Keep an open mind… change is a good thing… try everything at least once… so long as it does not compromise who you are.
Good writers can create miracles out of thin air and research. They don’t do anything but sit in their mom’s basement and play video games. It is RARE that these writers get anywhere in their career. Great writers thrive on experiences. They incorporate them into everything. You might be sitting here and thinking that you don’t need to because you write fantasy or futuristic science fiction… newsflash: so do I. I used to think that I did not need experiences to write fantasy… boy am I finding out that I was wrong. I may not be able to ride on the backs of dragons but having ridden a horse and felt the scales of a reptile sure does help… there aren’t too many blanks to fill in outside of those. On top of it human emotions are hard to write about when you’ve never experienced them. The feel of a first kiss or the last look in a loved on’s eyes as they go into that good night… I have never experienced these things… I have had family die, but I’ve never been there and I’ve always been afraid of people so non-familial relationships haven’t been a thing. (yeah I know, I’m a college student, it’s pitiful) And change… change is a good thing! It’s the stuff that experiences are made of. I will have you know that I hate change, that doesn’t mean I fight it. I told someone awhile back that I hated change. He all but told me I was in the wrong line of work as a writer. But you know what, I’m trying to break myself of that. I am trying to like change… basically I’m trying to give myself Stockholm syndrome is how he put it… I’d say that’s an apt description. so I’m going to keep repeating this… CHANGE IS A GOOD THING!!! over and over. Change leads to new paths and new paths lead to great writing. But remember this: Everyone has a moral code, a set of rules and lines that they do not cross. If something causes you to cross your line, don’t do it… if it’s illegal I certainly don’t recommend it, but if it is legal but goes against your faith or you beliefs then don’t just don’t. If you’re a pacifist don’t go out and pick a fight just so you can write a good bar brawl scene… twist so that you can work your own beliefs into it… use the experiences you already have. If it’s something like spelunking or base jumping, or rodeo riding… things that sound fun… go ahead and do it. Try new foods, travel to new places. Learn things. Do things. It’s good for you and you’ll get tons of new material to work with. but don’t let it compromise your morals… no one should ever do that.
Don’t be afraid to say you don’t like something.
There are things that I don’t enjoy… change is one of them… grits are another. My mom used to buy grits instead of oatmeal on occasion so I would try them… I never acquired the taste. I don’t enjoy the texture, or the bland taste, and I don’t find that adding anything helps either. It’s just my opinion. You may absolutely love grits, or be from the south where in some places you’re considered a heathen for not liking them. But don’t be afraid of what other people think. I was told that this was my stubborn pride talking here, but it’s not. It’s truth talking. there’s a blogger here on WordPress I follow who goes by the pseudonym Opinionated Man… he will tell you that you should never be afraid to voice your opinions. They are yours. If they offend other people… oh well. That is their problem, not yours. Every now and then I read something he’s posted and I find that I am offended. I debate the pros and cons of arguing with him… then I tell myself, no that’s his opinion. He has his and I have mine. If you don’t like something it’s OKAY!
Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind. – Dr. Seuss
Talk to people, watch them, listen to them.
People are everything. We share experiences with people. They are the basis for our characters and feelings and emotions. Sometimes we don’t get the opportunity to experience something but we can watch another person as they experience it. Observe that, take notes, 3rd person limited narration is pretty popular. Listen to what others have to say. Even if it is not what you want to hear. If nothing else you will be able to argue something in your writing. Just do yourself a favor and make sure you have the whole story, avoid looking like an idiot. People are everything. Character driven stories are the best stories and real life people will give you the bases from which to build those characters.
Write everything… even what you don’t enjoy.
It doesn’t matter what it is, an experience, a memory, a genre… write everything. You’ll notice there is an awful lot of poetry on this blog compared to short stories. That’s because I write poetry. Yet frankly. I dislike the craft. There was a time when I did write a lot of poetry. I enjoyed it, it was a stress relief that did not take a lot of time to complete. Then I discovered fiction and log narratives… this is now my favorite thing in the world to do. There are other genres I don’t like… creative non-fiction being one… yet that is exactly what these articles I write are. Write in ways you do not enjoy because it will make you stronger. Write down the memories and experiences that you do not enjoy because A) no one will see them unless you want them to, and B) it generates ideas and fuels more writing about things that you do enjoy. These things will only make you stronger as a writer and as a person.
Don’t react in extremes.
