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The Devil in the Details-Revisions and Rewrites

One way or another, you will miss something when you’re writing.

No one likes having to think about it since the idea is that authors can write and wow their audience with their ability to tell a story. But the truth that a lot of people don’t like to own up to, but will learn if they’re smart, is that they will need to revise or rewrite their story from time to time. Revisions aren’t fun, seriously, they’re not. Rewrites are even worse since essentially you’ll find yourself needing to write entire pages, entire chapters all over again to work on the clarity, the spelling, the grammar, anything that your editor tells you needs to be done. If you don’t, well, then there’s a good chance that a publisher won’t want to work with you, a literary agent won’t give you a second look, and whatever writing career you want will go up in smoke before it ever has a chance to develop.

But that’s why we’re here. That’s why writing sites like this exist, to help you out and give you the hard lessons that you need, or the attention that you might want and need to improve your writing. Personally, I don’t like revisions and rewrites, I’ve had to do this way too often in my career, but I understand the need for it, I get the idea that it’s important to improve your skill set and write in a manner that people can understand and come to enjoy.

I’ll get into rewrites and revision again, believe that. But for now, my parting word is this: it’s going to be needed. You won’t be a perfect writer from the very start, accept that. But sites like this exist to help you, to give you tips and advice, and the lot of us will make sure that you get what you need to improve your writing in ways you might not have thought possible.

We’re here to help, so take advantage of that.

Sometimes You Can Write with Pictures

Just pay attention, some of this relevant and some of it is fun.

It’s way, WAY too accurate, isn’t it?
Hands up, how many people have had this issue?
It’s kind of an inevitability.
Yes, it’s exhausting.
Hey, they copied my filing method…
Eh? Eh? Eh…
You thought it was deadlines, didn’t you?
Crazy is a writer’s default setting.
The maniacal laugh comes with time.
As long as your name is out there, you’re on the right track.

See? Funny stuff, right? Welcome to the writing world, enjoy.

What Do You Want to Write?

What story do you want to tell?

Everyone has a story to tell, and only you can tell it in your voice, no matter how skilled a mimic someone might become. I’ve already said ‘don’t write for the money’, but you’ll hear me harp on that and many other subjects over and over until it’s reverberating in your skull. Why? That’s simple, because you’re the writer, the one with a story to tell, and the focus that you need to gather around before you start expanding your awareness to those that are ready to hear the same tale. It sounds vague and a little off-key, doesn’t it? But the truth is if you want to write, you’ll listen to the crazy just as much as the rational side of your mind since creating harmony between the two is sometimes essential to make this process work.

You’ve got a story to tell, right? You might as well make it interesting and let both sides of your personality, or all sides, have their say from time to time.

Are you a poet or a novelist?

So, you have a way with words, yeah? What way is that? Do you like to rhyme, do you feel a cadence within each word that has to be adhered to and/or applied in a manner that makes sense as you lead people down your path? Or are you the type to take an idea and guide people down the twisting highways of your imagination? A person can do both, but the strain that’s bound to come is going to be immense after a while since different styles of writing demand a lot and the respect due to each style is great enough that one should take the time to understand what they’re trying to accomplish. If you’re into telling epic tales that people will want to keep reading, then a short story, a novella, or a novel might be the best way to go. But if you can tell a story in a few lines of poetry then congrats, you’ve mastered another skill that is exceedingly tough.

Which style is more discerning? Well, that’s complicated, especially since according to many people, there are many different styles to adhere to, methods to apply, and techniques that will allow you to write in a manner that will attract the notice of those who will gladly pay you for your works. If I could roll my eyes on the page at the moment I would be, trust me. But, moving on.

There are hurdles to get past.

You’re not going to be a fantastic, best-selling writer from the start, just get that idea out of your head right now. If you do find success easily and without struggle, then I do feel sorry for you, since much like the life of a musician or an actor, adversity helps writers to get better at their craft, to hone their skills, and to find the necessary emotion to put into their works so that people will FEEL what they’re talking about and really get into the idea of what’s been written. Those who find success early and easily, sorry, but you might have the right connections to make it happen; it doesn’t mean you have the talent to sustain a long-lasting career. Remember Eragon? Everyone thought that kid was amazing for turning in a series at such a young age. But the trouble is that by taking elements from other stories in such a manner, one becomes a copycat, which is only a step up from being a plagiarist, and while his story became popular, it’s more of a testament to how fickle the fans are than to how great his work was or wasn’t.

