come looking for you. Yes it's scary and yes there is a good chance (a very, very good chance) that they will reject you. However, while rejections suck, they are also the stuff that good writers are made of. If you're lucky enough to get a personal rejection then you can take what they are saying and apply it to your writing. If you are only getting standard rejections then use them to motivate you to improve your craft.

And I know this sounds really obvious but over the years I've lost count of the number of amazing writers I've met who are too scared to send their work out (of course it's hidden under the guise of 'it's no good/I'm too busy/it's not where I see my writing career as going' excuses). Please, don't be that person. Take risks with your writing. Put yourself on the line and send your work out. Let the market help you learn your craft.

Have fun

So much of writing can be hard work. Especially when it comes to dealing with rejection, but there is a reason why we all wanted to become writers so try not to lose track of what that reason is. Especially since there is a certain freedom in being an unpublished writer. You're not tied to deadlines or editorial revisions or genres (or all the delightful head-games that can go along with this stuff).

And finally...

It goes without saying but eat lots of chocolate. It might not make you write a better book, but I’m sure it will make you feel better!!

Amanda Ashby has been ignoring her own advice for years but despite herself she still manages to write young adult and middle-grade books for Puffin (US). Her latest book, Fairy Bad Day is now available and is full of action, romance and lots and lots of Skittles! To find out more you can visit her at her website or twitter!


Becca said...

Since I'm eating choc as I type I'm already taking your advice.
Thanks for the reminders.

Amanda Ashby said...

See, that's why we got on so well!!!

LD Ferris said...

I save the chocolate for the real emergencies :) But my coffee saves me on a daily basis!

Thanks Amanda!

Amanda Ashby said...

LD - I'm a coffee girl as well (and there is the Diet Coke, which I tend to break out on a regular basis!)

Melanie Milburne said...

Chocolate is definitely a must but I think having fun is something we forget so easily. Writing is hard work but it is fun playing with characters and scenarios.
And taking risks...well, that's why some brilliant writers never get published. They just don't take the plunge and put their stuff out there.
Great advice, Amanda. Thanks!

Amanda Ashby said...

Melanie - thank you!!! Chocolate is also handy for sending to your editor and agent when you've had a bit too much writing fun and you don't want them to cut the scene involving a bunny suit, some pickles and a talking dog!!!!!

Mary Preston said...

An interesting post & chocolate makes the world go round.

Sonali said... true about the chocolates. It makes everything better.

Desere said...

I cant think that I have seen your books in my country and with such eye chatching covers I am sure I would have, but I am making note to look out for them I am very interested in finding out more.