“My advice is…really the same for anybody writing any kind of book…but I guess it’s more for fiction writers like myself. It’s really basically this:
WRITE.” – Anne Rice
Roxanne Ravenel writes a weekly craft column called Storyteller Saturdays over on her site, Mindful Banter, in which she posts insightful interviews and observations of some of the biggest talents of our time. They’re quite inspirational. A few weeks ago, she posted about the songwriting talents of Taylor Swift that inspired me to dream of a day when Storyteller Saturdays might be singing the successes of another Swift — and I don’t mean Jonathan — and yesterday, she passed along this video of Anne Rice, who gained fame with Interview with the Vampire. It was so encouraging, I had to take it apart in my usual fashion, dissect it, study it, then ingest it. There are some wise words for the beginning writer who, as we all know, can get flustered and discouraged in this newly changing, fast-paced world of publishing. I’ve gone ahead and condensed some of the highlights for you here.
- Write what you want to be known for. Anne tells us to write the “book of our dreams…kick out the pages everyday and save them. You may write two or three chapters and decide you don’t like them — don’t throw them away, save them. Create, through writing, the person you want to be.”
- The great thing about our profession is there are no rules. A word processor or a typewriter and paper is all you need (or a burnt stick and some papyrus — just get it written!). “You can create War & Peace, or you can create The Old Man and the Sea. You can do that writing anywhere … you can do it in a cafe … a kitchen table … a garage office.” I’ve even done it on the toilet; of course it was a crappy first draft. Bah-dump-bah!
- Every year, someone makes it from their garage or kitchen to the top of the best-seller list. They write in their bedroom, late at night, or if like me, wake at an ungodly hour in the morning to do it. They carve out time to write. Anne dispels the myth that it is impossible for people to break into the publishing world, assuring that it’s simply not true. She reminds us, “I came out of nowhere. I was a nothing and a nobody. [My book] had been turned down about five times (wow! only five?) by knowledgeable people who said it wasn’t worth publishing. Then it was published and I was off and running.” She does include the disclaimer that there are those who never break in — maybe they should, maybe they shouldn’t, we aren’t the ones to decide. But in my opinion, if you have a grasp on the craft and follow her advice, I don’t see how you can fail.
- The publishing world is crying out for new voices, visions, stories, characters. “They don’t want someone that sounds just like Anne Rice, Stephen King, Oscar Wilde, or Danielle Steel. They want an original voice. They want somebody new and fresh.” I’ve read that there are no original stories anymore, so if that’s true, then how are they different? It’s the voice that tells them. It finds a unique way. Look at Titanic. It’s essentially Romeo and Juliet at sea, with a ‘splash’ of Love Story.
- Go where the pain is. “When you write, go where the pain is.” Find that memory, feel it, and write about it in the solitude of your own space. Use those life experiences to bring depth where needed.
- Also, go where the pleasure is! “Write the book that’s interesting to you.” If, after a couple of chapters you have a boring book, don’t give up and toss it out (remember those boring chapters she told us to save in the beginning?). Ask yourself what you need to make it interesting to you. Do you change POV? Make the character have a revelation? Have them go in a totally different direction? WHAT? Dunno — can’t tell you. But I’ve learned that the more exciting I make it for myself, the more anxious I am to get to work and write what will happen next — to satisfy my own curiosity.
- Your work will not appeal to everybody. Anne chuckles, “Every book I’ve ever written has gotten reviews on Amazon that say, ‘This is the worst book ever published. This woman doesn’t know how to write.'” She realizes and understands that you can’t please everybody, but if you write what excites you, you end up with a book that you like and can be proud of — one that you want to take out into the world. Not everybody likes sci-fi, or romance, or crime, or perhaps even your style of delivery…and some genres are broken down so specifically, that the possibility exists that they simply don’t like that offshoot of it. Or it may be a story about a car wreck on a morning when the editor just got into a fender-bender, so he trashes it. Who knows? Don’t take no as an answer from anybody. Believe in yourself and your work and KEEP GOING.
- When presenting your manuscript, don’t revise. “Any editor that rejects your book doesn’t get it.” I love that! Do NOT revise for him, even if he leaves you a boatload of comments. This is YOUR book. “Revise for the editor who says he loves the book and wants to publish it, but asks if you could see your way into shortening it or changing this or that. That’s when you listen, that’s when you decide.” That advice is a golden nugget, ready to be stashed in a safety deposit box and looked at whenever you’re told to revise by an editor who basically isn’t interested in the first place.
- Consider self-publishing. If everybody rejects the manuscript but YOU still believe strongly in the piece, consider self-publishing.
- Talent is only one of many strengths necessary to make it. “You need stubbornness, you need courage, you need faith in yourself that’s as strong as any talent you may possess.” Let your talent flow, but support it with some backbone, and if you feel you don’t naturally carry that trait, look to a source greater than yourself to find the strength and courage and faith to keep going. You ARE a successful writer!
“The only thing that’s standing between you and realizing your dreams as a writer is yourself.You’re the one who’s got to write the material.
You’re the one who’s got to believe in it.
You’re the one who’s got to take it out there.”
I hope the NaNoWriMo is going well for everybody! I’m getting there…finally reached the halfway mark.