Time Again For Your Penmonkey Evaluations

I think it’s good to evaluate yourself as a writer sometimes, just to see who you are and how you’re doing — where do you stand and where are you headed? If you’re planning on doing this thing really-for-realsies, sometimes a look at your paths and processes is worth doing.

So, a handful of quick questions. A survey, but informal — no data collection, here.

Answer in comments, if you’re so inclined. If you want to also post at your blog to generate discussion there, hey, go for it. (But please still try to leave your answers here, as well.)

a) What’s your greatest strength / skill in terms of writing/storytelling?

b) What’s your greatest weakness in writing/storytelling? What gives you the most trouble?

c) How many books or other projects have you actually finished? What did you do with them?

d) Best writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. really helped you)

e) Worst writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. didn’t help at all, may have hurt)

f) One piece of advice you’d give other writers?

124 comments

  • a) What’s your greatest strength / skill in terms of writing/storytelling?
    Voice, description, versatility. Or in broader terms, I am excellent at picking the right words for what I mean to do — using language as a razor-sharp tool.

    b) What’s your greatest weakness in writing/storytelling? What gives you the most trouble?
    Iteration. I’m incredibly reluctant to discard material and start over, or do massive, sweeping revisions even when necessary. I can cut if need be, whole chapters or plot threads. But sometimes you need to actively rewrite, and that’s not a tool I’m comfortable using. I’m too hasty.

    c) How many books or other projects have you actually finished? What did you do with them?
    Two novels; one trunked, probably forever because it is completely horrible; one on submission to agents, and failing that, I’m looking into e-publishing it this summer. A few short stories, some of which have been submitted to markets and been rejected; some just shared with friends online; one in a forthcoming anthology. One short story ransomed on Kickstarter and released as a Creative Commons work. One self-published serial funded on Kickstarter and progressing now. A handful of artsy or whimsical online projects put out there just for fun. Some dozen or more work-for-hire games and the like.

    d) Best writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. really helped you)
    The best writing advice I ever got was the Donald Maass book “Writing the Breakout Novel.” It taught me things about stakes, pacing, and tension that I’d never been taught in a creative writing program before. It was revelatory. It changed my work dramatically for the better.

    e) Worst writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. didn’t help at all, may have hurt)
    A college creative writing instructor told me my work was “too sentimental.” it turns out that emotional writing is one of my strengths, and in trying to be less emotional, I lost the spark that made my writing interesting to me and to my readers.

    f) One piece of advice you’d give other writers?
    Process over outcome. This is the piece of advice I’m concentrating on right now. You can’t control whether you’ll be published, whether you’ll get an agent, whether a reader will like you. All that’s in your power is writing the best damn story you have in you. And if you’re honest with yourself, you can tell when you’re phoning it in. So concentrate on craft, on doing great work, and let go of all the other stuff around it. You can’t help it anyhow.

  • a) What’s your greatest strength / skill in terms of writing/storytelling?

    I’ve noticed that I’m getting pretty good at showing instead of telling, as compared to my earlier work. And I finish what I start.

    b) What’s your greatest weakness in writing/storytelling? What gives you the most trouble?

    Not making the time to write every single day. Other than that, finding an ending. I always have to rewrite the ending.

    c) How many books or other projects have you actually finished? What did you do with them?

    Four books, lots and lots of short stories. Two of the books I’ve stuffed into a drawer. I wrote them as a teenager and they’re…bleh. The third is a co-authored piece that I’m shopping around, and the fourth is a mystery that I’ve got in ABNA right now.

    d) Best writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. really helped you)

    I was lucky enough to meet the late Sci-Fi Grandmaster Jack Williamson as a teenager. He heard I was an aspiring writer and invited me to dinner after slogging through a horrible early draft of one of the novels I wrote (which is now sitting in a drawer). But he told me to keep at it, and so I have,

    e) Worst writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. didn’t help at all, may have hurt)

    If you don’t know the ending before you start, you aren’t a “real” writer.

    f) One piece of advice you’d give other writers?

    Write your first draft for you, write the story you want to read, and finish! Sometimes you have to push that potential future audience out of your head and just get the words on paper.

  • a) What’s your greatest strength / skill in terms of writing/storytelling?

    I think I know how to make characters talk in such a way that not too much eye rolling goes on.

    b) What’s your greatest weakness in writing/storytelling? What gives you the most trouble?

