Friday, January 13, 2012

Aspiring Advice: Writing Is Ever Learning

 
I received an email from a representative of ecollegefinder.org, telling me they've nominated The Cosmic Laire of Science Fiction and Fantasy for the Top Writing Blogs Award (thanks, Brittany!). This came out of nowhere, but it's awesome. And I like awesome!

As a nominee, I'm encouraged to write a post, tailored to students who wish to improve their writing acumen. This week's advice is for you, students, though what I'm about to tell you may not be what you'd expect.

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Writing is not a stagnate art. Learning is not a stagnate experience. No matter what level you're at now (writing a novel, finished a couple, or thinking of starting one), there's always room for improvement and growth.

As an optimistically naive sophomore, I thought my first novel (with it's super original concept) would throw the world for a loop - maybe even be the next Star Wars.

It wasn't until I became an undergraduate when I went to my first writer's conference and shared the first five pages of my manuscript at a critique session. There, I received the feedback that changed my writing forever.

"That was a waste of five pages ..."

What? That's not encouraging! And you know what? I wasn't encouraged. I almost left the conference and gave up writing entirely. Somehow, I stuck around. I met other aspiring writers, people who had the same aspirations. We talked. We shared. I learned - learned something that all my years of classroom sitting near taught me. Accepting that I could improve eventually led to being invited to lunch by a few freshly published authors, including James Dashner and Julie Wright.

And I learned even more.

My point? You can only rely on yourself for so long before someone with a different world view or more experience comes along and points at the cracks in your writing foundation, a foundation you thought was so strong. I chose to dig it up and start over again. It was tough, since there's no help button on my keyboard.

The core of being a writer is writing daily, reading lots, and learning always. If I had known the following when I started, I would be further along in my career today:

Network - Writing is not about being a shy hermit and hoping the first agent you query will offer a contract. If you want to be a writer, you need to take a break from the computer and be with other writers. Search for your local Writing League. Attend local (and/or national) writing conferences. Take creative writing courses. Sign up for writing seminars. Form or join a critique group. Writing is an art, but it's also a business. Network.

Web Presence - I think it was Dan Wells I heard say, "If you write, you should blog" during an LTUE panel on web presence. The same message rang true in the film Julie and Julia. Facebook. Twitter. Blogger. Personal Website. Whichever platform you prefer, get started now. Even if you have the best query that any agent has seen in a whole year, some will reject it if you have no presence. No joke. Here's a few outstanding examples of young aspiring authors who've already started theirs. 


Write - Always write. Flash fiction. Short Story. Novel. Doorstopper. Whatever. Make time for your writing now so it becomes a habit, something you'd much rather spend your free hours doing than playing countless MMORPGs. Give yourself a daily word count. Match it. Don't worry if it's utter tripe. Most likely, it will be. That's what editing and polishing is for. Like mastering any skill, it takes practice. Maybe even years of practice. In my case, a lifetime - and I still have a lot to learn.

This is not the rule, just my thoughts on the matter. You can ask for all the advice in the world (there are plenty who are willing to provide it), but the most important aspect is making the choice. Writing is not easy. Getting published is not easy. Then again, nothing is impossible.

So long as you are willing to ever learn.


"Dream large, stand tall, and open your mind, for you are the conduit for a story that has yet to be told."
- DPK

What have you learned about writing? Feel free to comment your advice for the world's aspiring youth.

I'm David, and now I feel like an old mentor dude.

37 comments:

  1. Holy Cannoli! Great post!

    So much truth in everything you say. Everyone goes through stages of immortality it seems. Only to be smacked down. Then the smart, persistent writers wise up.

    They are the ones to go on to pursue their goal. And succeed.

    FanFreakinTastic Post.

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  2. Some great tips here! I was nominated by eCollege as well. Think they contacted the wrong Alex.

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  3. OH everyone has to take a pot shot at the MMORPG once in a while. People that don't play just think it is such a waste of time. /sigh

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    1. Oh, absolutely. I've played my fair share, and I look forward to The Old Republic. I just don't mean playing constantly. :)

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  4. Great post, David and great advice. I told my hubby one day that it would be awesome to create the next Star Wars, lol.

    And congrats on being nominated, you totally deserve it.

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  5. Awesome. If you find a help button, let me know. :)

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  6. Great advice David! Congrats on the nomination! Woohoo!

