I was asked how is the best way for a new writer to learn how to write? A novel, a book, a short story, whatever.
The easy answer is this: Sit down and write. No one is expecting you to produce the literary equivalent of the Mona Lisa on your first go. And the old adage, practice makes perfect, is a very good one. Write. Write some more. Then write some more.
But if you are looking at tips and instructions on how to go about the craft, the best advice I can give you is to do this one thing:
Find everything written by your favorite author or several examples of whatever the genre that you intend to write in. Read them once for the pure pleasure of it. Then, go back and read them again, paying attention to how the author(s) paces the stories. Where they break the chapters up. How they introduce characters, describe them, how they ease in information the reader needs to know without making it a data dump. How do they develop relationships between the characters. How they describe the scene, set the mood and make you care for the imaginary people you are reading about.
You will learn more about writing there than you will anywhere else. Trust me, I’m aware of one person out there billing herself as a teacher of writing based solely on her once-position of authority over a writer’s guild. Remember your old adages here. One of them is this:
“Those who can, do. Those who cannot, teach.”
I think that covers all you need to know about this particular personage.
So here’s my advice. Save your money.
Don’t go running off to some author’s seminar or online school. That money is better spent on an editor, book covers and marketing. Join local writing groups. Find writing groups online. Facebook and MeWe are loaded with them. Find beta readers who will read and critique your writing.
If your favorite author is going to be in town for an event, attend it. Go up and talk to them. Don’t expect them to immediately drop what they are doing and read your manuscript. But ask them what advice they might have for a new author just starting his or her journey.
Most authors won’t bite your head off. Any that do aren’t worth your time anyway. Be open and receptive to any comments and suggestions, even those you do not decide to follow (and no, you don’t have to do everything everyone tells you to do. Not everything works the same for every author.)
I think you’ll soon find that the words will flow onto the page and you’ll get your stories read. There are lots of readers hungry for new voices. The trick is finding them, but first, you need to have something to feed them with.
So, put the money back in the wallet, fire up the word processor (or grab that pen and paper) and get to writing.
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Now, about the aforementioned “teacher” there’s another reason why I’d recommend against going that route. Some teachers are less about teaching the craft as opposed to indoctrination.
If you want to become a limited writer who sells to a dying breed of zealots who want to preach to and indoctrinate the unwashed heathens, then by all means, go be with your people.
Just one thing, you’ll likely end up sounding much like this person. She had just received the John W. Campbell Award, given out to the “Best” New Writer (I put Best in quotations because that seems somewhat questionable at this moment).
Now, you’ve just won what some (I don’t personally as I don’t believe the award in any of its categories represents the best of science fiction and fantasy. That distinction belongs to the Dragon Awards) still consider to be a prestigious award. You weren’t expecting to win (her own claim) and, when you are announced as the winner you are so happy and honored by this recognition you walk up to the podium and deliver these words (and this is a word-for-word quote):
“John W. Campbell, for whom this award was named, was a fascist. Through his editorial control of Amazing Stories, he is responsible for setting a tone of science fiction that still haunts the genre to this day. Sterile. Male. White. Exalting in the ambitions of imperialists and colonisers, settlers and industrialists.”
If you’ve read this blog or my social media posts you know what I think of dragging real-world politics, and SJW virtue signaling, into SF/F. If this is your first introduction to my blog, let’s just say that this BS doesn’t fly here. BTW, you will notice neither the Award nor the winner of this particular category is named here? Neither deserves the recognition.
First, have a little grace and humility when being honored. Second, if the person whom the award is named after is so offensive to you, why did you allow your name to remain in the running? You could have withdrawn and maybe your virtue-signaling might have had some meaning.
But what was done here was basically having your cake and eating it too. She gets the spike in sales from the win and the nods of approval from all the *rightthinkers* in the room for striking a blow against the evil white man.
Ok, if that is your goal, go for it. You might enjoy some celebrity and some money from book sales. And the instant you are no longer useful to the inner sanctum, your ass will be out in the cold. Only, there won’t be any other readers to turn to. Because the majority of readers in nearly every genre are getting sick and tired of these shenanigans and taking their book-buying money to authors whose only goal is to create entertaining stories.
There is a sub-set of alleged authors that feel “all art is political” and that political screeds must be hammered into every book written. These people are nothing more than a cancerous growth on the entire literary world. Be sure to keep your body of work free of it.
So, if you want a lot of people to read your work, keep that in mind. Make your story as good and as entertaining as you can. Leave the unneeded silliness with the clique of people who never grew out of junior high. Find authors who do this, learn from them and then go about having an incredible writing journey.
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One last thing, the people in those hate-filled cliques? Find out who is in their circle and avoid them as well. They run websites billed as “the fanzine of “X” fandom”. You’ll notice most of them are glorified Google searches. You’ll also see the venom they spew. Like the teacher above they are incapable of doing. They can only tear down, instead of create. Stay far away from it and don’t let it poison your writing soul.
Also, if you encounter a critic who attacks you and others while hiding behind a fake screen name. Ignore them. If they lack the courage to put their real name behind their words when critiquing another author, they are not a critic. They’re just a piece of shit.
Now then, the wisen scribe has spoken and you have dutifully listened to his counsel. So what are doing still sitting here staring at the screen.
GO GET STARTED WRITING!!!!!
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Voting for the 2019 Dragon Awards are now open. Be sure and go to the website and register to vote (Larry’s up for Best Fantasy novel, what do you say we send ChinaMike a special message this year?) and cast your votes for any and/or all of the categories. It’s absolutely free and the more that participate the better:
My three full-length sci-fi novels are on sale for just $2.99 and my first two novellas of the Timeless series are just $0.99 on several e-book platforms thru the end of DragonCon. Be sure and download your copies today.
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Don’t forget to check every Saturday morning for the next chapter of my 1k Weekly Serials here on the blog. Absolutely free to read. Legacy of Death is currently running. The Invited is up next once Legacy’s 10th and final chapter drops.
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