    Sometimes I want to make certain things happen so badly that I can’t see how terrible it makes the story as a whole.

    c) How many books or other projects have you actually finished? What did you do with them?

    I’ve finished two books that I gave to my friends and family and this one English tutor I had in high school who is a genius. I wrote a play and we used it as a dinner theatre fundraiser for a fine arts trip. I’ve finished three screenplays, one of which has every potential to not suck, all of which I gave to other screenwriting friends and one of which (the not-sucking one) I paid for coverage on. Nothing published, nothing I got paid for.

    d) Best writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. really helped you)

    “I need you to work harder; the first thing you came up with is good, but that will never matter if you don’t really work at it.”

    e) Worst writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. didn’t help at all, may have hurt)

    “Have you ever thought about getting a writing coach?” Well-meaning sisters are the worst.

    f) One piece of advice you’d give other writers?

    Fucking write. Let’s all just fucking write.

  • a) What’s your greatest strength / skill in terms of writing/storytelling?

    If we’re just talking storytelling, I’m proudest of my ability to paint vivid pictures with an economy of words. If we’re talking about editing or writing advice, it’s my ability to make complex things easier to digest. Sometimes without profanity.

    b) What’s your greatest weakness in writing/storytelling? What gives you the most trouble?

    Flat out I suck something awful at third acts. It’s a lousy admission, but once the big exciting bits are over, my resolutions feel rushed and underbaked and hurried. I’m sure this is something that will come up in therapy.

    c) How many books or other projects have you actually finished? What did you do with them?

    Actually finished writing? 8 are available sale on places like Smashwords and game-related things. How many do I still have pending? Up around 20. My efforts to sprint through writing have changed dramatically in the last few months. Lots of slow tending to the word-forges.

    d) Best writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. really helped you)

    “Your words are your voice, and don’t let anyone silence you, worst of all yourself.”

    e) Worst writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. didn’t help at all, may have hurt)

    “You’re going to need far more academic exposure and literature to write real publishable work. No one but pretenders and amateurs write genre fiction and certainly no one good reads it” It’s the only time I almost hit a professor with her own book.

    f) One piece of advice you’d give other writers?

    One of the great obstacles to writing isn’t the knowledge of craft or subject research but the discipline to write on a regular schedule and to push yourself when you stall or don’t want to write in the first place. Research can be done over time. Craft can be practiced. You can find editors to help you, you can take workshops, you can get readers. But you still have to write the thing.

  • a) I’ve been told I’m really good at getting into the minds of young adults and creating convincing characters in that age range.

    b) Finding the right balance of description. I tend to have too much or too little. It’s hard to reach that happy medium.

    c) I’ve written nineteen books. Eleven of them have been published by traditional publishing houses. Three are under contract waiting to be released. Three I’ve self published. And two I’m planning to self publish.

    d) Don’t write to trends. Write what you would want to read.

    e) I honestly can’t remember any really bad writing advice I’ve been given. Maybe I’ve just blocked it out. 🙂

    f) I think I’d have to go with my d answer. If you write what drives you, what you’re passionate about, you can’t go wrong.

  • Greatest strength – creating characters that readers really get into, both good and bad.
    Greatest weakness – writing fight scenes
    Books written – Three, my fantasy trilogy
    Best advice – try using first person point of view for my second book
    Worst advice – use current patterns of speech in dialogue (my books are set in a medieval period – I didn’t take that advice)
    My advice – learn the rules well so you will know when and how to break them.

  • a) I think I can turn out a mean cast of characters. Setting and mood come quite easily to me as well, as does dialogue.

    b) Taking those great characters and their snappy dialogue and actually DOING something with them. My pacing is a mess. I have a terrible time seeing a project through, which goes along with not having a clue how to pace. I feel like a story is moving too slowly and I’m too impatient to either fix it or plow through to the good stuff, so I dump it for the first shiny new concept that catches my eye. I am also a goddamned perfectionist, which means I basically hate trying anything until I’m sure I can do it perfectly the first time. As you can imagine, this doesn’t work for writing. I have a serious mental block around “just get words on the screen.” But they’re not good words! How can I put down not-good words!?

    c) I have a couple of finished but definitely not publishable (and not worth it to me to clean up) manuscripts moldering on my hard drive, along with a slew of only partially written drafts.

