January 14, 2009

Hey, LOOK! More FAQ Happened (part 2)

HEY! Remember I am SLOWLY via blog entries that I was sposed to do once a week (HEH) building an FAQ that will eventually be a WHOLE PAGE unto itself? Me neither. But this morning I suddenly did remember, so here is another chunk of it.

This is some more of the FAQ for WRITERS. There will also be one for readers. I will continue to POST AS I GO and when I am done it will all MAGICALLY appear in the drop down menu. Right Scott? RIGHT!

Also I think when TGWSS launches in PAPERBACK I will add another weekly feature for 6 weeks with GIVEAWAYS every Monday. IF I REMEMBER. Remind me because I have a BUCKET of cool prizes on the shelf beside me that I keep forgetting exist. HEH.


If you want to be a writer, you have already succeeded. You finished a novel---congratulations. It's a huge accomplishment. Writing and publishing are NOT THE SAME THING. Get that tattooed on your body.

Now, if you want to PUBLISH, which is not the same thing at writing, remember? From your tattoo? Then my advice is "write another one." My first two novels are moldering away peacefully under the bed in lieu of my own personal sorrowful rejected corpse. They are likely to remain there. I think you have to write a novel or two or ten to learn how to write the dern things. The other route is, write the same one over and over for ten years...I am too impatient for that, but it worked for Donna Tart and both her novels make me want to die of love for her.

Also, get a writing group. I LOVE my writing group (or join a workshop at a local college or library or institute). It's fun, and a good set of peers will make you a better writer. A good set of peers is by definition keen eyed, supportive, honest, and made up of people whose work blows your mind --- people you suspect daily of being better writers than you are. They'll make you better, too.

If you are the best writer in your group…you are in the wrong group. Working with people who you KNOW make mistakes you are beyond won’t help you grow. It will just make you feel comfortable and superior and you won’t have to PUSH yourself to impress them. Get with folks that you have to PANT to keep up with. If they sometimes find themselves panting as they strive to keep up with you, they will want to be with you right back. These are your peers. This is your pack. You will grow and succeed as a group, most likely.



If you can afford it, go. Go for three reasons. First, to hang with writers who have made it in the industry, and ask them craft questions and be open to the answers. Also, to learn about how the publishing industry works for agents and editors, who will ALSO be at those conferences. Also, to meet peers who will make you grow as a writer.

When talking to agents and editors, remember that Writing is a maddening and delightful craft, and you can pursue it in your pajamas. Publishing sometimes requires a hairbrush and a big bucket in which to hide The Crazy while you front like Mental Health is your long time lover instead of a guy you saw on the bus one day and he looked kinda scared of you. Conferences help you practice the Fine Art of Not Looking Squirrelly.

When talking to published writers, talk 80% writing, 20% publishing, at most. Every writer I know that teaches at conferences has said, at one point or another, a variation on “HOLY COW! THAT WOMAN IN THE THIRD ROW! ASKED ME A QUESTION! ABOUT….WRITING!!!! And we say it withy starry eyes and we are impressed with that woman in the third row. Because she gets it. Publishing is a business, and yes it’s fun to drink a big cocktail and trade war stories and tell the drama of HOWIGOTANAGENT. But writers care about the WORK---the story – getting it out of the head and onto the page.

When with your peers, the focus is writing. Listen to crits without being defensive. Take what resonates with you, thank them for the rest and use it or not. You dontl;have to explain to them why they are wrong. Glean what you can get and make the book better. Fighting about whether or not they GET you wastes your crit time. When your work is ready to shop, there are a thousand books out there about how to get an agent. Don’t waste valuable workshop time on that crap. Get the work as good as you can make it.

When I was ready to shop, I used the Writers Market books (and website) to learn to write queries and such---you don't need connections, but once again, conferences where you meet agents and editors are fun and can be useful, both for finding a writing group or selling a piece.

Posted by joshilyn at January 14, 2009 10:49 AM

This is very good advice that works for screenwriting too -- just substitute "production" for "publishing" and you're all set. I know someone who's a VERY green writer who keeps talking about production, and I just want to take her by the shoulders and shake her and yell, "Nobody is going to produce a script until you learn how to WRITE one!"

Posted by: Aimee at January 14, 2009 11:25 AM

And I love the press hype of the "first-time novelist" who has a best seller with her "first book." She also has corpses of previous novels (written with training wheels on, so to speak) under the bed, or in the bottom drawer, or somewhere. As if it's just the first Published novel that somehow makes them a first-time novelist? No. But it makes for a sensational press release.

Posted by: Lulu at January 14, 2009 2:04 PM

I'm not a writer...yet, but I'd sure like to be one. Thanks for the great advice. Honestly the idea of writing two novels for practice is daunting, but I can use all the help I can get.

Posted by: the doemstic fringe at January 14, 2009 5:28 PM

I think "that can be pursued in your pyjamas" was my favourite part right there ;) I have considered writing a book but haven't got around to it yet. I am 25 so figure I need a bigger dose of life experience before I give it a real honest try.

Posted by: Heather at January 14, 2009 9:19 PM

Thanks for your tips!

Posted by: Nik at January 15, 2009 4:10 AM


But of course I have a question. Um. How do you find your pack? I've been all over the internet and can't seem to find that magical group of people who are that level. Not that I think I'm great, but I do feel I've outgrown my group and need a new one. :\

Posted by: Jess at January 15, 2009 9:35 AM

You can save yourself a lot of stress and hassle, thereby keeping your mental illness number a tad lower, by just sending that bucket o' prizes to me right now. Just sayin'. ;-)

Posted by: Brigitte at January 15, 2009 9:46 AM

I'm not a writer, but I think your comment "Conferences help you practice the Fine Art of Not Looking Squirrelly" is sage advice for anyone. And also getting a bucket for The Crazy (my mom gives me that advice about dating "keep crazy in the bottle").

You are a master at giving excellent advice while making us laugh so hard we snort beverages out of our noses.

Posted by: JenniferG at January 15, 2009 9:56 AM

Thanks for the FAQ post Joshilyn. It was so funny -- does it count if you snort espresso through your nose?
I am 2 chapters into my first novel and having so much fun I can hardly sleep at night. I haven't found a compatible writing group yet so I go to the Evil Editor blog site each day and participate in the writing exercises and critiques. The contributors are a fun group and the blog itself is inventive and well run. I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to stay in their pajamas not only to write but to hang out with their writing group as well.

Posted by: RW Glover at January 16, 2009 1:56 PM

Jess - I found my pack when we self-selected each other in an otherwise worthless writing class. Other places to find them would be conferences and national or local writer's guilds/societies (the choice of which will depend on your chosen genre). Get out there among groups of writers, and you'll find your packmates in there somewhere.

Posted by: S at January 16, 2009 4:11 PM

Despite laughing hard, I recognized all the wisdom in your advice and have posted a link to it on my blog. I hope you don't mind


Posted by: Melinda at January 16, 2009 8:58 PM

This. Is. Brilliant. Thank you.

To anyone wondering: It's All True!!!

Posted by: Dawn at January 17, 2009 6:19 PM