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A collection of snippets of the books I write and, occasionally, my life and the things that inspire my writing...

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A to Z: C is for craft (writing craft).

Oftentimes, for beginner writers, the craft part of writing escapes them. They write a story without giving much thought to the skillful part of it.   The definition of craft: " a job or activity that requires special skill" From Merriam-Webster online.

A special skill--and there are several when it comes to writing. The first, likely, that comes to any writer is their sense of story. The ability to turn on the creativity switch in your brain and write the story that's brewing in your mind. That takes skill. To craft a story, but where the skill really comes in is to give it meaning to the reader, to accomplish telling it in a pleasing manner.

It sounds easy enough. But typing the last word of the first draft is only just the beginning. And oftentimes (most of the time) a beginner doesn't realize that.

When I wrote my first story (all 700+ pages of it) I was sure I'd written the next great American masterpiece. One day, while talking with my sister in law, she told me she'd been to the local library and met a woman who had recently been published. That was back in the day when self-publishing was sort of a Jetsons-like future. Anyway, the woman told my sister in law that when she wrote her book (it was her first) that she thought she'd be published in a flash because it was so good. But...it took her ten years to have a publisher accept her manuscript.

While I listened to my brother's wife regale me with this other writer's story, I was smugly confident that the poor author must not have written a good book at all-- for it to have taken ten years! And though she stated that all authors should expect to struggle to find a publisher, to have rewrite after rewrite after rewrite be part of the process, to cut chapters and characters and favorite parts, to accept criticism without getting hurt, and  to be tough enough to not give up, I knew that would not be the case for me. My book was good. It would be a breeze. My publishing story wasn't going to be anything like hers.

Little did I know... That was eight and a half years ago; I'm still unpublished. A lot of the reason for that isn't continued rejection letters. Nope. Actually the biggest part of the reason is that I've slowed down to learn the craft...to get it right.

These are some things I've learned about the writing craft along the way, and if I could visit myself 8 1/2 years ago, these are things I would tell me:

Set aside your ego. Seriously. You don't know as much as you think you do.In fact, you know a pittance of what you need to know.

Become a sponge. Absorb advice that's offered. Yes, you can take it with a grain of salt, and you'll become better at knowing which advice is sound and which isn't as you continue your writing journey. Know this--the worst that can happen is that the helpful soul giving you advice won't know what they're talking (writing) about. But advice to writers from writers, in my experience, is never given out with malice. It's offered with good intentions. You'll learn a lesson in everything if you're open to it.

Read. Read. Read. I read that advice way back in my early stages of writing, before every writer and his brother had a blog offering advice (I know...I know. We're a dime a dozen these days). It was another piece of advice that I eschewed. But you know what? It's darned good advice. The deeper you get into the craft, the more you learn by reading other authors' writing. 

Read Stephen King's "On Writing" for starters. And though The Elements of Style is antiquated, you should read it. It  still serves some genres quite well.

Read blogs on the craft. Read writing gurus' advice. If you don't know of any, look to the right on this blog and you'll see a list of "Writing Resources". It's a very small list, but there are many, many, many more excellent writers other than those listed, who dole out free advice. The first place I'd start is at Writers Helping Writers  (formerly The Bookshelf Muse) Become a regular visitor to The Grammar Girl's website.

And continue to seek out other writers. Another good place to find help, encouragement, and small doses of constructive criticism is Weekend Writing Warriors  where participants share 8 sentences of their writing each Sunday. No long term commitments. It's free.

The online writing community is full of people willing to help other writers with their craft.  Visit other April Blogging from A to Z Challenge by clicking here.

24 comments:

  1. Thank you. You comments are craft are spot on. I, personally, am working on the second year of my self-directed creative writing course. Not going to school - just decided to stop saying I was going to write and started doing it. But also doing everything around it, learning how to edit, attending cons, and *gasp* reading very good blogs about writing like yours. Even self-published something - and that was another whole learning experience - learning the craft. - Erin Penn (A-to-Z participant - erinpenn.blogspot.com)

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    1. It's all a learning process. It's humbling to continually learn things you didn't know--and to wonder just how much you still have left to learn. ;-) Thanks for visiting, Erin! Good luck with the A to Z.

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  2. Excellent advice Teresa! Thank you for sharing the knowledge you have gained over the years and good luck with your book. I know it's good. :)
    TheDoglady's Den

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    1. :-) I'm humbled, Debbie. I don't know much, but what I know, I share. I'd like to think I've saved other writers a bit of searching while trying to figure things out. :-) I know that you do the same. :-) Thanks for visiting.

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  3. So much truth! We writers really do need to put our sponges into action. There's always more to learn. :) Followed you!

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    1. Thanks, Bonnie. Yes we do! Gotcha back. :-)

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  4. This was amazing! My journey is also longer than expected but I've realized that I needed this time to practice. This post articulates things so well!

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    1. Thanks, Saumya! Glad it resonated with you. :-)

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  5. I'm right there with you. I thought all I had to do was actually finish a book and then the publishing part would be a breeze. (HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!) That's me, laughing at myself. It's been five years and five manuscripts and I'm still at it, learning the craft and hopefully getting better.
    Great post!

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    1. lolol--laughing together! Ah well, if it was that easy, I bet the gratification from finally getting it done wouldn't be near as good, huh?? Thanks for visiting, Melanie :-)

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  6. Read all your a to Z posts. Your theme is one I hope to follow. I love writing but I am just at the stage of being glad when one of my blog post is requested to be used elsewhere. I do remember the days of dreaming I would be then next great author though. Now .... I just love writing.

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    1. "Now....I just love writing." That is simply beautiful! Too many lose that along the way. That's is (I think) the single most important thing about writing. To do what we love because we love what we do... Thanks for visiting.

      I can't find your blog link. :-(

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  7. Oh my goodness, I try to tell so many people that writing is a craft and it must be studied, but I don't think they believe me. It was the first thing I told the member of the writing group I run. And when I set tasks, I try to give them something they'll learn from, rather than things that will massage their egos. If they want to write, they have to learn the technical side.

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    1. :-) ~knowing smile For the uninitiated, it probably does look easy. My poor husband has suffered my sow progression toward getting a book out there. But a book is like a fine wine. Needs a little age before it ever sees the light of day. Thanks for visiting. :-)

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  8. good advice. It took JK Rowling 12 publishers before one accepted Harry.

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    1. I need to write that on a note and hang it on the wall. :-) Thanks, Susan.

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  9. We all have to start somewhere. I wanted to write for a long time but I had no idea how or where to start. Now that there are so many online resources it's easy, but still that very first point of where to start can be the toughest.

    When I go to conferences or sign up for writing courses, it's always about craft. I learned social media on my own and I don't have a published book to promo yet, so like you said, I want to absorb all I can about craft.

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    1. I agree, Steph. Starting out is so bewildering, I think. Kudos for absorbing like a sponge :-) Thanks for visiting.

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  10. OH YES CRAFT! How brave to share your story! Great advice! http://4covert2overt.blogspot.com/

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    1. lol, I dunno about brave. :-) I kind of guessed there were a lot of us in the same boat. Thanks for visiting, MCV! :-)

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  11. Aw, two books on my shelf that are staring at me...On Writing, and Elements of Style : ) I love learning new things and figuring out how to incorporate them, and what to look for as I'm writing, so my rewrites don't have to be as much work : )

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  12. Haha! Great minds think alike, Millie. :-) I don't do well editing as I go. I'm much more a pantser. I wish I were more like you. I do work with a great editor who also crits for me and I for him. He catches most of it early. He's like you, catching it as he goes. :-)

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