    d) Your “Fuck The Straight Line” pep talk really helped me work through some of my plotting issues. Discovering the four-act structure, or W-plot, helped a lot too, because it made me understand that there’s life beyond three acts.

    e) I just hate that rising action/falling action three-act plot structure. I HATE IT SO MUCH. I’ve wasted so much time trying to hammer my stories into fitting cookie cutter plots. I hate any writing advice that’s designed to make your writing the same as everyone else’s – all those “43 actions a character must take” and “there are only seven master plots and your story must be one of them” rules that make for derivative, by-the-numbers books. Seriously, fuck that. Fuck that sideways with a hammer.

    f) I do not follow this advice. My perfectionism makes me allergic to this advice. But I have given it to other writers and they have found it helpful. It’s something my high-school theater director told the cast of a play I was in right before we went out on stage: “You will make mistakes out there on stage. There’s no such thing as a perfect performance. But a real actor will never repeat the same mistake – they’ll make new ones each time.”

  • a) What’s your greatest strength / skill in terms of writing/storytelling?

    I think I have a decent ear for dialogue, but I’ve been told my imagery is what really stands out.

    b) What’s your greatest weakness in writing/storytelling? What gives you the most trouble?

    Writing a sufficiently complex story. Mine tend to be too linear: not enough variation in tempo, too few setbacks, no reversals or just the single twist at the end.

    c) How many books or other projects have you actually finished? What did you do with them?

    I’ve finished 140 stories (mostly microfics) and 120 poems in the last five years, give or take. Most of them went up on my blog, because at the time I craved attention and feedback. I’ve finished one novel and started another eight, with the most recent one still chugging along slowly. I started to revise the finished novel, but put it aside because it feels like a trunk novel, which is fine. Sometimes a thing is so broken, it’s not worth gluing back together. Lately, I’ve been collecting rejections for the stories and poems I wrote within the last year or two. I’m aiming high, but it’s still discouraging at times.

    d) Best writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. really helped you)

    Worry about writing better, first and foremost. If you don’t manage that, you’re spinning your wheels with all the other trappings of the lifestyle. I wish I’d learned this sooner.

    e) Worst writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. didn’t help at all, may have hurt)

    Build a platform/audience as early as you can. This led to a lot of wasted time that I could have used to practice my craft. It’s totally cool for people who love to write about writing or particular topics they’re researching, and flit around being sociable, but that takes a lot of energy for me. It wasn’t worth the investment.

    f) One piece of advice you’d give other writers?

    Don’t rest on your laurels, or lack thereof. Keep pushing. Be like the athlete who works to beat her own personal best. Plateaus happen, but there will always be a bigger mountain to climb somewhere, and it’s your job to find it and plant your flag on the peak.

    • Yup, all the advice there is solid gold (even the warning on the bad advice). I spent way too much energy on what was ultimately “work-avoiding behavior” – doing everything but writing fresh fiction, because that was the really hard part. Keep up the good fight.

  • a) What’s your greatest strength / skill in terms of writing/storytelling?

    That’s probably for others to say.

    b) What’s your greatest weakness in writing/storytelling? What gives you the most trouble?

    Finding the proper start. I’ve finally started just moving forward and realizing I’ll have to write the opening after I’ve finished.

    c) How many books or other projects have you actually finished? What did you do with them?

    Two novels. I’m shopping them both around right now while I write the next two.

    d) Best writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. really helped you)

    Stop writing each day before the well runs dry. Leave yourself with a good place to start the next day.

    e) Worst writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. didn’t help at all, may have hurt)

    Anything that hands me a formula that it claims will work for everyone.

    f) One piece of advice you’d give other writers?

    Pay attention to you process. Find out what works for you. Then do that. Over and over.

  • a) What’s your greatest strength / skill in terms of writing/storytelling?

    Character driven story. Plot? Not so much. I mean I’m not bad, but I write more for how the characters work. Eloquent descriptions.

    b) What’s your greatest weakness in writing/storytelling? What gives you the most trouble?

    Overly descriptive. Sticking with plot when I am developing character.

    c) How many books or other projects have you actually finished? What did you do with them?

