Everywhere we look, someone has "expert" advice, a list of tips of what to do and what not to do, or suggestions on how to market our books once we reach that stage of our writing careers.
The old expression about not being able to see the forest for the trees is so true. When we are so deep within the woods, whether it is our writing, our marriages, our jobs, or whatever situation overwhelms us or takes up so much of our time that we feel lost, many tend to give up.
For the past ten years, I have been writing poetry, short stories, notes on the backs of receipts or napkins, and novels. I keep notebooks everywhere (along with a collection of reading glasses now so I don't waste time searching for them when a brilliant idea strikes me), in the bathroom, on my nightstand next to my bed, in my purse, and in my car.
During this period of time, many hours have been spent in editing, revising, and studying, reading, and searching for all those "expert" advice tidbits. There are so many out there. Where does one begin? We begin with one tree at a time. After a while, we learn how to identify the different trees and determine their worth in our unique journey. We learn how to sort through and decide which trees are valuable to our genre, our personal quest in writing, or how we measure success.
In contemplating the forest, I reflected on my earlier writing while editing my very first completed novel (which is now a four-book series: The Corundum Empire) and realized that in all the learning, reading "on-writing" books by the greats such as King and Morrell, and getting my very own leather-bound copy of Strunk & White Elements of Style, I have learned how NOT to write.
By that, I mean - I have learned more over the past decade on how NOT to write than how to write:
Don't write in passive voice.
Don't repeat phrases or words.
Don't mix tense.
Don't tell, show.
Don't head hop with point of view.
At first, I had no clue what passive voice meant. After discovering that MS Office Word has a setting to identify our passive voice sentences, I began learning just what they were and my writing improved. Same as with all the other "don't's," I began avoiding them so the revisions wouldn't be as big of a job. My writing has changed dramatically since that first novel was drafted. I printed it out in my vanity, thinking I was a real author. The current edition of The Corrundum Empire is not the same book, and I am not the same writer.
I think one of the biggest things I learned in all the DON'T's of writing is this...
DON'T EVER GIVE UP!
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