Like it or not, you’ll have to get better at writing, you’ll need to listen to critiques, you’ll have to rewrite parts of your great works, and if you want to get noticed, you’ll have to work for it. This profession isn’t easy, it’s not kind, and it’s not about to see you succeed unless you’re willing to tear yourself apart and rebuild to get where you want to be. You might be a talented writer, but if you want to be a successful writer, you’ll have to work harder than you ever have before.

Write for you, then write for others.

This is one point that I will always give out for free since it’s one of the best ways to go when it comes to writing. Write what you like, write for yourself, and make sure that you like what you’re writing. This is you, this is your life, your mind, your thoughts and hopes that are spilling onto the page. If you don’t like it, how is anyone else supposed to?

The truth is that not everyone will like what you write. Face that, get over it, and understand that you can’t please 100 percent of the people 100 percent of the time. Shoot, if you’ve worked in food service or retail you should already know that much. But write what you want, write what makes you happy, and if people give you ideas on how to improve and how to make it better, at least give them them the time of day and listen. They’re not making demands, they’re simply telling you what might work and what they think your writing could benefit from.

Be happy in what you do, but be willing to listen to ways that might make it better. That’s one way you become a better writer, and how you learn to become a great writer. Write what you want, and then make it better.

Writing is Important to Society. But Why?

From writing out your grocery list to creating an epic tale, society depends heavily on writing.

The ability to write is far more important than some folks are willing to admit since using the symbols we call numbers and letters into stories that have meaning and emotional content is how civilization has been built. Writing, much like mathematics, is a part of everything in a very fundamental way. While math might exist without words in every facet of nature, writing is the method by which we connect one facet of life to another as we seek to give meaning to the world in which we exist. To put it simply, writing is another form of communication that keeps people together and forms a foundation that can be built upon.

Oral Communication vs. The Written Word

When one thinks about it, quite a bit of human history, from culture and tradition to simple facets of life that are important for survival, were at one time handed down orally from one person to another. The only problem with this is that at one point, even the most astute storyteller will start to forget pertinent facts. The human mind is vast and can contain a myriad of facts and data, but at some point, the flesh and blood organ between our ears will wear out and show its limits. The written word is a means by which people have been able to convey meaning to one another in one way or another. By this method, humanity has built a foundation that has existed for far longer than anyone can recall.

If one looks back across the vastness of history they’ll realize that writing has influenced a great many things that have come to pass, and continues to do so. Without getting too deep into the subject, writing is how we mark our history, the passing of years, and the many occurrences that people deem to be important to the continued evolution of humankind. Writing is how we continue to build, to change, and to evolve. Without it, we become ignorant of our own history, and without knowledge of the past or the present, it’s possible that civilization would break down in a very big way.

What does writing mean to you?

A lot of people don’t take into account what writing really means or why it’s important to start with. Some folks are raised with their eyes virtually glued to a TV screen or a device that can give them instant gratification whenever they want it. But guess what? Writing is still involved. Whether it’s a snippet or a full-length novel, or something even more grandiose in nature, writing is at the heart of it, because it is needed, it is sometimes required, and it is a method that humanity requires to communicate in several different ways.

Writing is important because it helps to remind us who we are, who we’ve been, and who we might yet become.

Don’t Look for the Dollar Signs, Just Write

Tell your story before you worry about padding your bank account.

I’ve heard it more than once that everyone is seeking those dollar signs and are ready and willing to do what they want to make sure that their account grows along with their acclaim. I might be a sucker, I might be a fool, but one thing I know I’m not is a sellout, since I’ll tell my story in the hopes that people will enjoy it, and that it will inspire others to do something great. I’m not an idealist, and I’m not foolish enough to think that living without pay and writing without wanting to become known is the ultimate goal. But if all you’re writing for is the money you might as well own up to it and make it known that your stories are little more than minor variations on a mold that was made a long time ago. Be fair to yourself and your readers and be original.

Money is important, there’s no doubt.