    Two finished, three on the table two more on drawing board. Nothing done with them yet. Have to go back and edit the holy shit out of them first.

    d) Best writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. really helped you)

    Write, motherfucker. Just fucking write. -word for word

    e) Worst writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. didn’t help at all, may have hurt)

    Wait and finish it later. When I wait to write, I go batshit crazy. I must write, or my brain will explode.

    f) One piece of advice you’d give other writers?

    Write, hunny. Even if you think it is crap, just do it. Finish your current work first. You can always fix it later. But if you don’t get the ideas down, you might lose them, and with them your fucking mind trying to recapture a perfect moment of literary marvel. Because they do happen. Words will be in your brain, and if you don’t get them down in some form, you may go nuts trying to find them again.

  • A) Hard work

    B) Everything to be frank, I’m an ultra-novice.

    C) Two. The first book was utter crap, then I threw it in the trash because it was just a learning experience. The second book I wrote was during the past NANOWRIMO and yes I won. After finishing NANOW. . .I realized this is crap too and I have been cutting this story down and morphing this animal. I know why I’m going through this, ssshhh! (no-outline) . . . lesson learned et cetera. I can go on all day. BZZT.

    D) FINISH YOU MOTHERFUCKING SHIT.

    E) Him: You should take drugs it will make you a better writer.
    “If I could kill you and get away with it, I would,” I said in my head. *staring at him*

    F) Be ready to fight

  • a) What’s your greatest strength / skill in terms of writing/storytelling?

    My kids. Actually, the imagination of my kids. Typical conversation goes like this;

    Me (from my troll station in the corner): “Guy’s I’ve got a troll…”
    Kid 1: “Like Shrek?”
    Kid 2: “Shrek’s not a troll.”
    Kid 3: “Yeah, he is. A really BIG troll.”
    Kid 4: “No he’s not, trolls aren’t green…”
    Me: “Ummm, okay, so not like Shrek …”
    Kid 2: “But he has big ears?”
    Kid 4: “…and black boogers?”
    Me: “Anyway … short, purple troll, small ears, likes a girl, not boogers…”
    Kid 4: “Like as a friend?”
    Kid 1: “Or as a GIRL-friend?”
    Kid 3: “Euwww! Troll-love. Gross!”
    (Giggle explosion)
    Me: “Okay, yeah, but, see the girl doesn’t know he is a troll and we need to stop the reader from assuming they’ll be boyfriend, girlfriend at the end.”
    Kids: “Ohhh.”
    Kid 2: “So, they like each other as more than friends but that would be weird so why can’t they get together?”
    Me: “Yeah”.
    Kid 4: “Because she’s a mermaid.”
    Me: “Maybe, but there’s no water nearby and it’s gonna take too long to explain.”
    Kid 1: “She’s a werewolf.”
    Me making the connection between the idea and story: “That’ll work. Thanks!”
    Kids chorus: “Welcome.”

    b) What’s your greatest weakness in writing/storytelling? What gives you the most trouble?

    Time. Usually because I’m reading Chuck’s posts or listening to Joanna and totally losing my writing zen 🙂

    c) How many books or other projects have you actually finished? What did you do with them?

    In the last two years I wrote 10k a week for a collaborative series of kids stories with Sean Platt under the Guy Incognito pen-name. Most of these are available now. Last year I also penned a non-fiction book under my own steam. But those years were a bit pressure cooked, so for 2014 I am aiming for (shock!) two complete books published and however many more vague arcs my creative monster sends in for consideration outlined – or sent to the idea coffin so they can stop bugging me 🙂

    d) Best writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. really helped you)

    When I first started writing fiction with Sean in one of the outlines he just wrote “[blah blah blah]…Give yourself permission to suck – we’ll clean it up later.” It’s a phrase I’ve so many times, especially with the writing kids I mentor and especially with my ‘perfectionist’ daughter when she is starting something new.

    e) Worst writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. didn’t help at all, may have hurt)

    “Creativity begets Creativity”.
    Crap. Your Creativity is actually a monster who needs food and rest, just like every other part of you. (Mine looks and acts a lot like Animal, who carries Springsteen’s guitar slung over his shoulder, eats chocolate and salt and vinegar crisps by the bucket, drinks bourbon, and wears flip-flops and a 1D tee).

    f) One piece of advice you’d give other writers?

