life · novels · writing

Learn All You Can (200th Post)

This is my 200th post! It seems like just yesterday I was celebrating my 100th. Anyway, since this is such a momentus occasion, I decided to attempt to be useful people, instead of doing my usual rambling.

There’s a phrase my dad would say to me ever since I was little: Learn all you can while you can. His dad said it to him, mostly pertaining to school, but my dad stretches it out to contain everything you could ever learn in life. The fabulous and slightly daunting thing about writing? You never know “enough.” There’s always something more to learn.

Since I wouldn’t presume to try and give out advice on a craft I am still very much a newbie in, I’m going to point you in the direction of things that have taught me a lot.

BLOGS

As I’m sure many of us know, blogs are like gold mines; and the blogosphere is like the most gigantic interconnected web of fabulous, inspiring, and indispensable information (minus all the lame stuff!). I have yet to meet someone practiced in the writing craft who didn’t love sharing their knowledge.

It’s nice to have writer buds in the Real World, but when you live in the middle of, say, Music City or something (*cough*Nashville*cough*), they’re hard to come by! Fortunately, I can still be surrounded by lots of writerly people online.

Telling you my favorite writer blogs would take way too long, so here are some of my favorite posts on the writing craft instead.

1. Fiction Critiques: How To

2. 5 Common Writing Pitfalls

3. Choosing Our Path-Genre Matters

4. How to Stop Yourself from Ditching Your Novel at the Very Last Minute

5. Tackling Revisions

BOOKS, BOOKSTORES, AND LIBRARIES

I know. How obvious is this one? But I love bookstores so much that they are worth mentioning a thousand times. I’ve loved my city’s public libraries since back in the day when I was getting Arthur and Clifford books.

When you’re just starting out, and everything is a confusing maze, it would be nice to have a successful author as a mentor for every step you take. But that can’t happen for everyone, so books are one of the greatest places to start. They’re like the world’s greatest how-to guides!

Reading fiction is the hands-on approach, where you can analyze and study and, slowly, began to catch on to all the nuances of great writing. Reading nonfiction lays out the nuts and bolts for you to soak up and implement into your writing.

I’m limiting myself to five recommendations for books, so this might be hard.

1. Down the Rabbit Hole: an Echo Falls Mystery by Peter Abrahams. The Echo Falls book are awesome. I loved every last sentence in each book. They’re extremely well put-together, and the MC, Ingrid, is just about the smartest MC I’ve ever encountered.

2. How Not to Write a Novel : 200 classic mistakes and how to avoid them-a misstep-by-misstep guide. This book is hilarious. Read it ASAP.

3. The Name of this Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch. I loved this book and all its sequels to absolute bits. It’s a juvie book, a bestseller, the author is hilarious, and it follows a very quirky style of writing.

4. Revision and Self-Editing by James Scott Bell. I’ve mentioned this book before. I’m still in the process of reading it, but already it’s been super-helpful in my rewriting of Summer Rush. I can’t wait to get the rest of the books in the series.

5. 30 Steps to Becoming a Writer and Getting Published : the complete starter kit for aspiring writers by Scott Edelstein. I read this book long, long, long ago, but I still get inspired and find new things to work on when I read it even now.

YOURSELF

You know that old writer’s adage, “write what you know”? I kind of hate it. I might have heard it or read it or thought it every day during the first year I started taking writing seriously, and it haunts my dreams.

That said, it’s so true. In the beginning, I just didn’t realize it. I know lots of things, but my knowledge centers around just a few: horses, gymnastics, and siblings. I really couldn’t see how any of that could be interesting in a novel.

I became determined to write whatever I wanted, whether I knew what I was doing or not (this ended up with me writing a lot of fantasy, where I could make everything up). But the more I rebelled, the more I realized I was already writing “what I know.”

Sibling rivalry? Check. Competitive sports? Check. Figuring out life as a teenager? Check. People watching way too many action movies than is good for them? Double check for that one!

The things you know sneak into your writing sometimes, and that’s great, because it can add that ring of authenticity that readers are looking for.

Now that I’ve accepted this fact with open arms, I find myself using random thoughts, everyday occurrences, and even dreams that I’ve had in my writing – with a few tweaks here and there, of course.

There are tens of thousands of books, blogs, and people out there willing to help you out. And while all of that is awesome and completely appreciated, there’s really only one person who can make you become the writer that you want to be: You.

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