Thursday, July 17, 2014

My Golden Rule for Writing

We all have rules we go by when writing. It might be to outline, or not. To write so many words a day. Or not. It might be to never use an adverb or kill those nasty little words like "just."

We all have rules we come by whether from reading books on craft, attending writers' conferences or from our critique partners.

But I have one favorite rule that I've had to come by the hard way.

I like to stick to schedules. I enjoy order in my life. I especially like goals. All of these parts of my life are good and help me to move forward. But when it comes to writing, I had to learn to not rush my work.
I wrote my first novel back in the nineties when I owned a Christian Bookstore. After reading and falling in love with so many wonderful books, I whipped off a romance novel and sent it to Barbour--back when you didn't need an agent to submit.
I received for my efforts a lovely one page rejection letter telling me my characters were flat.
They were flat because I didn't know any other way they could be. I hadn't studied any writing books, had never been to a conference, nor taken the time to get feedback from anyone. I was so confident my book was good that the publisher would beg me for it.
Today, after writing eight novels, I use a different approach before I submit. I am still orderly but there is a rigorous list my book must go through before it is queried. I edit it myself several times. I send it to my critique partners. I then make the changes and print it off. I read it out loud twice. I make more changes. I then pay a professional editor to review it. I make more changes. Then I ask for Beta readers to voice their opinions. Make more changes...until finally I am ready to query.
But before I even begin to write my next book,  I read more craft books and try to elevate my skill level. I also read everything I can on the Internet about writing. Constantly.
So are you in a rush to submit that sweet WIP you've written? Don't be. Your chances of success highly increase if you step back and ask what more can you do to ready it. Once you have taken all the reasonable steps, LET IT GO. And yes  I want to break out into THAT song but I won't. 


Lily Robinson said...

It ate my comment. ARG!

Saleslady371 said...

Great advice, Terri. Thank you for sharing and encouraging!

Carol Riggs said...

This is really crucial! and it's really hard to wait, but you're right--we have to fix and polish and revise and all that. A lot. Otherwise, we're wasting opportunities when we send our manuscripts off!

Lynda R Young said...

Great advice. I still struggle with not rushing. As they say, you can only have one first impression.

Kenda Turner said...

This is good advice, Terri. Lots of good points. One you mention that I adhere to is reading my work out loud, which I believe is crucial to "hearing" clunkers and awkward sentences. As for not rushing it, I'm glad I didn't rush to self-publishing! The comparison between those early drafts and later really tells a difference :-)

Lin Floyd said...

and then the REAL WORK BEGINS your book!

Jeanette Levellie said...

You are one wise lady! Thanks for sharing your journey with us. It's encouraging to know we are not alone.

Joyce Ackley said...

That's great advice, Terri. It doesn't pay to rush through a WIP. Leaves you open for too many errors. Like you, I am constantly trying to improve my writing. The internet offers myriad of resources for every aspect of writing. Do you have any favorite sites or "go to" resources?