Tuesday, January 17, 2012

So...Writing Tips

This little blog of mine exists in a kind of paradoxical purgatory right now.
I am a writer, that's why I started this blog, but I'm still in the middle of the etiquette minefield that is agent querying. How much can I say about the projects I am still working and reworking and re-reworking? How much should I say about who has my manuscript right now?
I'll just mention that I have a MG steampunk manuscript out there in the big world. (really Blogger? Still don't want to admit that "steampunk" is a word? Fine.)
I have a MG ghost story percolating in first draft form.
I have another MG steampunk in very rough notes/character sketches/random chapters/pre-first draft form.
And a whole file of ideas for MG horror/ghost stories.
So, while I hesitate to talk about what I'm writing with too much specificity, I will happily tell you all about how I  write. My suggestions for all writers are as follows.

1. Get a Cat.
    Yes, it's trite, I know. But cats love writers. Writers are the kind of people who will hold still for long stretches of time.Cats love holding still. Holding still allows for sleeping. My cats see the laptop come out, and they are overjoyed. Which to a dog would mean hopping about and whining with excitement, but to a cat of course means looking at you with especially cute eyes. I tend to write on one of the couches, or on my bed. Usually they are already waiting by the time I've made a cup of coffee and found my most recent notebook. The cats curl up right beside me, and nothing is a better motivator to stay in place and keep working through some wretched scene than the thought I would disturb those little peaceful wads of fluff. (also, my cats are getting pretty old. They don't take crap off nobody now, and when I try to get up and say, go to the bathroom or refill my coffee, they raise their little heads just enough to glare at me with one eye, in a way that clearly says "Sit down and finish that chapter or I will claw up your favorite dress while you sleep." It's magical.)

2. Get Warm Slippers.
    I recommend the boot style, with the softest possible fluff on the inside. No distractions while you're in the middle of the action, and the zing of a cold wooden floor will certainly do that. Also a blanket, if that's your style. In the summer I like to write outside on the deck, but it's January now, so I'm inside, looking at a very fine falling snow, which is the best writing weather, because when it's daylight in the summer, I want to be out digging in the garden, and when its cold and snowy, I want my coffee and slippers and blanket and manuscript.

3. Like to Write
    There's more to it than just ideas, kids. Everyone has an idea. You'll need the whole story written down in a way that is consistently interesting. Like, every sentence, for hundreds and hundreds of pages. I love to write. I love the actual act of writing. I love putting words on the page and rearranging them until they make a fine little composition. Not in blog form, obviously. This is the free form jazz of my writing world. In a novel manuscript requires a bit more investment and dedication, and if it's a constant struggle to make yourself write, if you've resorted to coercing yourself into sitting down and working, this might not be for you. Writing is work, and it's usually hard. Always. Even when it's fun, it should be challenging. And that never ends, not on your first book, or your twenty first. It's kind of like marriage and children. A joy that's worth the effort, but effort none the less.

4. Get Another Cat
    The problem with just one cat is that it's a cat. At some point, it's going to get all prissy, and not want to sit down for writing time. I've solved this dilemma with the adding of an additional cat. That way, they can trade shifts.

5. Write Lots of Things
     The world loves good stories, even when the writer themselves becomes the story, as it was with one Hunter S. Thompson, or Mr. Hemingway, or the Mrss. Woolf and Plath. Or the tale of how the story came to be becomes the story. Some otherwise occupied person has a dream or a vision or an epiphany on a train, and rushes off to whip out a manuscript that within years (or months) becomes the Greatest Bestselling Book in the World Ever. Props to them. But lots of writers - lots and lots and most writers - don't sell their first book. Or their second. And maybe their third gets them an agent, but it's the fourth that gets the attention of an editor, and then the fifth that sells. Really. (This is why #3 up there) Most writers are going to have to write a lot of words, in a lot of different projects, if they ever have hopes of publishing. Which leads me to my final tip

6. Love Your Words
    Which could also be interpreted the other way around, as Write Words You Love. Write the kind of stories you like. The kinds of books you want to read. Things that you find interesting. It took me many years to stumble into children's lit, but when I finally found the Middle Grade genre as a writer, I realized "This is what I should be writing." And I went down that path, working on a very odd little manuscript that was puzzling even to me, until I stumbled again on the concept of steampunk, and it all clicked together. I had found my writing home, complete with hot coffee, and slippers, and a pair of old cats. And life was good.


Tina Laurel Lee said...

I love number 6. Not only because it is the thing that I'm most recently learning but also because you talk about the clicking that happened for you. Still waiting for the clicks in some ways, although there is no question for me, I write for children and I write the odd.

I think I have to take 6 a little farther and say sometimes it takes learning to love your words and not just loving everybody elses.

Heidi said...

I wholeheartedly agree that cats are a necessity. I will also admit that slippers are another "need". I'm beginning to think that your opionion of slippers is better than mine.


Well, after days of freezing toes I finally dug for some slippers under my bed and arose victorious with my pig slippers.

No problem there, right?

Wrong. Apparently Cat# 2 has a fear of pig slippers. They must look at her funny. Instead of tackling my artwork, I walked around scaring Cat# 2 while Cat# 1 just rolled his eyes. Good times. Good times, not productive times...

Adrienne said...

Excellent tips. Now if only my only barrier to publication was the lack of a cat (or two)!

Lily Cate said...

Adrienne - at least cats are easy to come by. If it was gila monsters, or something, then we'd all be in a jam.

Heidi - the Slippers v. Small Animals bouts are always entertaining. Though my cats are too old to care that you have blue ducks on your feet. We have a boy kid in the house. They've seen some crazy business.

Tina - yes! I've had many a day when I finished a book only to think, "Well, you'll never be that good. :( " But I can still like my stories!