Imagine a group of friends and relatives coming together throughout the afternoon over food and drink, staying late into the evening to share stories that engender laughter, tears, empathy and admiration. The profoundly satisfying stories in White Zion are rich in intimate detail, peopled with a cast of heart wrenching characters at once familiar and unique, a gathering of personalities that leaves me reluctant to leave their company and eager to revisit them.
Pearl Luke, author Madame Zee
|Another artist expanding her body of work: Sivana Green|
Writing advice is its own genre. When I Google the words "writing advice" I
receive 585 million results. Wow!
I can't tell you what will work for you, but I can tell you what works for me.
The best writing advice I ever received was from writer and editor Mark Mirsky.
Here it is: A writer must expand her body of work.
Whenever I feel overwhelmed by all of the advice-givers out there (bless them,
they mean well) telling me to do more marketing, more showing not telling, more vivid description, more book reading in more genres, meet more authors, be more disciplined, include more of what I know and yes, to include more of what I don't know, I go back to the first piece of advice in the first year of my
life that I immersed myself in writing at university thirteen years ago.
Even reading the common advice "to have more fun" is a non-starter for me. It's never inspired me to do anything besides think: I'm off the hook. More fun means more procrastination. Procrastinating sounds a lot more fun than writing that next chapter.
I can get down about a rejection, a frustrating rewrite, or an unproductive writing session. Sometimes I think: I'm done. I've always wanted to learn gardening, photography, Krav Maga. Why am I still trying to write?
When that happens I go back to, "Hey, Gila, writers must expand their body of work."
I admit that I love that imagery; thinking of my work as a body in progress, a body that is incomplete and only I can complete it, still knowing it
will never be completed.
Somehow, always check your social media page, always attend every writers
event, always edit starting from the last page so you don't miss any errors, always write every day, always….
None of those lines of advice have ever inspired me to move forward with a
novel, a short story, or a flash piece when I want to give up.
A writer must expand her body of work.
This advice worked for me thirteen years ago and works for me every time. Maybe out of the 585 million writing advice articles out there, this one will work
for you. And thanks, Mark. I can't thank you enough.
Writing Opportunities In Unexpected Places.
Being a student has reminded me that if you write, you are a writer; write and write often; and opportunities to write really are everywhere.
When I decided to get a MA in Technical and Professional Communication, I felt that I was betraying my creative writing self. I repeated, "This doesn't define you. You're still a creative writer.” Even when my professor said in research class, "to not be mistaken, this is a writing class," I still felt like a cheat.
After a couple of writing intensive classes, it surprised me what I learned and relearned: writing practice comes in many forms and still adheres to basic writing rules.
There is always a deadline. That’s frightening when staring at a blank page. Gather research and focus on your writing goal with your deadline mind.
Remember the 5 magic words
As I freaked about creating a budget in Grant Writing class, there were five words the professor emphasized to address in the narrative: who, what, when, where, and why. Yeah, the 5Ws that you learned in middle school. Six if you count how.
Take a break
When I’ve stared at a blank page and nothing came to mind, I took a break. New ideas will come to mind. When the break is over, don't move to another task, get back to writing. (remember that deadline)
Use free note taking apps
Technology can feel like a necessary evil to those technically challenged; however, there are several free tools that are great for compiling and organizing notes or chapters. If you get lost while slaying dragons and forget to press save, Google docs and Evernote remembers to save while you write.
Revise and Revise again
Even in professional writing your first draft stinks. In my Public Interest writing class, the writing project was a 4-person team effort, but as the content specialist it was my job to use the research gathered, put it into words and context. By the end of the semester the document had 4 different writing styles, different voices and grammatical errors galore. There was no time more precious than that set aside by the professor to rewrite.
As a distant education student I forget that my classmates and I are in this struggle together, until I’m in a peer group. Consider joining writing groups and/or societies. I’ve learned that the support of like-minded people will encourage you to write to finish.
Be prepared to write when opportunity strikes
Joining groups and meeting writers, gave me the opportunity to contribute to a book produced by the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. With all the writing I'd done, it prepared me to quickly research, fill the blank page, meet my deadline and get me my first by line.
Conswalia Green is a writer who after several years of living in New York and a year in France she returned to North Carolina to attend East Carolina University as a graduate student.