Hi, it’s me. Your average writer.
You might have heard of me from my past works such as… who are we kidding? You have never heard of me. I’m a nobody. But I’m a nobody with some experience.
Last time, I posted a blog about 4 Same Stupid Questions I See All the Time On Writing Forums. Click HERE to fulfill my shameless plug.
This time, I thought I’d do something a bit more helpful and thoughtful.
I’m going to buy your ebooks.
Just kidding. I’m still poor. And with the money I have I’d rather buy a McDouble and a McChicken at McDonald’s with the awesome Mc2Pick for $2.50! What a deal! And make sure to check out their limited-time holiday drinks!
You already know what this is about. You’ve read the title. Get to the point you’re saying. Maybe you’ve already scrolled down.
This is for all of you out there wondering what exactly some of those answers you’ve received meant. Because the random stranger who gave you the answer left you cold and hanging without an explanation. Like my dad on Christmas.
“Show, Don’t Tell”
Let’s get the big one out of the way.
I’m literally massaging my nose bridge with one hand and typing this with my other two hands as I’m trying to explain this one.
Not because it’s particularly difficult to answer, but because it’s so basic.
But not because it’s just so basic, but because it’s so basic and it’s a mistake that I make often and I know for a fact that many other writers who should be above these kinds of things make this mistake as well.
So let’s try to understand WHY this happens.
I have a simple theory: We are describing what we are seeing in our brilliant, gifted minds and forgetting that our jobs as writers are to help the readers experience what we’re seeing and not have them simply understand what we’re seeing. We’re not supposed to be the tour guides but be VR goggles. They want to be inside of our story—not be outside of it.
Showing is taking notes.
Telling is creating worlds.
There are times when you want to “tell” over “show” but this is one of those things where you have to master the rules before you learn to bend them.
And here’s an example just in case:
Jimmy was mad at Moe.
Jimmy’s unibrow furrowed into a rugged U, his hand trembled with fury, and his heart filled with the burning desire to bitchslap Moe.
You want to be a swimmer? Go practice swimming every day.
You want to be a stripper? Go practice stripping every day.
You want to be a writer? Go practice stripping every day.
Well. Why not. Cardio’s important. But you should also practice writing every day.
This somewhat calloused sounding advice exists because most people only talk about writing and never actually write.
They think they can be writers by just spewing their thesis about the craft of ink and paper as they lasciviously rub themselves for their own creativity and avant-garde ideas.
Something about hic Rhodus, hic salta.
Your ideas aren’t worth donkey’s spit on a chicken’s ass if you never actually create something with it. And unless you’re some sort of a Hemingway’s spirit reborn, you’re probably not as good as you think you are.
So how do you “just write”? I personally say do away with the whole “have a word count for the day” thing. You know, when people say things like “just write 1000 words a day”?
Look, fellow grasshoppers, if you’re a professional writer then you know when your due date is so daily word count either makes more sense or not at all since you just have to get’er done by that date.
You know how you work. You can set your own pace.
If you’re a hobbyist it makes less sense because the rigidness and the arbitrary number just turns your hobby into a chore.
But sure. If it works for you—good. Nothing wrong with that.
If it doesn’t—don’t worry about it. And let me recommend, instead, setting up a timed session.
Maybe one hour a day. One hour every other day.
Make it your schedule, like everything else you do in life, and just use that time to write one word or ten thousand words. Or even no words. Just do something writing related. Even if that’s reading for research, doing brainstorms, and whatever. Maybe it’ll be for an hour. Maybe it’s two hours. Just set a time.
This will give you some freedom and some ease with your writing pursuit. And if you have an end goal in mind that’s where you can set a long-term deadline for yourself.
Oh, and, if you’re not letting other people read your work—you’ll never get better. Practice makes permanent and not perfect.
Writing without outside criticism will only make your lack of talent permanent.
“Write for Yourself / Don’t Follow the Trend”
So, this one’s a bit FUBAR.
To unravel this, I’ll just first explain where it’s coming from and then kind of go on about why it’s FUBAR. And just a head’s up: this one’s going to be a bit serious.
Like stool samples. Poops are fun and games but sometimes you have to use serious, medical terms like “stool” and “samples”.
When there’s a fad, it’ll start a trend.
Star Wars sparked the sci-fi boom.
Lord of the Rings & Game of Thrones sparked the fantasy boom.
Twilight sparked the wtf-happened-to-vampires boom.
Hunger Games started the dystopian boom.
The whole idea of “write what you’d want to read / don’t follow a trend” is that the chances of you actually catching the trend and having your passions align with the trend… are low.
Why is the chance of catching a trend low?