It’s important to make money to survive, there’s no doubt of that, especially since people need to pay their bills, they need to eat, they need to support their family and so on. But if money is the only drive you have when it comes to writing then there’s something missing. People might scoff at the idea that passion is that important, but one has to remember that people who read your material, if they’re in need of a great story, will know when someone is dialing it in versus when they dig deep deep and seek to tell a story that will last. Passion is what separates the great stories from those are trying to make a few bucks.

I know, people who make the big bucks and those who support them are going to counter with the idea that if one makes the money, then there’s no reason to keep up that type of passion, especially the type that can wear a person out. That’s kind of like riding a wave with the idea that it’s going to last forever, without seeing that rocky shore come closer and closer. Passion doesn’t keep you off the rocks, but it sure as hell teaches you how to dodge, evade, and navigate a landscape that’s ready and willing to tear apart any writer that doesn’t know how to handle the pitfalls that come with writing.

Here endeth the sermon…for now.

You want to write? You want to make money? Then reach down deep and find the passion you need to make it happen. Change as you feel the need, not just when people tell you to. Adjust, evolve, adapt, and keep the passion that brought you to this game. The moment you search for dollar signs is the moment that you lose sight of what it is you’re all about. Your writing is meant to show your state of mind and how you want to speak to the people. Accept the money if it comes, use it to your advantage, but my advice is to keep that passion for as long as it lasts. The money will come if it’s meant to, and if you learn how to make flow.

Write, just write, and let the money come if it will.

Can You Write?

It’s a simple question, but one that many misunderstand.

I won’t beat around the bush, some people think they can write just like some people think they can sing. The best part of telling anyone that they can’t do something is the fact that it could inspire them to get better and listen to people when they’re being given advice. But some folks don’t listen and forego any chance to get better. The plain and simple truth is that some folks can barely form a sentence but think that they can write a novel with one hand tied behind their back.

Is there such thing as a non-talented writer?

Without calling out names, YES. There are plenty of people out there that somehow make a good living at writing even if they can’t form a simple sentence without giving themselves a migraine. Would you like to know how and why this happens? Writing isn’t just about talent unfortunately, it’s about who you know and what kind of connections can be made in this business that manages to get some books on the shelves. Cynical as that might sound, it’s unfortunately quite true.

A non-talented writer isn’t necessarily someone that doesn’t know how to write. The reasoning for this is that writers come from all walks of life, and it’s not always so simple to tell who’s going to have the gift and who’s going to work at it until they’ve got the craft mastered. To tell the truth, pretty much anyone can write, but the ability to make others feel that passion and make it a tangible thing is a different thing altogether. Some people are born with this ability and squander it, others don’t have even an inkling of how to write, but have the desire and the passion to tell a story. It’s a quandary how this happens to be certain, but the talent to write is often a divided thing.

What divides good writers from bad writers?

You might want to think that it would be skill, passion, and the overall desire to tell the story. Well, it is those, but what the public tend to think about is whether or not their emotions are being stroked, or stoked, and the public will make all the difference since they’re the ones paying the bill to see these stories. A successful author, in the eyes of the many, is an individual that can claim a bestseller or two, or more, and an audience that is pleased and compensated with stories that don’t challenge their sensibilities. Some folks love the challenge, which is why those of us that write for the pleasure still exist. The story has to be told after all.

Are you a good writer?

That’s not for me to say, or for anyone else apart from the public. But if you decide to measure your success in dollar signs and fans earned, then it’s a sure bet that you’ve made your choice as to what kind of writer you’d like to be. One way or another, if the story gets told, then you’re a writer, enjoy it as you will.

Who Should You Listen to When Learning to Write?

Books, YouTube, college, and so on exist to teach you how to write. But who do you listen to?

So, you’ve got the idea, you have a direction, and you could be well on your way to telling your story. That’s a good start, and it’s a good way to write a book that people might want to read, provided you’re that lucky, or that connected. Why you want to write makes a difference when it comes to who you should listen to, but that’s a discussion for another time. As of now, the idea of who to listen to when it comes to your writing is the discussion of the day, and to be honest and fair, there are a lot of answers that could be right or wrong. That sounds vague, doesn’t it? Well, I do apologize, but as you’ll find when it comes to writing, your own best judgment is the first voice you should be listening to. After that, there a lot of people you could choose to bend your ear toward.

