Am I Doing This Right?
by Robin Woods
When I was younger, I loved writing. I would scribble missives on random scraps of paper and create imaginary worlds that I dreamt of nightly. In fact, I still have an art pad full of outfits I dreamed up for my well-dressed villainess. I was eleven, so my sci-fi novel was awful, and truthfully, I probably spent more time drawing pictures than I did writing, but it did instill a love for the written word.
I didn’t start writing with determination for many years. Okay, maybe a couple of decades. But when I did sit down to write, I felt shackled. In my mind, there was “a way a writer is supposed to write.” Then, one day, I was given a piece of advice that changed my world: “You don’t have to write in order.”
At first, I thought, “This person is crazy! You have to start in the beginning!” But then, as I mulled over this simple tip, I realized what a newbie I was being and relaxed.
I recently completed my sixth novel and I have fine-tuned my writing process. I begin with what I call “tent-pole” scenes. I pick two to four events in the book that have dramatic import and flesh them out. They are the scenes that change everything. Afterwards, I simply connect the dots until I have completed the novel as a whole. I often end up revising those original scenes when I get to them, but they give me focus and keep me on track.
So, I begin my short list of tips with the advice that changed everything:
1. You don’t need to write in order.
2. Write every day—even if it is only a paragraph. This will keep your head in the story, so you don’t have to spend an hour rereading everything you wrote in the last week.
3. Read, read, and read. If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write. Know what is happening in your genre and feed your soul.
4. Guard your writing time. Whether you carve out fifteen minutes or five hours each day—do it.
5. Be consistent.
6. Spend a little time on social media each day. Build a supportive community. Be generous with reciprocation.
7. Have your work professionally edited. This should be done by more than one editor (content and line-by-line). No editor can find it all, and most have specialties. If you have a good set of beta-readers, you may be able to get away with only one.
There is one more item that should probably be on the list. It is some sage advice from my grandfather. He told me to, “always surround yourself with people who know more than you do.” In the spirit of this, find other writers who can help you grow, especially people who have been doing it for longer than you have. Writing is a journey—never forget to learn as much as you can along the way.
Robin Woods will be appearing at Village House of Books on May 2nd at 2:00 pm as part of our California Bookstore Day celebration! Come say hello to Robin and our other local authors that we will be featuring throughout the day!