    Don’t let your Creative Monster rule you. Like a hurricane, that monster is powerful, but ultimately destructive. Let it take over and you’ll end up with dust and a guitar string. Control the monster, have a zillion idea’s messing with your day and the energy to keep living the dream.

    ‘Cause that’s what we’re doing it for – right?

    Rach 🙂

    • March 3, 2014 at 8:40 PM // Reply

      I find that creativity really does beget creativity. I’m constantly bombarded with ideas anyway, but it’s when I’m working particularly hard on a project (be it writing or tabletop game design or whatever), the volume of those ideas increases tremendously. Then it eases back to a dull roar again when I’m working less (or less intensely) on projects.

      But of course, no one thing works for everyone. For me, creativity begets creativity in spades. As with any other advice, your mileage may vary.

  • a) Greatest strength: concepts. I get way more ideas and than I’ll ever have time to write.

    b) Greatest weakness: execution. Physically sitting down for hours and hours and putting words on the page, even when I don’t feel like it.

    c) How many books/projects: One published book (nonfiction), one sold screenplay, a bunch of short stories that need revising, and a YA fantasy novel-in-progress.

    d) Best writing advice: James Woods’ “free indirect style,” as explained in HOW FICTION WORKS.

    e) Worst writing advice: “Don’t do it unless you love every minute of it.” From an MFA prof. I don’t know a single writer who loves every minute of it. It’s hard work like anything else worth doing.

    f) One piece of advice: Have a blog and connect with other writers, editors, and agents. Join a workshop group. Other writers will keep you accountable.

  • a) What’s your greatest strength / skill in terms of writing/storytelling?

    I consider myself pretty good at plot. I know how I want the story to progress and eventually end.

    b) What’s your greatest weakness in writing/storytelling? What gives you the most trouble?

    I have a tough time showing instead of telling. I also speed through the plot too quickly.

    c) How many books or other projects have you actually finished? What did you do with them?

    Heh…well I finished a story once in high school. But it went no where once I started college. It sits buried in old school work.

    d) Best writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. really helped you)

    “Use the time of a stranger in such a way the reader feels like their time wasn’t wasted.” or something along the lines of that. I read a Kurt Vonnegut quote and that really helped me.

    e) Worst writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. didn’t help at all, may have hurt)

    “Writing is nothing without grammar.” Yeah, yeah, grammar. But I have read great books with purposeful bad grammar and I still understood what the author was saying.

    f) One piece of advice you’d give other writers?

    Once a writer, always a writer. You might not be an author, but once you divulge in writing you will return to it many times.

  • a) What’s your greatest strength / skill in terms of writing/storytelling?
    – Possibly my descriptions. Also, I don’t pay much attention to trends because they distract me. I tend to just write what’s in my head and let that be that.

    b) What’s your greatest weakness in writing/storytelling? What gives you the most trouble?
    – From working with my Assessor, I’d say the biggest issue with my first manuscript was plot holes. The narrative wasn’t plotted beforehand. Future works have been plotted to death!

    c) How many books or other projects have you actually finished? What did you do with them?
    – First manuscript is in the final stage of beta reading before submission to publishers. It took 11 years to build the first draft, then went for manuscript assessment, then a rewrite and another assessment.

    d) Best writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. really helped you)
    – Get your work to a level where you feel it is the best you can possibly do. Then pay a professional to tear it apart. Then, with their suggestions in hand, look at your work objectively and edit, edit, edit. Get it assessed again.
    No one is going to steal your ideas. Critical feedback is not a personal attack, it is your ticket to improvement and learning the craft. If someone takes the time to give it to you, TAKE IT!

    e) Worst writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. didn’t help at all, may have hurt)
    – “Why don’t you just stop doing this and move on?” Unfortunately, this came from a family member who has no understanding of writing or what it takes to get published work going.

    f) One piece of advice you’d give other writers?
    – As above. You need to enlist the help of others. Writing is not ever a solo exercise completed in a vaccum.

  • a) What’s your greatest strength / skill in terms of writing/storytelling?

    I think dialogue, though I’ve been told it’s world-building by other published authors.

    b) What’s your greatest weakness in writing/storytelling? What gives you the most trouble?

    Probably that I can end up re-using words and descriptions, often within a couple of lines of the first instance. So annoying!

    c) How many books or other projects have you actually finished? What did you do with them?

