I was talking about the writing symposium (See Advice to a New Writer, Part 1) with some of my co-workers at lunch today and one of them asked me, "If you'd been on one of the panels, what advice would you have given to new writers?"

Here's what I told him:

Do not get caught up in the trap of rewriting a story over and over again until it's perfect. Finish a story and get it in front of a reader.  Rewriting one thing over and over MAY teach you how to tell that single story (though it's just as likely you'll ruin it), but your goal should be to improve your overall skill set. 

Your first reader should be someone who likes to read the kinds of things you're writing.  If they don't like the kinds of stories you're trying to tell, their advice will be ineffective at best and maybe even damaging.

Make sure your first reader knows you DO NOT want a critique.  Remember, YOU are the storyteller.  When someone tells you how to fix a story it becomes THEIR story, not yours.  Instead, you want them to approach the story as if they'd come across it in a magazine--right before a story by one of their favorite authors.  They're going to give your story a shot and, if it doesn't hold their attention, they should stop reading--but have them mark where they stopped.  That little bit of information is incredibly valuable.  Especially if you have multiple readers telling you they stopped reading at about the same spot.

If your reader finishes your story, find out what you do well.  Ask them what they enjoyed.  You're not fishing for compliments here, you're looking for areas of competence. If you know what you're good at, you can focus your attention on other things that you'd like to work on for the next story.  Get an over-all impression so that you can practice on the right things that will make you a better writer and storyteller.

If-And-Only-If you agree with the feedback from your reader(s) do you go back and "fix" that story. Otherwise, go on to the next story and start the process over with something different.

In summary, to become a writer; 1) Write something.  2) Finish it.  3) Get it in front of your audience.  4) Learn from their reactions.  5) Start over.

This should sound a little bit like Heinlein's Rules -- and intentionally so.  To become a Professional Writer, Heinlein had it right all along.  For anyone unfamiliar, here they are (slightly paraphrased):

1 - You must write.
2 - You must finish what you write.
3 - You must get the finished product in front of someone who will pay you for it.
4 - ONLY rewrite to editorial direction.
5 - Keep the story "in the mail" until it sells.

That's the advice I'd give a new writer.  And really, it's the only way to become a competent, working professional.
 


Comments

08/19/2015 6:43pm

I could not be gladder that I came across this. The tips that you've shared are very useful. I especially like how a writer should remind his first reader (reviewer) that he is not to critique. He is just there to respond as one reader would without affecting the author's story telling. I find that advice really valuable. I always end up having my work's read and then critiqued at an instance. It really does make my brain go haywire.

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09/16/2015 3:16pm

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03/26/2016 11:43am

Thanks! I'm a new writer now so your advices are very useful for me!

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04/24/2016 11:20pm

If you'd been on one of the panels, what advice would you have given to new writers?"

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06/02/2016 10:44pm

Thanks for the advice you've give us!

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07/23/2016 4:31am

Writing is mainly a craft. It takes a great deal of skills and learning to become one. Then again, I appreciate your effort in making time to supply a great advice to aspiring writers. Your advice is precisely right on time. I will be composing a story in one of our school plays. Thus, I will follow the tips you have offered here.

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08/02/2016 6:16am

These advices are so useful! Thank you so much for them!

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