Let’s discuss a few of them, shall we?

Pay attention to your own inner voice first, and your critics and ‘helpers’ second.

That’s a good rule of thumb to be certain, since if you can’t trust yourself then you might not want to put pen to paper or fingers to keys until that matter is resolved. One thing I’ve taught my daughter and am still teaching her is that you use YOUR VOICE. Yours is the one that is being used to write the story, and yours should be the first and last that decides what goes into it, what happens with it, and how far it’s going to go. Apart from that, here are a few people you might want to think about listening to.

  1. Family/Friends: The people who know you the best are usually those who can give you the best critique when it comes to your voice and what sounds like something that suits you. Unless your family or friends are editors, writers, or have anything to do with the writing industry then those who know you are best listened to for moral support and not much else. It sounds insulting, doesn’t it? Well, get this bit through your sensitive mind: if they don’t know the industry, moral support is about all they can give. It’s still worth listening to though.
  2. Other Writers/Authors: This is a slightly better source since these folks have been through the muck that is writing and have either learned how to trudge through it or rise above it, or use it to their advantage. Your writing peers still aren’t a perfect source when it comes to guiding you down the right path, but they’re a lot better than those who don’t put words on paper. They know the struggle and they might very well have a few tips that you’d do well to listen to. Mind you, I said listen, I never said follow to the letter.
  3. Editors: These folks have typically been in the business long enough to know what’s what, and they have a good idea of what readers are looking for and how to craft a book so that it will appease the masses. Editors are, more or less, the people who will polish your book and make it look pretty for those who want to read it, but there are plenty among them who can do more than chisel away the rough edges. If an editor decides to give you advice, it’s a part of their job after all, you might want to listen.
  4. Publishers: Yes, listen to them, but don’t let them lead you by the nose. Most publishers are out to help you push your manuscript and take it as far as they can. But at the end of the day they’re still running a business, and you’re another customer. If you happen to wow the audience and sell mass numbers of books then you’ll be given all the attention they can lavish on you. Enjoy it, earn it, and do everything you can to keep it. But don’t be too surprised if you’re ignored when and if your books are no longer the hottest thing on the shelves. But if a publisher does manage to give you advice, take it in stride and pick through it to find the gems and discard the rest.
  5. Literary Agents: These folks are exceedingly picky when it comes to who they’ll accept as their clients, but if you luck out and catch the eye of a successful agent, then you listen to what they have to say. If you want to make money, if you want to be successful, then do what they ask, make the changes they recommend, and compromise as much as you possibly can. Don’t sacrifice your dignity for the almighty dollar, since those who do are paid but are also bound to become a bit pathetic as their days of dancing will end eventually. But if a literary agent takes you on and decides to push your stories, then by all means, listen.

At the end of the day, listen to your own inner voice and what it tells you. If a red flag starts to wave in your mind, then pay attention. Remember, the first and last word that you should be listening to is your own. When it comes to writing, YOU are the writer, and everyone else is either a helper, or a potential reader.

How Do You Get Started Writing?

A lot of people fail before they ever get started because they get in their own way.

This is bound to be a short article mostly because, well, getting started with a story is something that requires a lot of effort, but only a single step. You’ve likely heard that before, right? There are entire textbooks dedicated to the idea of writing, what it takes, and what it requires to help a story move forward. So I won’t take up a lot of your time, but I will say that starting a story is just about as tough as finishing one. The rest is just figuring out the details.

Keep it simple, don’t complicate things from the start.

A story is going to get complicated one way or another since the moving elements that make it work will eventually collide and create a bit of chaos that can spiral into utter madness very quickly. There’s no need to get into the mental thicket that quickly, especially since moving into it slowly and surely, while following an outline, will help to keep things sorted in some manner. There are a couple of ways to avoid getting bogged down that quickly, such as:

  1. Brainstorming: This is one of the most basic methods you can use to create and refine an idea to be used at various points throughout the process. In fact, this is one of the best ways to get an idea rolling since it connects the various pieces of the idea that might come at different moments.
  2. Outline: I know I’ve worked with plenty of outlines and they do help if your thoughts tend to scatter. Keeping things neat and tidy does help to keep the story rolling forward in a manner that avoids the habit of rambling on and on. It’s not perfect, but it’s a nice point of reference to have at hand.
  3. Notes: This is reliable, but not nearly as much since notes can be lost, shuffled, or mixed up in various ways. From napkins to notebooks, notes are a very rough way to when it comes to piecing a story together.

