WRITING IN THE NEW YEAR
It’s a bright and shiny new year! That means you may have put, “start that novel” or “write four hours a day” or something else intended to light a fire under your muse in 2019. Now that you’ve set your intention to focus more time on your writing, you might like a few bits of inspiration and guidance from two of the world’s most successful authors: Stephen King and J.K. Rowling. Although their published genres are quite different, their advice will ring true for any writer wishing to go pro or boost your writing career in the next 12 months. Here goes:
“Be ruthless about protecting writing days, i.e., do not cave in to endless requests to have “essential” and “long overdue” meetings on those days.” J.K. Rowling
These are wise words indeed. It extends to doing the errands or loading the dishwasher BEFORE sitting down to do your daily word count or clock your writing hours for the day. Chores are for break time.
“I believe in hard work and luck, and that the first often leads to the second.” J.K. Rowling
It’s tempting to believe that all a writer needs for publication is a lucky break of some sort, but the bedrock foundation of being lucky is always to be prepared with good work. No matter how much native talent you may possess, all good writing pieces are the result of a lot of hard work.
“In a novel you have to resist the urge to tell everything.” J.K. Rowling
In my opinion, this relates to all writing forms, not just novels. Even if the picture book, we as authors are asking to engage the reader’s imagination as a co-collaborator. An engaged reader always brings his or her life experience to a piece of fiction and interprets the story in a way that makes it unique.
“There’s no formula.” J.K. Rowling
For every genre and form, fiction or nonfiction, there are rules we must follow. But to make a story come to life for a reader, a spark of original invention has to be added by the author. Formulaic writing is stale, dull and unlikely to become published.
“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” Stephen King
Unnecessary modifiers, like adverbs and adjectives, dilute the power of your writing. Use active verbs and precise nouns. Paint lively images with ‘just the right word in just the right spot.’
“Fiction is the truth inside the lie.” Stephen King
An entire book could be written on this topic. Fiction exists to make sense of life. We tell a fictional story in order to illuminate a universal truth.
“If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.” Stephen King
This is a sadly-neglected practice with young writers today. Read deeply within your chosen genre. Read widely through the ages. Writing of genuine quality endures. You cannot pull the best writing from yourself if you don’t understand what skillful writing looks like.
Wishing you all ‘happy writing’ in the coming year!