Advice to Writers (from the Bundle)

21 Jan

A great bundle of science fiction books is currently being offered at https://storybundle.com/scifi, consisting of six titles from Bundoran Press and six by some great writers who have befriended the press over the years. We’ve done some interviews with the writers and one of the questions many of them chose to answer was about advice to aspiring writers. Here it is all in one place.

If you could give some advice to budding writers, what would it be?

Seek therapy. If you’re not convinced there’s better ways to create than writing, then seek fellow writers to support and be supportive of. Oh yeah, and write with the goals of finishing what you write, finding your voice and learning from each effort. (Al Onia)

First of all, read. Read widely. Read fiction and non-fiction. Think about what you read—both its content but, more importantly, how it gets what it does done. Write regularly, not necessarily everyday, but several times a week at least. Learn to trust your instincts while being open to good (but not all advice.

And, when the time is right, get an editor. (Hayden Trenholm)

Read a lot, write a lot, and still have a life.

Bonus advice: I have strong reservations about “Write what you know”, but even so, work hard to know a lot of cool things. You need both breadth and depth. When a writer’s knowledge is narrow and shallow, it shows. (James Alan Gardner)

First, read. You cannot write in this genre without reading in this genre (the same is true of any genre, of course). Read the classics, read the newest and hottest bestsellers, read the obscure and forgotten. Find what resonates with you and try to figure out why. Writing a story is a process of encountering and solving problems: establishing character, providing backstory, creating believable dialogue, crafting immersive settings, etc. Seeing how other writers have overcome (or failed to overcome) those problems will help you tackle them yourself.

At the same time, write, write, write. Writing skill is like any other skill—piano playing, figure skating, painting. Practice doesn’t make perfect (because no piece of writing is ever perfect, or at least, there is no piece of writing that is universally accepted to be perfect), but it does make better.

And finally, don’t give up. As many others have pointed out, quite often the biggest difference between those who failed at becoming a writer and those who succeeded is simply that those who succeeded never gave up, no matter how difficult the road. (Edward Willett)

Finish your first draft. Don’t keep rewriting the first three chapters trying to make them perfect. Writing a first draft is like hitting the beach on D-Day. You don’t stop to mourn the dead or help the wounded. You get off the beach, because if you don’t get off the beach, you’ll die there.

Also, story comes out of character. If you rewrite Rumpelstiltskin from the point of view of the eponymous character, it becomes a much different story, even though the plot remains the same. When I write, I become the characters I’m writing about. Which leads me to say to emerging writers: you think it’s your story because you’re writing it, but it’s really the characters’ story and you’re just writing it for them. So don’t try to make your characters do things they wouldn’t do. Give them some agency, as the creative writing profs say. (Matthew Hughes)

Learn from every experience and use what you learn to keep upping your game. (Jennifer Rahn)

Be wary of advice. Especially be wary of writers who tell you there is one way to do things. If you read or watch a lot of interviews with writers you quickly realize that they work in very different ways, and succeed in very different ways. So, you can reject out of hand any advice that begins with, “You must always …”

Do what works for you, and never mind what works for someone else. That being said, be wary of indulging your anxieties and telling yourself that a routine that involves very little actual writing is “what works for me”. If you’re not writing, your approach doesn’t actually work for you.

Similarly, you must be discerning with the feedback you get when you share your writing. You will get good, insightful, useful feedback, telling you things you’d never figure out on your own. And you will get wrong-headed, destructive, terrible feedback that you must ignore. And no one can tell you which is which. Figuring out which voices to listen to and which voices to ignore may be one of your biggest challenges as a writer. (Brent Nichols)

Read. Read everything. Read for pleasure. Read for research. Read for inspiration. Read to learn your craft. (Tanya Huff)

Keep at it. (That’s actually advice to myself, but if anyone else wants it they’re welcome to it!) (Matthew Johnson)

To learn more about this great bundle of books, visit https://storybundle.com/scifi.

To connect with Bundoran Press, visit our web-site, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @BundoranPress

 

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