How you go about putting your story together is up to you. But going freestyle isn’t a great way to do it, I’ll say that to each ear that’s willing to bend to listen.

Take the first step, then take another.

In other words, start out with the first sentence, then write the next, and then find your way through the first paragraph. Once you’re past that hurdle you’ll find that it gets a little easier with each sentence that comes after. You’ll no doubt need help as you progress, but that’s what sites like this are for. The help you need is the help you’ll eventually want.

Just don’t be shy about asking for help, take my word on that.

How Do You Start Writing? It’s Easier Than You Think.

Don’t complicate a process that should be simple…that comes later.

More than once, I’ve had people ask me, “How did you get into writing?”, and I’ve had to seriously think about it a time or two. It’s not that I doubt my love for this craft and profession, it’s the idea of having to boil that passion down to a core idea that people might understand and fully comprehend. The people that ask this typically aren’t dumb or even willfully ignorant, they simply don’t have the experience or the know-how when it comes to crafting a story. There’s no ego, or at least there shouldn’t be much ego, when it comes to showing/teaching/explaining to people how and why writing is so easy, since the passion that some people feel for this profession can be highly infectious.

Strangely enough, writing isn’t that hard, but it is intimidating to some folks that don’t write more than a few sentences a week, if that. Some people are of the mind that writing is too difficult, that they can’t come up with ideas. If you can think, you can come up with an idea. If it sounds like a bad idea, then ditch it and try another one. The fun part of writing is (there are a lot of fun parts) that if you don’t like one idea, you can scrap it, tumble it, turn it around, and come up with something that might sound better.

You only need a few things to get started writing.

Seriously, writing is not that difficult. It’s getting started that’s tough. You want to hear what you need to get going?

  1. An idea: This can be the hardest part since even if you have a long list of ideas that you think have merit. You’re going to toss some out, change others, and polish the ones you like the most, and they still might not be good enough to get the attention of others. Hey, that’s the process, read the room and figure out what people want to see.
  2. Desire: If you don’t have this then your ideas are going to feel mechanical, lifeless, and bound to be fit for a cookie cutter story that caters more to the comfort zone of the people than to the advancement of the storytelling process. Desire is scoffed at by more than a few people who don’t understand the writing process, but honestly, if you don’t have it, then you’re in for a tough time when it comes to creating anything.
  3. A don’t quit attitude: You can step away from the story when you need to, and you can certainly take a break. That’s expected, since staying the course without a rest now and then is kind a recipe for disaster. Backing off and taking a look from a different angle is necessary at times. But quitting? That’s a no-no if you want to write, and be a serious writer. If you start a story, finish it, or go back to it, or redo it, but don’t quit.

Of course you need tools to work with, be it a PC or a pen and a pad of paper. But if you don’t have these initial tools then it’s likely that you won’t have a good time. After that, everything else takes practice, lots and lots of practice.

But we’ll get to that in a bit.

The First Story (part V)

It’s interesting to see the human perspective at times, especially since so many of them tend to believe that their stories are what will change their world, or keep it running in a manner that will build a strong foundation for the next generation. That’s what stories are all about after all, they’re a base used to preserve the knowledge of a species, and it’s why humans are made to guess about the world around them so often. If anyone were to pick my brain about the stories that have come and gone, they’d likely disbelieve me, since humans are stubborn as hell, not to mention arrogant when it comes to what they know and what they think they know.

The first story started long before I remember, and I remember a lot, but I do catch glimpses of it every now and then, and it’s not something that’s easy to put into words. I know what that sounds like, since the vague notion that anyone could give when it comes to describing something that’s thought to be so grand in such a simple and uncertain manner would make me a laughingstock. I’m sued to it, and I’ve refrained from letting people know about it for many of the lives I’ve taken on over the years. A lot of people don’t believe that a 6-year old has the imagination that people have stated I’ve had over the years, and I don’t blame them. But if they knew that it wasn’t imagination, that it was a recitation of the facts, well, they might not be able to handle it.

They weren’t capable of that back in the day, I can tell you that.

(to be continued)