Things I wish I'd been told when I started

The writing process, writing advice, and updates on your work in progress
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J. T. SHEA
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Re: Things I wish I'd been told when I started

Post by J. T. SHEA » September 25th, 2010, 11:08 pm

Louise, you know what they say. There are lies, damned lies, and then there are statistics. Whoever puts too much faith in statistics learns the price of everything but the value of nothing. We do not live statistically. We live anecdotally. Our lives are stories.

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Re: Things I wish I'd been told when I started

Post by Margo » September 25th, 2010, 11:33 pm

polymath wrote:I write in wood too...
Gorgeous, polymath. It's interesting to me how many writers have another art form they also study. I wanted to have talent for painting in oils. I'm okay with oil pastels, but my secondary talent turned out to be watercolors, which look nice but don't quite fit the moods I'd rather evoke.
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Re: Things I wish I'd been told when I started

Post by polymath » September 26th, 2010, 12:09 am

Margo wrote:
polymath wrote:I write in wood too...
Gorgeous, polymath. It's interesting to me how many writers have another art form they also study. I wanted to have talent for painting in oils. I'm okay with oil pastels, but my secondary talent turned out to be watercolors, which look nice but don't quite fit the moods I'd rather evoke.
Thanks, Margo.

I dabble in oils and pastels. My favorite is oil marbling, which I'm pretty good at but it doesn't pay what it costs. Watercolors I'm fair at, and gouache. I like strong contrasting colors, like wilderness beach scenes with purple waves of sea oats and seafoam green frothing surf and vanilla cream sand dunes and chiaroscuro cerulean, white, and gray skys. I also dabble in pottery, dig wild, feral clay out of the bank and tame it to my will. My kiln isn't large enough for the wares I want to make. The clay fires terra cotta at earthenware temperatures and brick red to buff mottling at stoneware temperatures.

Studying creative writing in college had advanced art coursework requirements. Drawing, design, and basic painting course prerequisites were required to get into the pottery classes. I started in pottery about the time I got my first rejection letter. Every one of my artistic passions started as hobbies. No one told me how much effort and dedication it would take to get past mediocre. I guess that's just something life has to teach.
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Re: Things I wish I'd been told when I started

Post by Sommer Leigh » September 26th, 2010, 4:17 pm

Margo wrote:
polymath wrote:I write in wood too...
Gorgeous, polymath. It's interesting to me how many writers have another art form they also study. I wanted to have talent for painting in oils. I'm okay with oil pastels, but my secondary talent turned out to be watercolors, which look nice but don't quite fit the moods I'd rather evoke.
I work in papercraft, digital graphics, watercolor, and acrylics. It is interesting how many writers express themselves with more than just words.

Writing advice I wish I'd been told early on:

1. If you want to be a writer, you must write. I spent way too much time in my early 20s congratulating myself on being artistic and writerly but I didn't write anything! Well, except a bunch of 800 word articles for newspapers and magazines so I could get paid 10 measly dollars when I was a particularly poor, starving college student. It kills me how much time I wasted not writing.

2. Read outside your genre/audience. Chances are you probably know a ton about your area of interest, but other genres and audiences have stuff to teach too. Fiction, adult, YA, middle grade, children's, poetry, non-fiction, history, historical, horror, sci-fi, romance, pop-up books, comics, etc. Read everything and absorb the very best each of them has to offer.

3. Explore the world around you. Get out of the office and away from the laptop and take day trips to cities nearby, dig up tourist brochures for your city/state/area, take lots of pictures, a travel watercolor book and paints, a notebook, whatever. Talk to strangers. Take a class in origami, book binding, pottery, painting, metalwork, beginner construction, gardening, sign language, spanish. Take a weekend road trip in any direction where you have to drive away at least 4 hours. Stop at weird stores along the way. Check out famous locations, birth places of famous people, The Worlds Largest Ball of Yarn/Rubber bands/Butter/Cheese/Paperclips. Rediscover your town/city in a whole new way. Absorb everything.

4. DO NOT THINK ABOUT HOW MANY PEOPLE DO NOT GET PUBLISHED. Toss the statistics out the window, settle in with a nice latte, and write the book you want to read. Stop obsessing about your chances. For real. Before you need therapy. You'll never have to worry about becoming part those statistics if you haven't finished your book or submitted it to anyone.

5. Become active in the writing world, even if you're not published. Get involved in book events, volunteer with library groups, be a cheerleader on blogs/facebook/twitter for authors and books you love. Send nice notes to the authors you love letting them know you love them. Support authors when they come to town to do a signing. This isn't about pimping yourself out! It's about strengthening the community of readers and writers and supporting each other in a way we hope to one day be supported. Writing may be a solitary activity, but writing is just one thread of a bigger community. (I think Nathan's forums exemplifies this.)

6. ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS BE NICE.
May the word counts be ever in your favor. http://www.sommerleigh.com
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Re: Things I wish I'd been told when I started

Post by Holly » September 26th, 2010, 4:57 pm

polymath wrote:
Margo wrote:
polymath wrote:I write in wood too...
Gorgeous, polymath. It's interesting to me how many writers have another art form they also study. I wanted to have talent for painting in oils. I'm okay with oil pastels, but my secondary talent turned out to be watercolors, which look nice but don't quite fit the moods I'd rather evoke.
Thanks, Margo.

I dabble in oils and pastels. My favorite is oil marbling, which I'm pretty good at but it doesn't pay what it costs. Watercolors I'm fair at, and gouache. I like strong contrasting colors, like wilderness beach scenes with purple waves of sea oats and seafoam green frothing surf and vanilla cream sand dunes and chiaroscuro cerulean, white, and gray skys. I also dabble in pottery, dig wild, feral clay out of the bank and tame it to my will. My kiln isn't large enough for the wares I want to make. The clay fires terra cotta at earthenware temperatures and brick red to buff mottling at stoneware temperatures.

