Monday, September 10, 2012

four things I've learned



(Apologies for this post being a bit late and possibly slightly out of order...)

I've spent the weekend at the Festival of Writing in York, which is a conference aimed at unpublished and aspiring writers, where they can attend workshops, network with professionals and other writers, and have their manuscript critiqued. I go to give workshops and to be a 'book doctor', giving critiques on manuscripts—that's my official role. My unofficial role is to soak up the atmosphere, to listen to authors and agents, to meet interesting people and to sneak into the backs of workshops to soak up some knowledge. It is hugely inspiring to be with hundreds of other people who love writing as much as you do.

Four bits of knowledge stood out for me this weekend; I heard them repeated over and over by the speakers and the professionals.

No writing is ever wasted. Even if you're writing stuff that'll go straight into the bin, you're still learning, you're still keeping yourself in your story.

It's good to fail. Because failing means you're learning.

All you can control is your own writing. You can't control the industry, you can't control whether agents or publishers like your book, you can't control whether people buy your work, you can't (or, rather, shouldn't) control whether you get good reviews, you can't control the way your genre is going or how people perceive it. All you can do is to write the best book you can. If you are very, very lucky, your very good book can influence all of these things—the industry, publishers, reviews, etc. But even if it doesn't, you've been true to yourself and your work.

Some books just aren't good enough to be published. Several successful, bestselling authors said that they were glad that easy, cheap self-publishing hadn't been available when they'd started out, because they'd have published the first novels they'd written. And if they'd done that, they would not have the career that they do now.

Do you agree?

18 comments:

  1. All so true.

    Especially the last one. And the third one. And - oh - heck - all of them. Good post, Julie!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great to see you there, Emma! Number three is the one that I think about the most these days.

      Delete
  2. What a great post - thanks Julie.

    Re #1,I hate writing stuff that I am sure is rubbish. What are your thoughts on how do you know if it is Part Of The Process Bin Stuff or (shudder) Properly Awful? Does it come down to faith in yourself that at some point you will just know?

    AJx

    PS: I'm printing this out and putting it up by my pc!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You know, AJ, after talking with writers all weekend, I've had my belief reinforced that sometimes you Just Know. Distance really helps. Listening to your instincts really helps.

      Though sometimes it's very difficult to distinguish between your instincts, which are often right, and your inner critic, which is often unhelpful.

      Delete
  3. I had a conversation with a friend about the last point recently, and we both agreed that although self-publishing on Kindle has been available for a while now, neither of us would've chosen to go down that route, no matter how tempting it was, and no matter how disheartening it is to get yet another rejection.

    Personally I need that "seal of approval" a traditional publishing contract can provide, but that doesn't mean I don't respect and admire people who choose to self-publish. I just know it isn't for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree, Henriette. There are many good and successful self-published authors. I don't think, personally, that I could have been one of them with my first three rejected novels, which sucked.

      Delete
    2. It's a bit of an eye opener, isn't it, when we can look back at our old work and think, "Did I really write THAT?!". I always hope my writing will continue to improve, and not go the other way :-D

      Delete
  4. Great advice, Julie, and I can't say often enough how lovely it was to get to know you better in RL. I've linked to this post on my blog where I'm attempting to pull together all the post-festie posts. Can we use this one for the book? Please say yes!

    ReplyDelete
  5. It's fine with me, Debi, especially if you credit the Heroine Addicts. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And it was great to see you in Real Life too!

      Delete
  6. Number 3 - this was one of the main things I took away from this weekend. It's an oddly liberating thing to understand that you can only control the story and your writing and not much more.

    I also took away how a few effective exercises can create a fully-formed character, thanks to a certain workshop I attended...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree, Elizabeth. It's liberating to know what you can control.

      Glad you found the workshop to be helpful!

      Delete
  7. Hi Julie
    Point number one rings true for me. I've written for years and finally have a full manuscript about ready to go (just tweeking before sending off). You would not believe (actually...you probably would) how many pieces of writing I've either binned or deleted, chopped out and saved to another file, screamed at in temper and thrust on the fire. I love the fact that you are able to reassure me that that is perfectly normal behaviour. Thank you.
    I loved your workshop and have mentioned you in my blog, and debi Alper is adding it to the festival book. Feel free to drop by and have a read (if you've time) here http://wendyloveday.blogspot.co.uk/
    Thanks again Julie, you're an inspiration

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Throwing out stuff is totally normal! It's a vital part of the writing process. But do make sure you save it to another file...there's nothing worse than deleting something only to have your editor ask you to put it back in (this happened to me with my last book, and I had to rewrite part of it).

      So glad you enjoyed the workshop, Wendy.

      Delete
  8. All true, Julie, and yes, I shudder to think what would have happened if my first book had ever been published in its first incarnation! I also agree with Henriette.

    ReplyDelete
  9. It's such a conundrum. I'm in the last stages of trying to get my short novel published. If this round of submissions fail then do I self-publish or not? I already have a rough idea of how I would do it - e-publish with treatment as close to traditional publishing as possible - but, for me, what it all comes down to is why is the MS being rejected by the main stream? Is it rubbish or is it just not commercial enough and could it have a readership that I should try to reach?.....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's the question I'd be asking myself in your position, Fiona: why does it keep on being rejected? As I said, I'm glad I never had the option of self-publishing before I was traditionally published; it took that judgement right out of my hands.

      Sometimes time and distance can help create a more objective judgement. If there's no hurry to get it out there (ie it's not a topical, time-sensitive subject), perhaps you can write the next novel and when you're letting that first draft cook, look back at novel number one and see if your perspective has changed?

      If you've done this already, please forgive me! And good luck with your submissions, and in whatever you decide to do.

      Delete