Trust me… just don’t. In a minute I’m going to talk about something similar but do me a favor if someone tells you that they don’t like something you wrote don’t start bashing them or threatening their well-being. (I had someone do this to me because we had a disagreement about religion… I lost any respect I had possessed for him so quickly it’d give a snake whiplash.) It always comes back to bite you in the arse. Believe me. If you say something here and now you better mean it. Don’t ever say or do something you can’t back up… eventually you’ll be forced to put your money where your mouth is and when you can’t the hyenas will be all over you.
Show Don’t Tell.
You’ve probably heard this a thousand and one times before… well you’re hearing it again, this time from me. Actions speak louder than words. Have your characters do something rather than speak. Dialogue tags are great, but action is better. Instead of saying that someone looked scared paint a picture, tell us what makes them look scared to you and/or the narrator. Show the reader, don’t tell them. It’s much more effective if you lead the cops to the murder scene and show them what’s going on than if you say: “Yeah there’s a dead body and a lot of blood.”
Be your ideal character… live the lives you write.
Writing and reading are sometimes described as living the lives you always wanted to live. The people who have realized this are absolutely accurate. But the fact that they don’t act on it… makes me question their sanity. If you often write characters who think before everything they say, stay calm no matter what is going on, and aren’t afraid to stand up for themselves and the people they care about… be that person. Don’t let anything get in the way of living the life you want to live. However, remember that under no circumstances should you ever compromise yourself and/or your moral code, and breaking the law is not a condoned action… but still live your dreams and live your worlds… (not to mention if you do make it big fans always find it intriguing when the author is similar to their favorite character. 🙂 )
Don’t lie to your readers… yes, the first article I ever posted on this blog was all about how authors are liars. We write about things that are not real and make you believe that they are, if only for a little while. but this is what differentiates an author from a true liar. We are honest in our lies. If you are going to say something or write about it, be sure that you can back it up. Don’t give your readers falsehoods. Spin them worlds that don’t exist sure enough, but make them real. Make the truth… when I was kid I used to tell lies… a lot. All the kids in my class were interesting, they went on vacations, did interesting things so I used to lie about what I did on my weekends and breaks when really all I did was sit at home and read day and night. Sometimes I would tell them about events that happened to characters in my books, as though they had really happened to me. For me fiction and reality became blurred… I don’t think that there were a whole lot of people who knew what I really did… that or I’m giving my skills at deception way too much credit… I never talked about it. I wanted to be accepted… I wasn’t, not really. Don’t do things like that. In writing and in life. Who you are is who you are. Don’t be ashamed of that. Don’t lie to make your work sound better. People appreciate honesty believe it or not. It may hurt, but they believe it. Sure, go ahead and say that you write things that aren’t real so you can’t really tell the truth. Right there, that’s a lie. There are basic human truths that apply everywhere. Don’t expect that you can do whatever you want. Because really you can’t. It’s the hard truth. People behave in a certain way, they do things in a certain way… it’s in their nature. Don’t lie about it. Then again… remember that beauty isn’t the only thing in the eye of the beholder… truth is right there holding her hand.
Smile, Laugh, Enjoy Life
No matter what happens, enjoy it. You only get one life. As writers we get to live so many different lives. Enjoy them while you have them. Smile, be happy. It will improve your quality of life… science has even done some research into that… and if your life is improved your writing will follow. Laugh, even at the sad things and the bad things… laugh and you’ll get a different perspective… a new way to look at things. It’s therapeutic, and on top of it by laughing at things that you don’t like or that terrify you you’ll overcome them… and that’s what most people want in a good story… they want triumph… so have some for real and you’ll make it look better than real when you write it.
Forgive but NEVER Forget… as a writer and as a person.
As a Christian, that’s not what I’m taught… I’m taught to forgive and forget… but I can’t. I’m not a blind idiot. Forgive people for the things they have done… but don’t forget it. A) It’s good material, and B) a good writer never forgets. As writer’s we are one of not too many professions that can go back and mend fences and fix mistakes. Don’t forget where you left them or where others left them. It’s a unique opportunity. Never forget anything. You’ll regret it when you write or say one thing and then do another. People look for that. They’ll jump on you. On top of it, don’t forget the people who don’t like your work or give you a bad review. They can come in handy later, especially if they change their tune later on down the road.
Don’t give up.
No matter what. People will tell you that you don’t belong. They will tell you that your work is nothing, that it means nothing. Don’t listen to them. There will be times when you read your own work and you hate it, you will believe that it is pointless to continue trying. You’ll want to give up. But giving up is just another way to say you are admitting defeat. Don’t do it. Show them that you belong. Be the writer that you want to be.
Every day. Write something, anything, everything. If you stop, one day you’ll realize you can’t do it anymore, at least not to the degree you once did and you will never forgive yourself. Don’t ever stop writing.