A Neglectful Writer and the Things He has Learnt

     I have been a bad writer. I have been a very bad writer. Not bad at writing, but bad at being a writer. Perhaps bad isn’t the right word, neglectful seems more appropriate. Neglectful of my blog, neglectful of my ideas, and neglectful of the very thing I set out to pursue.

     When I started my journey of writing I had a clear cut goal; to create the fantasy novel I pictured so vividly in my head. I had a defined method on how to achieve that goal; go to university to do a creative writing degree, keep reading, and keep writing. I was sure that somewhere along the way I’d become kind of good.

     So what happened? I got sidetracked along the way. On my journey toward that sunset horizon, that snow-capped pinnacle that is my ultimate goal, I stopped to look at the beautiful things around me and I liked what I saw. That doesn’t mean I stopped moving towards my goal, just that – for the moment – my progress has slowed considerably. But, try as I might, I can’t stop moving towards my goal. It forever looms over me like a considerably well-built and well-meaning auntie, nagging and prodding me forward.

     So I decided to do a Master’s degree in Publishing because – for me – that is closer to my goal of being a writer. I’m halfway through the degree and I’m beginning to comprehend how publishers think, what I need to do to be successful in the competitive world of writing. That is good. But I stopped writing creatively, and that is bad. Instead, I’ve been caught up in copy-editing, learning how exactly the English language works, and writing a 3,500-word report on the strategic position of JCB (don’t ask).

     Now I find myself back here, on this humble blog, trying to get back on the paved road that winds ineluctably on toward my goal. Along the way I’ve picked up some advice, from writers and from mistakes I’ve made, that I’d like to share with you.

– Keep reading, keep writing, and keep teaching yourself things. The broader your view on the world, the better you present yourself when writing about it. The more you read, the more you understand how to write. The more you write, the better you get at it.

– Keep focused on your goal. Do what you have to do, within reason, to get closer to it.

– Don’t neglect your ideas. I’m incredibly guilty when it comes to this. Too often I have had an idea and said ‘I’ll write that down later’, but the idea slips from my mind like tea bleeding through a cracked mug and is gone. A postponed idea is a wasted idea. Get up at night to write that idea you’ve dreamt up, grab a napkin at Nando’s and write it if you have an idea mid-meal, don’t neglect your ideas because they are the lifeblood of your writing.

– Share your work with people. Sometimes all you need is a fresh set of eyes.

– Edit, edit, edit. I can not stress this enough.  I considered deleting most of the content on my blog before starting to write here again (I may delete it still), simply because I didn’t edit. Publishers often receive manuscripts for novels, essays, and non-fiction with terrible errors. For example, one Publisher received a manuscript from an academic for a history book where many of the dates were in the wrong century! Always check your work.

– Your writing can always get better. I’ve often looked at my ink ramblings and thought this is terrible. In fact, I don’t think any writer who cares about the craft has not – at some point – thought this. But your writing can, and will, get better with practice. My writing took a nice leap in the right direction when I began researching classical rhetoric, there are thousands of techniques out there to help sharpen up your writing. Actually, that gives me an idea. In the coming weeks, look out for a new series on writing techniques and classical rhetoric! Refuse to think of yourself as a bad writer. Instead, think of yourself as a student of writing. Even the greatest experts in a field have more to learn.

– Write to please you, stop pandering to markets. If you write to please markets/trends you won’t be writing at your best, and it won’t be truly what you want to write.

     I’m looking forward to getting back to my writing, and I’m looking forward to being involved in this community of writers here on WordPress.

      Thank you for reading, see you soon!

 

11 thoughts on “A Neglectful Writer and the Things He has Learnt

  1. I can relate. My writing activity goes up and down a lot as well. This year I have decided to set myself harsh deadlines, as I am very deadline driven, and to appoint some friends who keep me accountable to those deadlines. Writing is always very difficult in a vacuum, so get some people to hold you accountable.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for the insightful comment. I think I find it very easy to say ‘I’m too busy doing my degree’ and other such things, rather than actually getting up a little earlier and getting a bit more writing done. I’ve actually been setting myself some deadlines too, but didn’t think about getting people to hold me accountable. Thanks for the great idea.

