Apart from reading, one of my favourite things to do and something I hope can make me some money in the future is writing. I dabble in articles, short stories, reviews, crime, fantasy and whatever else I can set my mind to. I find it is an escape and a release, I can put any and all emotions into my novel or stories, and deal with my frustrations if need be.
It has been something I have wanted to do for at least twenty years, and something I have been working at. When I look at stuff from years ago, I cringe but I have only improved from those stories, which I have kept as inspiration to do better, just as I keep rejections. In Castle once, Rick’s daughter asked him why he kept his first rejection letter framed behind his desk. He replied that it was to inspire him to keep going and never give up. I like this advice. Had JK Rowling given up, we would not have the wonderful Harry Potter novels, or The Casual Vacancy or the recent crime novel, or even perhaps any future books she has in her.
Yes, rejection is tough, and I have had my fair share but I keep telling myself one day it will come, the publication that I seek. So I dabble in different areas hoping something will happen, that somebody will notice. I communicate with authors, I read lots, I take part in writing activities online like NaNoWriMo. I am yet to enter competitions because many cost money and I need to consider the financial situation I am in before sending off entry fees. I write casually for a reviews website, building up a stash until I have a certain amount, which can take many months, and then I get paid. It’s not much but its experience.
Any writing I do is experience. I contact magazines, I have my writers marketplace book full of contacts to peruse when I need to. I try do it regularly but sometimes things like life get in the way.
I always have a notebook and pen with me and a few good friends to bounce ideas off and who are willing to read my writing and let me know what works and what doesn’t work rather than just the I don’t like that. Why? I just don’t, type of comments I used to get in uni writing classes. That wasn’t constructive at all because all it told me was that one or two people had an issue with something, not what they thought was effective.
I like description in writing. Why? Because it sets the scene. If I am reading a book set in a city I have never been to, I like to know what the city looks like, the landmarks, the weather, the people. I like to have an idea of what a character looks like. I do the same in my novels. I try to find a balance between this and overdoing it.
I research as much as I can until I come to a point where I really must start the piece. Not everything gets used, though.
I’m by no means professional at the moment, but there are things I have learnt: don’t try and force your writing style on others, that never works. One thing I hate the idea of is, having to change words and phrases from my Australian English to American English. Why? I can understand American English, and there is a reason I use the Aussie English, because it suits my characters. Change the way they say mum, or something like that, it sounds too disjointed to me. It’s nothing against the Americans, its just that the words I use have been chosen for a reason and they suit the setting. It would be the same with any book. I would hate for any author to compromise how they would write just to suit the few who may not like or understand the words, even if used in context. To carry on from this, I will not change POV, names or anything like that just because one person doesn’t like them. Why? Because nobody can tell the author how to write. I can’t ask everyone in the world their opinion because then I would never get it right for anyone. I write what I want and if people don’t like it that’s fine, they don’t have to read it. When people ask about it, I tell them that: don’t write to suit the reader, whether it’s “dumbing down” which is in effect “talking down” to the reader and misjudging how smart they actually are, or compromising language that doesn’t suit your setting at all. Write the way you talk in life, especially dialogue if it suits. People are smart. I don’t want to treat my readers like they can’t work things out or get a dictionary if they don’t understand a word here and there.
Most importantly, I write because I love it. My little rant above is just how I feel about the practise of writing and I wouldn’t expect people to change how they write. I just get my dictionary if I come across an unknown word. Write! And write the way you want to write. That said, writing for journalism is different to fictional writing, but I am talking about fiction here.