    I have trunked 8 novels, and a least a dozen shorts. I have published one short, and my debut novel is coming out this May.

    d) Best writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. really helped you)

    Use all five senses when setting a scene as much as possible. If you truly put yourself in a POV that has touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing at work, you will not only ground yourself, but your reader as well. Nothing beats the sense of reality that comes with that. If you can’t get in all five, shoot for at least three. Unless you’re in a sensory deprivation chamber, in which case, do as you ‘see’ fit.

    e) Worst writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. didn’t help at all, may have hurt)

    That Omni is the same as head-hopping and that neither should ever be done and that no one does Omni anymore (lots of romance authors probably had no idea about that *sarcasm*).

    f) One piece of advice you’d give other writers?

    Stop complaining about the bad writers who are rich and famous. They worked like hell to get there, whatever you think of their stories, and people are enjoying them. Anything else is irrelevant and doesn’t get *your* stories written.

  • March 3, 2014 at 8:10 PM // Reply

    a) What’s your greatest strength / skill in terms of writing/storytelling?
    I’ve found out that my greatest strength is my ability to describe things. By which, I mean, as long as I can ‘properly’ imagine it, I can describe it, extensively too

    b) What’s your greatest weakness in writing/storytelling? What gives you the most trouble?
    Too many ideas and (ironically) not being able to describe something. I am often able to either describe something pretty well out loud or on paper, not typically both.

    c) How many books or other projects have you actually finished? What did you do with them?
    I have finished a handful of short stories, one of which I used in a competition (no, I didn’t win) and have been slowly working on a book for the last couple of years.

    d) Best writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. really helped you)
    Got this one from Brent Weeks: even if you don’t really feel like writing, even if you are so sick that you can’t go to work, even if you’ve been traveling all week, sit down in front of your computer/notebook, turn everything else off with maybe the exception of some low key music, and write for at least an hour. If you can’t find it in you to write right away, stare. It doesn’t matter if you don’t actually accomplish something, what matters is that you are thinking about it.

    e) Worst writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. didn’t help at all, may have hurt)
    I can’t actually think of a piece of bad advice, however, I can think of something that did the same thing.
    Probably due to my English classes, at some point I began to start over thinking nearly everything that I wrote. It eventually got to the point where I could no longer progress, simply because I was trying to anticipate nearly every part of the story that was even touched by any one ripple effect caused by any action. This caused major writers block, and I couldn’t write anything for nearly a month because of it.

    f) One piece of advice you’d give other writers?
    Probably the same as what I put for part d.

  • a.) Strength – Learning while helping others is my girl scout answer. Finding your dialog spots, making it real.

    b.) Weakness- wish I knew how to use my stupid scrivener, it would make my life so much more fun – I hear its as fun as running through the house with scissors…

    c.) I have finished 1 have three chapters into my next…one set of 3 I just have on backburner because if I even look like I’m in idle mode someone gives me more crap to do. Not that I can’t, but the forces of evil are against me. They are 15 and 12 years old….and I must attend to their social well being..UGH!

    d.) best advise – Write for me first —- listen to what people are telling me and use the constructive criticism to fix …..have broad shoulders.

    e.) F ing Bi polar authors- Upswing “keep trying …write write write !” delivered with a leave it to beaver smile then …downswing black clouds hover over their heads when they read your story…”But DONT write THAT! ”

    f.) Advice I’ve given others “A professional writer is an amateur who never quit” Richard Bach- powerful and simple.

    I’m not asking to be let into anyone’s “I’m Awesome club” I just like to write – I have enough passion to ignite from the inside out and I feel like when I am writing it’s the one place I belong. So I’m a beginner – and my greatest strengths lay in my ability to forge on and keep learning.

  • a) What’s your greatest strength / skill in terms of writing/storytelling?

    * I think I’m pretty decent at making something out of nothing—-in other words, MacGeyver-ing a simple idea and turning it into a complex story with substance.

    b) What’s your greatest weakness in writing/storytelling? What gives you the most trouble?

    (see a) I have a really hard time controlling my stories, which is why I never submit the flash fiction challenges on time. Currently, for example, I have several stories that I’m working on simultaneously that I planned on keeping within the 1000-word limit but which are now hovering in the 4000-word range and are probably only about a quarter of the way done. Once my mind gets going, fhagedabadit.

