Archive for April, 2010

I found these tips usefull to read, so I’m passing them on. Usha

What skills does a writer need to develop?

by Chip MacGregor

1. Develop a writing schedule (i.e., have a time and a place where you write regularly)

2. Have a goal (perhaps “create 1000 salable word per day”)

3. Learn to get the words down on paper (you can revise later – it’s always easier to edit something than to create something)

4. Create short assignments for yourself (you’re not trying to write a book all at once — if you break it into pieces, you’re trying to get each small assignment done)

5. [This is going to offend some people, but hear me out] In the words of Anne Lamott, be willing to create shitty first drafts (okay, forgive the language if it offends you — that’s stolen from Anne Lamott’s fabulous book Bird by Bird, and it’s one of the best writing lessons ever. So what should I say? “Poopy” first drafts? First drafts of deep doo-doo? It seems weak to say, “Be willing to create first drafts that aren’t very good.” So…I’ll just ask you to live with my colorful use of the language today.)

6. Know what makes a good story (understand what a plot is and how to follow a story arc)

7. Learn to create true-to-life dialogue (nothing keeps people reading more than a great conversation)

8. Establish a place (many novelists has lost the art of establishing a setting)

9. Characters make your story (newer writers often want to focus strictly on plot, but strong characters are what add depth and texture to a story)

10. Understand what makes superb writing (great themes, the deep questions, wrestling with morality, decision making, choices that may not be correct)

11. Learn to organize your life (in the words of management guru Bobb Biehl, everybody needs a calendar, an address system, a filing system, and a “To Do” list)

12. Learn to partner “a big idea” with  “great writing” and “a solid platform” (publishers want all three)

13. What is unique about your idea? (Solomon was right — the writing of books is endless, so figure out what is different or special or fresh about yours… If you can’t answer the “so what?” question, you’re in trouble.)

14. Establish your voice (the hardest thing to do in writing, but the single most important step to becoming successful)

15. Network so that you can create strong relationships with other authors, with editors, and with publishers (it’s who you know in publishing…just like every other business)

16. Know your audience (books are read by individuals, so know exactly which individual is going to be reading your book)

17. Create perfect proposals (work to create a proposal your publisher can’t say “no” to)

18. Seek to understand the market (you don’t have to be driven by trends, but it’s important to know what they are)

19. Understand what helps writing sell (fiction is for entertainment, nonfiction is for education, but great writing for either should change me)

20. Know how to sell (your book, your idea, your self)

21. Establish a relationship with a good agent (there are some lousy agents out there, but a good agent can help shape your career as much as any choice you’ll make)

22. Know how to plan a writing career (how to write, what to write, when to write, who to write to, how to move forward, and when to go full time)

23. Be able to read through a publishing contract (understand what you’re signing and what it means)

24. Be able to negotiate (even agented authors need some basic negotiating tools)

25. Work hard at marketing (the author is the person most responsible for marketing the book, not the publisher, the editor, the sales team, the publicist, or the marketing director)

26. Know how to manage your money (writing is feast and famine…knowing how to fill in the gaps is a really handy ability)

27. Understand yourself and your writing (plan your work and work your plan)

28. Politeness counts (express appreciation to others — success should be matched by grace)

29. Learn to give back (every good writer is a mentor who carries on the craft by investing in a protege)

30. Keep perspective on your life and work (publishing doesn’t make you smart or pretty or holy; getting your name in print doesn’t validate your life)

There you go — my list of things I’d share with you. If this interests you, I encourage you to pick up a copy of Carolyn See’s wonderful little book Making a Literary Life. In it, she encourages authors to write 1000 words and send a “charming note” each day. If you only did those two things, you’d probably be miles ahead of the pack. Maybe the best advice I know.

Chip MacGregor