      Like

  2. I have three thoughts on this:

    1. It is always healthy, though difficult, to be honest with yourself. Bravo.

    2. Beyond self-editing, cultivate relationships with beta readers during the writing process and a good editor when you’ve done all you can. Be open to changes that editor suggests, but be clear on the reasons. If they do not jibe with your thoughts, talk it out. In cases where you are freelancing, and the client edits your work arbitrarily, always review it and speak up when misinterpretations occur. I find myself doing this frequently with one site to which I contribute regularly, typically because a new editor gets his hand on my American dialect and decides to turn me into a Brit, which only comes off as phony and dishonest.

    3. “Do what you have to do, within reason” gave me a very entertaining, Ray Winstone-ish mental image of what would not be reasonable. 🙂

    Stay on the path, young Frodo!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the thoughts. I agree wholeheartedly with your points, relationships with editors and beta readers are two things I’d completely forgotten to mention. Honesty is the best policy, if only the whole world adopted that stance!

      As for what would not be reasonable, I wouldn’t leave anyone alone in a room with Winstone.

      Thanks for the kind words and encouragement!

      🙂

      Like

    1. I would definitely agree. I think I’m lucky to be able to take detours like that. Sometimes things can feel bad if one is so focused on a singular goal, but when I think about it I’ve most likely benefited from my travels. 🙂

      Thanks. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I wonder, did your foray into the publishing world change your views on anything?

    i’m new to the world of writing and hence publishing and reading up on the matter, there seems to be a fair amount of snobbery when it comes to being published by traditional means or going down the self publishing route.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would say it has changed my view on some things, but not on others.

      I suppose, as a writer, I would definitely still like to be traditionally published. It is the prestige that comes with it that is attractive to a lot of people. Though I agree that there is some snobbery to address.

      Self publishing has become a much more attractive option to me. Previously I didn’t think of it as much of a choice. But now I’ve learnt that my views were quite narrow minded. The share of profits that you can keep self-publishing and doing it through cheap channels, especially with print-on-demand companies like Lulu and CreateSpace is a massive motivator. Though many self-published authors will say it’s not for the money, not all are that modest. Thriller author Barry Eisler decided to drop a traditional contract offer worth $500,000 in order to self-publish.

      The problem with self-publishing is that many authors do not often have the skills to typeset a book properly, nor an appreciation of the several stages an equivalent book goes through when traditionally published.

      A traditionally published book is structurally edited, line-edited, copy-edited, proofread, typeset, any art and illustrations are properly set into it… the list goes on. That is why many successful self-published authors spend a lot of money to get onto the same playing field. A traditional publisher takes a bigger cut, but that is because a tremendous amount of money goes into producing a book.

      Both sides have their pros and cons, and in the end choosing one path doesn’t mean that you can’t do the other if you so choose.

      I hope that at least some of this block of text has been useful!

      Thanks for the question!

      Like

  4. Cheers for your reply.

    I have had two publishers interested in my book, but because it is such a niche subject (local history) they decided in the end that though they liked my book and style, it wasn’t financially viable.

    In a sense I have been left no choice, not that it’s been all bad.

    I have an editor who is going to start work on it next week. She’s also going to guide me through the self publishing route.

    The more articles I read about the pros and cons about both methods, and the more self published local authors I talk to, I think I might well have ultimately chose this route anyway.

    From what I’ve been told, you have final say over editing, (be that good or bad!) it takes far less time to get published. You can make alterations should you need to at any stage, even after the book’s been published.

    The only downside I can see (as of yet) is the snobbery still associated with self publishing. But then I guess I’ll have to brush up on my media presence.

    Like

    1. It’s fantastic that you’ve had interest, and a shame that they decided that it wasn’t financially viable.

      One of my lecturers actually started their business by self-publishing a local history book, and they are doing pretty (very) well for themselves.

      I wouldn’t worry about snobbery too much though. Media presence is always a great idea, it’s about getting the book out there. Perhaps you could get in touch with museums/places of interest in the local area of which you’re writing about. Perhaps they could put an order in to buy a certain amount of copies? Just an idea.

      I wish you all the best of luck, but if you ever want to bounce ideas around I don’t mind helping you out.

      Like

  5. Pingback: Classical Rhetoric; An Exordium – Jordan Reynolds

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