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  7. Um, I want to say something to sum up this awesomeness, but I'm just left gawking at my computer. This was such a great post. :)

    And congrats again on being nominated!

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  8. One of the best posts I've ever read David. So true. I think even the most experienced of writers are still learning. It is one of my favorite reasons for blogging and going to conferences. I learn so much! You better be sharing this on Inkpageant, FB, twitter and everywhere else. Great advice. :)

    Peace out!

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  9. This is so awesome. I think this is one of the biggest false assumptions made by aspiring writers about being published....they think, once I'm published, I've made it. I'm good enough.

    But for a real writer, "good enough" is never enough. Even mega-bestselling authors should always be striving to get better. The writer who constantly learns and improves is the truly successful writer.

    Also, congrats on being nominated! Your blog totally deserves it. And thanks for the shout-out :).

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  10. Such great advice! This is the reason why I love the quote "keep moving forward"

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  11. I love your quote at the end. :D (And the picture! It really sparks the imagination.)

    And yes, absolutely, writing is a constant learning experience. With every page, with every book, every time it's edited, torn apart by beta readers and critique partners.

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  12. This is a fine post of writerly advice if I do say so myself. And I do.

    You speak much truth old mentor dude. Writing isn't a static thing. If it were, well, things would probably get pretty boring. So that means learning is an ever-process. There's always something new to learn, no matter how big or small.

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  13. Wonderful post, David, and congratulations.

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  14. Great post! I think we as writers all need to be reminded once in a while that we "MUST keep moving forward." AND WRITING!!!

    thanks! good quote too!

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  15. Great advice for young aspiring writers as well as older, aspiring writers! Great reminders and deluxe quote. :)

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  16. Congrats on the nomination! That's awesome! And great advice, too!

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  17. Congratulations!! Golden Eagle also got nominated. Well deserved, both of you.

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  18. Congratulations. Thanks for the great post.

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  19. Congratulations on your nomination! That first conference when you're just out of the gate with your writing is daunting. I'm glad you didn't let the harsh critique discourage you and you chose to keep going. That's a key component for a writer - perseverance!

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  20. Congrats on your nomination! You're totally right. Writing is the only way to learn how to write. :-)

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  21. Oh man! This means I'm going to feel like a newbie forever doesn't it? Haha, at least I won't get boring while writing. So much to learn!

    You can be my wise old mentor any time!

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  22. Congrats on your nomination! Great post.

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  23. Very much what I needed to hear, David. I can't believe all I have learned and all I have yet to learn! Great post:) And congrats on the nom! Wow!

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  24. You so deserve the nomination David! Congrats!

    And... this post is spot on. You'd think being a write would be a more solitary profession. That is very far from the truth.

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  25. Thanks for the mention :) And congrats on the nomination, you completely deserve it. Yours is one of the best blogs around and I really enjoy reading your posts. This one was great - learning is fundamental. Connecting with and learning from other writers (whether online or otherwise), learning from books (whether fiction or how-tos), and learning from actual writing experience are all valuable in there own ways. Great post :D

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  26. It's like Dori's matra- Just keep learning...learning, learning, learning...Just keep learning...

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  27. Sage advice old mentor dude!! :) now let me get back to writing... and learning.

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  28. Hi, new follower here! Excellent advice, and very relevant to my experiences in the writing world. Glad I found your blog. :)

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  29. Great advice! And congrats on the nomination!!!

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  30. Brilliant post, thanks for sharing! And yeah, I've had similar feedback except it was more along the lines of "I could barely stay awake it's so boring, there's nothing here to interest me," blah blah :P Still, it was certainly the feedback that had the most impact on me.

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  31. Excellent post! :)

    And I love that quote.

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  32. Congrats on the nomination! And thanks for mentioning me :)

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  33. Good stuff. I had the honor of working with young writers when I taught creative writing. Their energy and enthusiasm is contagious!

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  34. Congratulations on the nomination, David. As a writer over 50, I've learned a few things, and because I crave learning, I love it that there's always more. To me, writing is an art (= skill + discipline) and publishing is a business. I write because I love putting sentences together more than anything else. I publish because I believe in my product. And through blogging, I've realized the immense value of practice and community. Malcolm Gladwell's "The Outliers" poses and proves a wonderful theory re what separates those who succeed from those who don't: 10,000 hours of practice.

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  35. This was such a great post, David, and lucky the students who read it. To keep writing, reading, and above all, learning. The three keys, really. But you put it all so nicely!

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