Studying creative writing in college had advanced art coursework requirements. Drawing, design, and basic painting course prerequisites were required to get into the pottery classes. I started in pottery about the time I got my first rejection letter. Every one of my artistic passions started as hobbies. No one told me how much effort and dedication it would take to get past mediocre. I guess that's just something life has to teach.
Polymath, gorgeous descriptions. I can see and smell the beach and practically touch that pottery.

I paint in oil and watercolor, draw with ink and pastels, and wish I could learn to throw pottery on a wheel, but that novel keeps getting in the way.

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Re: Things I wish I'd been told when I started

Post by Sommer Leigh » September 26th, 2010, 5:12 pm

After I made my post I was thinking maybe we need a thread somewhere to show off some of our non-writing artistic talents? It looks like there are plenty here to show off!
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Re: Things I wish I'd been told when I started

Post by Holly » September 26th, 2010, 5:28 pm

Great list, Sommer. I especially like "If you want to be a writer, you must write." Exploring the world around you is another good one.

Things I wish I'd been told when I started? That a one-page synopsis bares the whole novel. You can instantly see if you have a meandering plot or a real story. It really is better to outline, too. And short fiction credits are not impossible at all -- there are a million small presses. Short fiction builds up your self-confidence and makes a nice break from novel hell.

I'm glad I didn't know how many rewrites I would do, though.

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Re: Things I wish I'd been told when I started

Post by Sommer Leigh » September 26th, 2010, 6:00 pm

Holly wrote:
I'm glad I didn't know how many rewrites I would do, though.
Amen to that.
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Re: Things I wish I'd been told when I started

Post by Claudie » September 26th, 2010, 6:39 pm

Well, this isn't when I started exactly, but it is something I wish I'd been told:

1-You have talent.

I'm still young, but looking back, I can't believe how many years I lost. It's not hard to get me enthusiastic about something. If, as a teenager, I had been told by anyone - a parent, a teacher, a friend - "you know, you've got great stories", I would have considered this life earlier. Three words, a prompt in the right direction, is all I needed. I wish I'd had them sooner.

The second is:

2 - Research the industry.

Why? Because you incredible people are telling me all the other things, and even though I'm years away from my first query, I learn every day thanks to blogs and forums around the internet.
"I do not think there is any thrill [...] like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success... Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything." -- Nikola Tesla

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Re: Things I wish I'd been told when I started

Post by polymath » September 26th, 2010, 6:54 pm

Holly wrote: Polymath, gorgeous descriptions. I can see and smell the beach and practically touch that pottery.

I paint in oil and watercolor, draw with ink and pastels, and wish I could learn to throw pottery on a wheel, but that novel keeps getting in the way.
Thanks, Holly. I love the wilderness beaches hereabouts. I rigorously stay away from the resort beaches. And I love throwing pottery but my hands can't take it for long. Lathe working either. I don't own a pottery wheel, though I could make one if I wanted to. I like working in slab and pressed pots and slip casting from homemade molds. The local community college has a continuing education pottery class they permit students to take up to eight times, which provides access to wheels and kilns and such, once per class a raku firing session. Clay and such are available at a nearby art store.
Sommer Leigh wrote:After I made my post I was thinking maybe we need a thread somewhere to show off some of our non-writing artistic talents? It looks like there are plenty here to show off!
I magnanimously second the motion. A forum for picture posting would be nice, pictures of artwork, pictures art themselves, cover illustrations for response commentary too. If the servers can handle large and numerous file size loads.
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Re: Things I wish I'd been told when I started

Post by Ermo » September 27th, 2010, 3:35 pm

Hey Claudie -

In response to your number 1, I never pass on an opportunity to let another writer know that I like their work. We all know how hard it can be to create something and if you read something that connects, I think it's our responsibility in the community to let each other know.

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Re: Things I wish I'd been told when I started

Post by Louise Curtis » September 27th, 2010, 6:48 pm

Oh, and I forgot!

#9: There is a disproportionate number of mentally ill in the creative community. (Whether the crazy causes the writing or the writing the crazy is yet to be firmly determined.)

9b is: meet other writers. We make asylums fun.
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Re: Things I wish I'd been told when I started

Post by Margo » September 27th, 2010, 10:14 pm

Louise Curtis wrote:#9: There is a disproportionate number of mentally ill in the creative community. (Whether the crazy causes the writing or the writing the crazy is yet to be firmly determined.)
Oh boy. I hate to agree with that, but personal experience has been proof positive for me. More seriously, Kay Jamison Redfield did a wonderful book called Touched By Fire that looked at the connection between creativity and disorders on what was once called the manic-depressive spectrum. These are apparently most common among poets and least common among architects, with writers falling somewhere in-between (can't recall where).

I know a few more categories of 'disproportionate' that writers fall into, courtesy of a tipsy conversation with some industry pros, but I don't want to offend anyone (that I already haven't).
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Re: Things I wish I'd been told when I started

Post by unprintableme » September 27th, 2010, 11:12 pm

Sorry that this is off-subject but I really feel the need to compliment Polymath on the bowl. It is beautiful and must have been a geometric nightmare to block out. But with the name of Polymath, maybe not. ;)

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Re: Things I wish I'd been told when I started

Post by Quill » September 27th, 2010, 11:56 pm

How about things I'm glad I wasn't told when I started, like how darned hard it is to get good, like how much one needs to give up in order to make the time, and like how much about the publishing business in general it's best to learn, to help one be able to participate in it intelligently.

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