Because writing is a long process and publishing can be even longer. It usually takes years for someone to finish a book and see it in stores. You really think the trend will last that long? And what about passion? Do you think you can write a work you’re proud of without a passion for it? Even if you’ve missed the trend? Can I add any more questions to this paragraph? Well? Can I?
Writing what you’re proud of—something that you can call your own—can mean more at the end of the day than writing something that you thought was going to sell.
But remember when I said this topic is a bit tricky? With the technologies and how the book market is today… you can basically ignore everything I said up there and maybe you should.
You know why trends start? Because they sell.
People tend to want more cake after they had a slice.
Twilight spawned True Blood, Vampire Diaries, and a bunch of other vampire shows, books, and ebooks in a variety of genres.
Erotica was a popular genre to write for on Kindle for a while because they sold like… well… sex.
Publishers will always welcome any book that’ll sell. That’s their jobs. Publish things to sell. And if the genre’s hot right now, they’ll be looking for more of that genre and might even put you through the fast lane.
For indie writers, catching trends is easier now more than ever because you can instantly check what’s selling well. Check the Top 100 on Amazon. There you go.
Passion? Damn, son. Passions tend to suck at paying for stuff. And I like stuff.
Besides, if you’re a professional writer shouldn’t you have a grasp of how to write just about anything?
Timing? You click “publish” and you’re done.
You want to put more work into it? It won’t be too hard for you to chug out a 40-50k novel that follows a formula for a standard successful storytelling in a month. Remember, NaNoWriMo thinks just about everyone can chug out 50k in a month. You’re a professional, veteran writer. If this is your full-time job, you can do it in 2-3 weeks. During the time you’re writing you can hire an editor and an artist and ding-ding-ding you have a Hot Pockets book.
Besides, talking about passion, do you think there’s a lot of market appeal to a book that’s so personally you?
Sometimes a book is too much you and sometimes that’s not a good thing. That’s when a writer is just doing a self-pleasing (there, friends, I didn’t use the word “masturbatory”) project and hoping that people might like it.
Hell, that writer might not even be thinking of readers. If your protagonist is a half-orc, quarter-dragon, quarter-boar stripper named Borga Do’Kora (stage name being Danger Dick) who’s day job is a tax accountant, maybe you really did not give a chicken’s ass on a donkey’s spit about the readers.
And that’s fine. Writing, in its best form, should be reflective and a fragment of your being. Even if that’s a half-orc, quarter-dragon, quarter-boar stripper who’s favorite food happens to be pickled eggplants.
But if we’re talking about making money, the whole story changes.
Wow, the last one was so damn long. I’ll keep this short. You know how you improve your mile run right? You keep running.
But as you keep running, you’ll run into some hurdles along the way. Maybe your ankles will start to hurt, maybe you’ll run into better runners, and maybe some literal hurdles. It’s called gaining experience.
And sometimes, it’ll hurt. They might say you have ugly shoes, ugly face, and that you look downright silly running.
But someone wise once told me… Just kidding. I read this on Tumblr.
“Writer’s who are afraid of rejection are like boxers who are afraid of getting punched. You’re in the wrong line of work.”
In every aspect of our lives, we should welcome valid criticisms. In writing, we have to take-and-thank any sort of feedback we can get and sort it through ourselves like beggars on the street corners Aurora ave in Seattle.
And a lot of times… the greatest of criticisms will come from our own failures. It’s okay to fail despite what my mother says. What’s not okay is to let failures just be failures. Then you’ve wasted your time.
Don’t give up. Everything’s hard and writing as a craft has been around since the beginning of written language. You don’t have to try to rewrite the rule book, the legacy, or try to be the next big thing. Just enjoy it and see where it takes you.
If someone says you suck–say thanks. What can I do to be better?
If you think you suck–well, I suck. What can I do to be better?
And I’m not saying having that attitude is easy. It’s tough. Hell, I always get salty and pissy and depressed about myself and my life. And sometimes about my writing!
But that’s the process of “Keep Writing”. You’ll get better as long as you keep challenging yourself and keep yourself honest. Make sure the cycle of depression and persistence keeps turning. There’s no fast lane here. It’s just gaining experience.
Or just give up. It’s your life. Why are you doing this if you’re not enjoying it unless you’re trying to pay bills with it?
It’s okay not to be a writer. It’s okay not to be a professional writer. I’m sure your friends and family will be happy to hear that you decided not to be an artist anymore and decided to be a Tax Accountant and go make a happy, comfortable living without having to worry about your future.
But if you’re not going to give up, keep running. As you keep running, you’ll also learn how to enjoy running better. And hopefully, y’know, you’ll keep researching into how to run better because that’s part of keep running.
Like forms and stuff.
This got too sentimental for my taste.
AND I SAID HEY-EY-EY-EY! HEY-EY-EY-EY!
I SAID HEY!
TUPAC KILLED JFK!
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