    Time, time, time. I work about 50 hours a week and have a family to look after and a household to run. Oh, and a need for food and sleep. I’ve put in a request with the Man Upstairs for an extension on the 24-hour day, but I’m still waiting to hear back . . .

    c) How many books or other projects have you actually finished? What did you do with them?

    Books, nada. Short stories, many. I’d like to build a nice little body of work before I decide how I would like to try an publish. I’m still trying to figure out who I am as a writer and to work out some of my suckiness,

    d) Best writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. really helped you)

    50 Rantypants Snidbits of Random Wisdom. For real, this is what got me writing on a regular basis: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/06/25/50-rantypants-snidbits-of-random-writing-storytelling-advice/

    Also, the recent post entitled “The Days When You Don’t Feel Like Writing”

    e) Worst writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. didn’t help at all, may have hurt)

    “Write what you know.” This hobbled me for a very long time and destroyed my self-esteem. Long story.

    f) One piece of advice you’d give other writers?

    Read this here blog. Listen. Learn. Participate. Whatever it takes, make the time to write. Pain, fatigue and failure is temporary, but regret is permanent.

  • a) What’s your greatest strength / skill in terms of writing/storytelling?

    Scene setting. Descriptions of the surroundings without getting lost in purple prose.

    b) What’s your greatest weakness in writing/storytelling? What gives you the most trouble?

    Outlines. I loathe them but without some sort of notation, I get lost in the alphabet jungle. What my characters look like half the time? Fuck if I know.

    c) How many books or other projects have you actually finished? What did you do with them?

    My finished projects, with the exception of some short stories I haven’t bothered to send out to market, have been sold. I have, out there now, 16 publications and about three that are no longer available. When I’ve finished a manuscript and edited it, I send it out right away to a publisher.

    d) Best writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. really helped you)

    Don’t give up and shake off the rejections. Joining some sort of critique circle is a must. being told that is the reason I’m where I am in my writing career.

    e) Worst writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. didn’t help at all, may have hurt)

    The ones who praised every stinking word I wrote and never gave one bit of negative criticism. There’s always room for improvement.

    f) One piece of advice you’d give other writers?

    Never think your farts don’t stink. Meaning, you’re writing isn’t the golden calf to be worshipped. It’s meant to melted and remade by your hands several times before it’s suitable for a gallery showing, sans the prostrating. When more acceptances come in than rejections, don’t forget the hunger that drove you. It will keep you humble.

  • (a) What’s your greatest strength / skill in terms of writing/storytelling?
    I create good characters, and I can do it in only a few words.

    b) What’s your greatest weakness in writing/storytelling? What gives you the most trouble?
    Plot. Oh, plot. *bangs head* I can tie myself in knots trying to decide what to do next.

    c) How many books or other projects have you actually finished? What did you do with them?
    One play, two books, numerous short stories. I gave the play to a teacher; the books are sitting on my hard drive burning holes in my soul; I’ve had a few short stories published. I’m working on a collection of themed short stories I’m planning to self-publish.

    d) Best writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. really helped you)
    “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” Anton Chekhov. (An oldie but a goodie.)

    e) Worst writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. didn’t help at all, may have hurt)
    Two pieces of advice have been useless to me, one in general and the other because of my own personality. The first is “Write what you know.” (I write horror. If I wrote only what I know, I could write about a mother, a former bank teller, a quiet Christian woman who hates to hurt anyone’s feelings. Not really horror material.) The second is “Just write a crappy first draft and don’t worry about it.” I have submitted unedited first drafts to anthologies and have had them accepted. Then they were published with minimal changes. This is because I write clean copy from the get-go. I am profoundly unable to write a sloppy first draft. I’ve tried. The misery isn’t worth the finished draft.

    f) One piece of advice you’d give other writers?
    Learn the craft. Learn the elements of grammar and sentence structure. Then when you bend the rules, you can do so with authority and grace. You will know what you’re doing, and it’ll show. Otherwise, you’ll just look as if you don’t know what you’re doing. You’ll make your readers nervous; and nervous readers are unhappy ones.

