Today we have a fabulous guest post by author and blogger Caroline Starr Rose. Caroline’s blog was one of the very first I discovered when I first started my journey in the blogsphere and she’s been a great inspiration to me ever since. I first discovered her blog when she did a Verse Novel Challenge (read at least 5 Verse Novels in 2010) and being a fan of novels in verse, I couldn’t resist. Since then, I’ve followed her journey to publishing her novel, May B. and am so thrilled that it will be coming out in just a few short days! In the meantime, here’s Caroline with some awesome advice on making the most of your writing in the new year.
I have nothing to share about writing that is earth-shattering. What you’ll read here you probably already know. But as it works with all important aspects in our lives, it doesn’t hurt to hear certain bits of wisdom more than once. Here goes:
Often writers are told to be well-versed in their genre. This is excellent advice, but reading shouldn’t end there. Picking up books in genres other than your own brings freshness to your writing and strengthens what you ultimately create. This nourishes you as a reader, too.
None of us ever arrives. Our writing will improve if we continue to read craft blogs and books and take advantage of classes, critique groups, or conferences. Here are a few books I’ve read recently, am working on now, or plan to pick up this next year:
- The Art and Craft of Writing Historical Fiction by James Alexander Thom
- Second Sight: An Editor’s Talks on Writing, Revising, and Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults by Cheryl Klein
- Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Mass
- Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them by Francine Prose
Take time away from writing
Make sure you are doing things outside of writing. Now that I write full-time, it’s very easy to stay detached from the rest of the world. Make an effort to engage your surroundings, whether that means tuning in to nature as you walk the dog or making a point to get involved in a new activity. I signed up with a tutoring program this year, and every week I participate, I’m again astounded at the way children work, the change that simply believing in a child can bring, and the fresh insight I get into humanity at large.
Play with words
I find first drafts terrifying. One way I ease in is to tell myself I’m simply experimenting with language. Give yourself permission to approach writing playfully, whether you’re working on a “real” piece or simply collecting words that pique your interest. Enjoy the rhythm of words, poke at meaning, stretch old metaphors into something new. Your writing will benefit from it.
Avoid the comparison game
This is probably one of the hardest bits of advice to follow but one of the most beneficial to your writerly well being. There are so many ways to get sucked into comparing, from measuring the number of blog followers you have against a friend’s to tracking the amount of time it took others to secure agents. It’s easy to think once you’ve “arrived” with a book deal, these worries fall away, but they don’t: there will be friends with bigger deals, with more push from their publishers, or better reviews and general buzz. Envy finds us at every level.
Choose to see your writing journey as yours alone. It’s not something anyone can do for you; there’s no way your experience will mirror another’s. Just like we all have something unique to contribute to the literary world, we all will go through different struggles and triumphs.
The only thing you will get out of the comparison game is disappointment.
And to negate everything I’ve said above…give yourself permission
In a world where instant information is available at all times and opinions are everywhere, you’re bound to come across conflicting advice on how to draft, edit, revise, submit — do anything in relation to writing. For some of us, this becomes paralyzing. Even if your style works for you, you might worry that you’re not doing things right.
Give yourself permission to approach writing in a way that works for you, whether that means writing daily or just on the weekends, editing as you go or waiting until your first draft is done. Though some advice seems to dictate otherwise, there’s no right way to write. Give yourself permission to alter the way you write if what you’re doing now isn’t working. Your patterns, needs, and abilities could change from manuscript to manuscript. Or they might not. And that’s okay.
Want to write to the market? Go for it. Want to try a story that can’t be categorized? Give it a try. You have permission to do as you wish with your writing. While there is no promise of success with this approach, there’s tremendous liberation in letting go of the “rules” we’ve absorbed consciously and subconsciously.
You’ve got a new year ahead of you. How will this affect your writing?
Caroline Starr Rose spent her childhood in the deserts of Saudi Arabia and New Mexico, camping at the Red Sea in one and eating red chile in the other. As a girl she danced ballet, raced through books, composed poetry on an ancient typewriter, and put on magic shows in a homemade cape. She’s taught both social studies and English in New Mexico, Florida, Virginia, and Louisiana. In her classroom she worked to instill in her students a passion for books, the freedom to experiment with words, and a curiosity about the past.