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Advice for a new [fill in the blank]

In a list of interview questions for someone's blog recently, I was asked, "What advice would you give a new writer?"
My answer, should you be wondering:

Aside from changing the font every so often while the work is in progress (it gives you a fresher eye on the whole story), I'd also implore you to take revisions very seriously. Your first draft is light-years away from being ready for publication. You have to put it away and not look at it for at least a month. Then you have to look at it again and fix the problems you see. Then you have to seek honest feedback from other writers (really good writers, ideally) and LISTEN to that feedback. Don't dismiss the remarks you don't want to hear. Stop and consider all suggestions. Even if the criticism stings at first, it will probably give you awesome ideas for new scenes and character details, and your manuscript will be ten times better for it.


So now I'm wondering: what advice would you give to a newbie in whatever your field of work is? Further advice for new writers is always welcome, too. Despite having worked at this for nearly two decades, I still consider myself somewhat new.



( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 4th, 2010 11:01 pm (UTC)
Once you, and your beta-readers (these are the folks Lemon-Lye mentioned who will give you a considered and honest opinion, IOW, *not* your mother) have completed all of the above, you must submit your stories. One of the best pieces of writing advice I ever ran across was, "Editors do not buy 100% of the stories that are sitting in your desk drawer." In modern parlance, change that to "hard drive" or "flash drive."

In terms of submitting, do your homework. Which is most important? Pay? Prestige? Exposure? A combination of any or all of the previous? Start with the market that most matches your goals, and then work your way down. Don't quit because a story was rejected once, or three times, or seven. My record for a story that actually sold was 21 rejections.

Also, Money. Flows. In. One. Direction. Do NOT pay anyone to publish your work. *They* pay *you*. You are the one with a product that they (the editors) need to stay in business.

Think of it this way. It would be like a dairy (Sorry, Upstate New Yorker, there are three cheese factories within spitting distance of where I'm sitting.) It would be like a dairy saying to the farmer, "Okay, we'll make cheese out of your milk. You pay us thiiiiiisssss muuuuuucchhhhhh... and then we'll make the cheese, and we'll sell the cheese, and if you can get some of your friends to buy the cheese, we *might* give you 5% of the profits...
May. 5th, 2010 08:45 pm (UTC)
Great advice--I'm in total agreement!

I haven't submitted much lately (because the manuscripts aren't ready), and it's making me antsy. Must get them ready!

When you advise against paying anyone, I assume you primarily mean the agents and editors charging a reading fee. Always a bad sign. Or do you include self-publishing? I admit I've shied away from that, despite occasionally being tempted, because of the stigma I keep hearing about. Also, I'm not interested in doing all my own marketing. Self-pub is just so seldom a success--though the only stories people hear are the one-in-a-million successes.
May. 5th, 2010 09:30 pm (UTC)
Yes. Must get subbing!

Both reading fees and self- and/or vanity publishing, actually. Any time you're spending money without some sort of contract or guarantee in your hand, it's a bad sign. And yes, every (non-writer) person you talk to will tell stories like Eragon. The truth is Eragon was a real case of self-publishing. The parents actually already ran a printing concern. And what are the chances that Mr. Very Famous Writer is going to be on vacation, pick up a copy for his bored step-son, and then use his Famous Writer influence to make you a star?

I was just thinking -- I bet if you asked people who advocate self-publishing, "Would you give the grocery store $100 with the understanding that sometime in the future, you were going to come back and collect some food?" they'd say, "That's stupid!"

Back to subbing. Good writer! Cookie...
(Deleted comment)
May. 5th, 2010 08:46 pm (UTC)
Re: Advice to the Budding Software Engineer
You are awesome. :D And I'm glad you recognize the human decency side of things. The stereotype of the rude, arrogant IT guy is unfortunately based in a lot of fact. You're a clear exception, what with your interest in actually having smooth relationships with fellow humans. :)
May. 5th, 2010 05:53 am (UTC)
(Typing w/one hand only: Long story, details later) I can't claim to be a capital-W writer, just a lowly nonfiction writer, but here are mine:

1. Don't quit your day job. You need some means of support - job or family - until the big breakthrough comes.

2. I think it was Hemingway, whose stuff doesn't do much for me, who said "to be a writer you have to do three things: you have to write today, you have to write tomorrow, and you have to write the day after tomorrow." Writing is hard, often tedious work, and you do it alone. Until you have publishers knocking down your door, no one notices if you don't do it. So it's easy to let it slide...
May. 5th, 2010 08:48 pm (UTC)
Poor shoulder! I assume it's the shoulder. Feel better soon.

And "yes indeed" to both of those bits of advice. I also agree about Hemingway not doing much for me. I recall thinking his work read like a first draft, but it's been a long time since I've tried reading him...
May. 5th, 2010 03:33 pm (UTC)
I have The Rules which are based loosely on Gibbs' Rules from NCIS.

1. Never screw over your client
2. Don't believe what you're told. Always double check.
3. Never go anywhere without a stapler. Or a pen.
4. Don't get emotionally involved.
5. When the case is closed, walk away.
6. Never, ever involve HMRC.
7. Never date a co-worker
8. Always work as a team.
9. It's better to seek forgiveness than ask permission.
10. There is no such thing as coincidence.
11. Always smile. Even when you're on the phone.
12. Every client thinks their case is the most important thing in the world and it is....to them.
13. Never let your curiosity get the better of you when it comes to medical records.
14. Never trust a medical expert.
15. Never trust the Court.
16. Never, ever trust the other side.
17. When Counsel says they've read the papers, they're lying.
18. Don't trust your client.
19. Did I mention HMRC? Really don't trust them either.
20. At the end of the day go home, enjoy your family. The work will still be there the next day.
21. Tea. And lots of it please.
May. 5th, 2010 08:48 pm (UTC)
Hee! Good ones. The majority of those would apply to any profession, pretty much. I'm off to get some tea, please!
May. 6th, 2010 02:06 pm (UTC)
Rule 22. Always make sure the air freshner is to hand. Clients do not just come bearing work, but smelling of alcohol, fags and drugs....
May. 7th, 2010 10:03 am (UTC)
Advice for new subject librarians:
1. Find the person who has been there the longest and follow them around for at least a week, by which point you should know where most things are.

2. Learning Dewey at uni is all very well. Now GO OUT INTO THE SHELVES and learn what's in your collection and where it is. You learn far more about Dewey by looking at the shelves than by going through those damn Dewey references (can't remember what they are, been too long since I did cataloguing).

3. Don't be afraid to weed. Really, don't.

4. If you're in reference, always search the student version of the catalogue first rather than going straight to the librarian version. That way, you can guide your questioner through where things are.

5. Always be polite, even if the person facing you is cursing a blue streak. You have the moral high ground and can justly feel superior (and it's taken me nearly 8 years to perfect that, and yes the person who swore like a sailor at me came back and apologised.)

I've got lots more, but you don't need an essay.

I'm not a writer, so the only advice I have is 1. Beware the Mary Sue and 2. steer clear of boiling tributes and flights of pink flamingos.
Boiling pink flamingos in tribute during flight, however, is always encouraged.
May. 11th, 2010 02:31 am (UTC)
Good stuff! I'll keep this on hand in case I ever do go back to school for an MLIS, as I sometimes daydream of doing. Go librarians!

LOL--boiling pink flamingoes in tribute during flight...hmm...I'll see if I can imagine that scenario somehow. The Bulwer-Lytton contest might be able to use it, at least.

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )