Monday, May 19, 2014

A Letter To My Newbie Writer Self

Two fabulous authors--Carrie Butler & PK Hrezo--have joined forces to create an ebook, exploring what it's like for authors at the start their writing journeys. Participating writers are asked to share the secrets they've learned along the way with their young writer self. Click HERE for more details.

Dear Newbie Scribe Sheri,

You're going to be struck by an amazing idea for a story, after finishing a young adult novel. You’ll enjoy it so much that you actually read the author’s bio. She’s a working mom with two children. Um ... you have four minions and a mind dripping in creativity. Could you actually bring your story idea to life?

Doubt will instantly drape over you like a lead blanket. That is such a crazy idea. You could never do it. Talking yourself out of it is easy. At first.

Later, while you're folding laundry and jamming to music as you do, you’ll recall the bazillion movies you watched during junior high and high school, and how you broke each down, creating new scenes or alternate endings. You've surely made up plenty of off-the-cuff stories to get one of your minions calmed down. And then there are the dance routines you choreographed and the murals you painted. That creativity has to count for something, right?

You love to read, and you've always adored writing. Heck, for years whenever your closest family members and friends have needed something written they've come to you. They all say you can write. 

That young adult book will be on your nightstand. You’ll pick it up and begin to dissect it. Now that you look at it again, it’s good, but maybe not as good as you thought. Your original story idea is as good, and with a little work, it could be even better.

Let me stop you here.

It won’t simple take a little work. Think of dragging your original story idea along a city street after a bomb has exploded. Your story gets snagged on shrapnel and stumbles over debris. Falls into a crater and endures numerous lacerations while crawling to the surface. It will attempt to hide and fail then dodge punches from the enemy (which is you, by the way). Fighting back will leave your story battered, bruised, exhausted, and hopeless.

Your original story will gaze up at you through bloodshot, exhausted eyes. It will plead with you to clothe it as it should be, give it the scenes and words and emotions it needs. It will beg you for bold characters and striking scenes to captive a future reader. Your story wants to be told.

Now stop. Panicking isn’t going to move you forward. Stop and think, really think if you want to endure all that. If you do, you must gain the tools necessary to nourish your story.

So here’s what you do:

1.   Study as many books on the craft of writing as you can. Take notes. Notes, notes, and more notes on notecards, sticky notes, or small notebooks so you can take them with you while you’re at your four minions’ numerous activities.

2.   Jot down major writing skills you now realize you must learn. Exercise them through practice sentences, paragraphs, chapters, or short stories. Don’t ever toss anything you’ve written. Even if it’s total suckage. You never know what might inspire you later on.

Be positive.

3.   Don’t be too hard on yourself for not having perfect writing skills already. Even the greatest of authors have been where you are—the beginning. They’ve honed their writing skills through years of study and utilizing writing tools.

4.   Don’t compare your journey to other’s writing travels. Just don’t.

5.   Some family and friends won't get you. They will learn.

6.   Use the internet. It will be one of your greatest allies. I honestly don’t know how writers did it before cyberspace was available.

-     Start your own site or blog.
-     Surf the web to find other writers and comment on their posts.
-     Follow writing resource blogs to keep your skills fresh, Fiction University being one.
-     Attend a Twitter chat such as #mglitchat or #yalitchat.
-     Writing communities are a must to keep your spirits up. Join one such as Writer Support 4U, which  is a private Facebook group or Insecure Writers Support Group.

Be brave and give back.

7.   Ask other writers to read your work. Offer to read theirs.

8.   Be a mentor on a site that offers official critiques.

9.   When you FINALLY take your husband’s advice to submit to publishers on your own instead of continuing your search for an agent, you’ll receive multiple offers for your YA novel. Don’t accept them. Instead, accept the offer of representation you’ll receive from a twenty-year veteran agent, who sees potential in you and your offers.

You will be forever grateful.

Hearts from your older & wiser writer self,

SA Larsen
Author of YA, MG, & PB Tales
www.salarsenbooks.com

*I give full permission for this post to be used in the ebook compilation without royalties and/or separate compensation. 

56 comments:

  1. Great advice to yourself and the rest of us. I loved all your positive suggestions.

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  2. Keep a positive spirit and anything is possible.

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  3. Loved this post. Many great reminders for all of us on the journey. I'm going to bookmark this one.

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  4. What a wonderful idea for a blog post, Sheri. You've got such great advice in there. I wonder if this should be a little bit like childbirth though. lol Some things, like the marketing aspect maybe, you shouldn't mention?

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  5. Don’t compare your journey to other’s writing travels. Just don’t.

    This is the hardest part for me. There is always someone doing better. Someone who got 5 starred reviews. Got invited to sign books at multiple events. Got their book splashed across the banner of GR. I honestly do feel better when I just don't look.

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    1. All that can be so distracting. It's tough to ignore. Plus, loads of those 5 starred reviews or invites to multiple book signings belong to our writer friends. Guess it keeps us ground. ;)

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  6. Yeah, that bomb analogy sounds about right. I like hearing how being inspired by a book took a ahold of you. I had a similar experience. You offer sound advice to your new-writer self.

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  7. I love your advice to yourself:
    4. Don’t compare your journey to other’s writing travels. Just don’t. - this is the one thing that snags me by the collar and beats me down like Hulk whopping on Loki. I really have to work on not letting this get me down so often.

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    1. Like Hulk whooping on Loki!!! I know why you used that. LOL Maybe I should include the Hulk in my Norse Mythology???? LOL

      Thanks, Angela.

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  8. An inspiring post. It's so interesting to read about other writers' journeys and how each one has achieved success. Great advice. Love the exploding bomb comparison. :)

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  9. That was awesome Sheri! I love what you said about the ms being dragged thru bombs. So so true. And your advice to find support groups is so right on. I forgot to mention that in mine and it's one of the most important things for sure!!

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    1. Thanks. I know. I forgot to add a few items to my post, too. My brain was all about sticking beneath that 800 word mark. I have a tendency to be loooooooong winded.

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  10. You are harsh on your original story ideas! But you have to be.
    Giving back is so important.

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    1. LOL. Harsh...Dang, you should have read the first tome I wrote - 216,000 words of blah, blah, blah.... I had no idea what word count was. It was awful. But, yes...necessary for me to hammer out. Gosh, I'll have to go back and read some of it someday. I'll probably need an overdose of Tums, though.

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  11. Great letter, Sheri! You've had quite a journey and I'm sure the best is yet to come. :)

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  12. Love this!! Being positive, giving back and dredging through the explosions - all so true! :)

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    1. I know. Can't you hear the explosives??? ;)

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  13. Inspiring post! I loved #9. Good things are ahead for you!

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  14. Yep. I hear what you're saying. Guess you can write and darned well, if you ask me. You got my attention and kept it. Those notes paid off. :-)

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  15. Yup. Never giving up is the best thing a writer can do.

    Hugs and chocolate!

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  16. I really enjoyed your letter, and the advice you gave. I could relate to every point. :)

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  17. Great letter! Some fantastic tips here for new writers. :)

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  18. "Be brave and give back"--excellent, excellent advice, Sheri.

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  19. Great advice. I just wish I could write myself a letter that I'd actually receive ten years ago :)

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    1. Such an awesome story idea! Hint, hint... I've actually used something similar in my next YA. And yes, I so wish I could have written a letter to my newbie self, too.

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  20. Yes, to great brainstorming while folding laundry--and mine: driving on the highway! It's funny how you personified your poor WIP as being dragged around with bloodshot eyes. Had to laugh at that one. Isn't it amazing how much braver we are than we were at twenty or so?!

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  21. It's amazing where and when our stories come to us. One minute you're folding laundry and the next, you are roaming around the distant places of your forever churning mind.
    Post-its and notecards have become my best friends. My desk area looks like it has been swallowed up and spit out by the notecard master. When the post-its began to crawl from my desk up onto the wall, I was admitted into post-it therapy. Sadly, my verdict was to become more organized but they are still all over my desk=)
    Great letter and advice... thanks for sharing!

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  22. Love the analogy of dragging one's ms through a bombed out city street. LOL

    I enjoyed reading your entry. Good luck subbing. :)

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  23. Replies
    1. Thanks.

      Psst.... Just wanted to tell you I haven't read your book II yet. So, so sorry. I've been swamped with finishing this manuscript, other work, and home/family. It's on the top of my summer reads! Well, that's if freaking summer ever gets here. It's still freezing here. So tired of it.

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  24. I need to work on #4... Loved learning more about you, Sheri, and reading about your journey. I feel sure that good things are coming your way, and soon.

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    1. Thanks for the vote of confidence, Joanne. That's always helpful!

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  25. Sheri, this is such amazing advice!!!!

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  26. I do a lot of #7. Sometimes it pays off, sometimes not. But I find other author's new works interesting and find I learn a lot from their writing. Good advice here.

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    1. Oh, absolutely. I always learn more about myself and my writing while helping another writer with their work.

      Thank you for stopping by!

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  27. Great advice to your younger self. And I'm totally with you--I don't know how anyone wrote anything before the internet. But worse--without a word processor!!!

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    1. OMGosh, a word processor...that's a great one! I remember typing class in high school. Glad I don't have to use one of those. Let's not even think about a feather pen. Yikes! How the heck did Jane Austen do it?

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  28. HI Sheri,

    Your letter is amazing. Such terrific advice. Many will appreciate the thought and precision in each step you took... Well done!

    Happy to hear you did it... I'm with you on waiting for the right agent. I'm at that place now looking. WE can't do this alone. We are creators, story tellers, and artists...Leave the business end of our journey to the professionals who know the publishing world better than we ever can.

    Be aware, be savvy, but also listen to those veterans....

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  29. I'd like to know how writers survived without the internet! I'd be lost without it!

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  30. Yay! I loved the shrapnel reference. Oh my goodness, that's just what it feels like. Such great advice, Sherry.

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    1. Sorry for my incredibly late response to this. I loved your comment! I've been busy finishing up my MG manuscript. It's finally off with my agent, so I'm taking some time to catch up on a bazillion emails.

      I LOVED participating in Carrie/PK's idea to share our journeys. So much fun!

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  31. I love, love, love the shrapnel metaphor! It's so perfectly true. The story explodes, and there you are, trying to pick through all of those damn fragments, while you get in your own way. You phrased it so, so well. I loved this letter, too: the blend of humor, support, and practical tips is great :)

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  32. I also loved the bomb crater analogy! Sometimes it feels like our story needs more help than we know how to give, but we must do our best for it. This was a great letter with a ton of good advice in there.

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    1. Thanks so much for visiting, reading, and commenting! I truly appreciate it, and I'm thankful you found value in my words. So sorry for my late response. I've been finishing up my MG manuscript. It's now - FINALLY - off to my agent. Phew ....

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  33. I loved, love, love this letter, and the three components: Study, Be Positive, Be Brave and Give back! Giving back is a huge part of the writing journey. I've learned and grown from the experiences I've had with critique partners and writing students (I teach at a homeschool co-op).

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  34. There is so much awesome here. Be positive, don't compare yourself to others, give back. . .I wish I had this letter five years ago. You rock, lady. Loved it!

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    1. Aw ... you are way too kind to me. Thank you so much! ((HUGS))

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  35. I LOVE the analogy! It paints such a vivid—and definitely true!—picture. :) Thank you so much for sharing!

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    1. Well, thank YOU for organizing this entire gig. So much fun! Best of luck with putting it all together. I'm sure it's going to be amazing and it will help so many young writers.

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  36. Wow. Haha, this was great. If only we knew everything we know now when we first started X)
    This was great advice to your past self, but also to those of us who are still trying to figure things out. Thank you for it :)

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  37. Be brave - I really struggled with that one. Like the other comments, I really enjoyed the analogy. :)

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  38. Such great insight.

    The internet has been a big part of my journey. I can't imagine going back to my internet-less days of querying and not interacting with others.

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