  • a) What’s your greatest strength / skill in terms of writing/storytelling?
    Beginning hooks, the central idea.

    b) What’s your greatest weakness in writing/storytelling? What gives you the most trouble?
    The rest. Also my tense and active language is terrible on the first draft.

    c) How many books or other projects have you actually finished? What did you do with them?
    a dozen or so short stories. Submit, wait, cry.

    d) Best writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. really helped you)
    Never go with your first idea.

    e) Worst writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. didn’t help at all, may have hurt)
    Write what you know.

    f) One piece of advice you’d give other writers?
    Learn the basics of story and narrative, the basic plots, the rules of grammar and style. Only after you know these will you be able to bend and break them without it just being a mess. In other words, learn the rules before you break them.

  • a) What’s your greatest strength / skill in terms of writing/storytelling?
    Description. Which used to be my weakness. I know how to make it concise now.

    b) What’s your greatest weakness in writing/storytelling? What gives you the most trouble?
    Expressing my characters feelings and getting them to see those feelings in others. Many of my characters are as socially inept as I am, unfortunately. They do not see a need for other people.

    c) How many books or other projects have you actually finished? What did you do with them?
    Two novels, one trunked, one out on submission. Forty-five short stories, four sold (one pro sale), 38 trunked, 1 developed into trunked novel, 2 awaiting rejection.

    d) Best writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. really helped you)
    That thing about promises made to the reader in the beginning of the story. That’s really helped with plotting and writing endings.

    e) Worst writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. didn’t help at all, may have hurt)
    Just keep writing. I think this prevented me from reading guides to writing or approaching writing from a critical perspective for years. It made me think that I didn’t need any of that stuff, which my rejection folder clearly says I did.

    f) One piece of advice you’d give other writers?
    Don’t get fixated on rules like not using the passive, or not having a prologue. Get fixated on writing a good story instead.

  • a) What’s your greatest strength / skill in terms of writing/storytelling?

    My dialogue rocks. If I need something I can’t speak, I find people who can and listen to them.

    b) What’s your greatest weakness in writing/storytelling? What gives you the most trouble?

    I got butt-burned on a critique for backstory dumps. As a result, I developed a near phobia about description. I have to be told to go back in and fill out scenes.

    c) How many books or other projects have you actually finished? What did you do with them?

    One full-length novel, currently on the query-go-round. Probably 50 flash fiction, most pubbed in ezines. A handful of short stories, some pubbed for-the-love, some for-the-cash. One ultra-naughty erotica with a small press that generates a happy meal’s worth of royalties per month.

    d) Best writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. really helped you)

    When I finally understood the 3-Act story structure. An essay by Stephan J. Cannell finally lit that bulb in my dim brain. Also, an editor at the naughty press ferreted out a writing tic I had. Once I eliminated it, stuff got better fast.

    e) Worst writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. didn’t help at all, may have hurt)

    The antipathy toward “tell.” Occasionally, you just have to get the character across the room and out the front door without it being a life-altering experience.

    f) One piece of advice you’d give other writers?

    Yes, break the rules, but only after you know them. Lay out a three-act structure first and then free-style. If you were building a house, you wouldn’t just start slapping shit together. Think of every house you’ve ever been in where the plumbing didn’t work and the heating was inefficient and there were no closets. That’s because there was no plan and somebody just starting slapping it together. You don’t need a 5-binder outline, but have a general three-act plan and the rest will come together. Infrastructure first, decor later.

  • March 4, 2014 at 3:45 PM // Reply

    a) What’s your greatest strength / skill in terms of writing/storytelling?

    In writing, I can make my characters and their situations believable. In storytelling in general, it’s description.

    b) What’s your greatest weakness in writing/storytelling? What gives you the most trouble?

    Dialogue. I know a character’s mindset and how they think and whatnot, but sometimes expressing their ideas into their own words is difficult for me.

    c) How many books or other projects have you actually finished? What did you do with them?

    I wrote dozens of short stories before I wrote a novel. The novel is currently in front of me, ready to go through another day of editing. The short stories are sitting in a binder until I figure out what to do with them.

    d) Best writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. really helped you)

    Write. Just write. It doesn’t matter how many mistakes you make, just write. When you’re done writing, you go back and edit. Then, write some more.

    e) Worst writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. didn’t help at all, may have hurt)

    You’re not a “real” writer if you’re not published. I just looked at that person before walking away. Then cursed his name in multiple languages in the privacy of my room.

    f) One piece of advice you’d give other writers?

    I’ve said this to plenty of people when they’re agonizing over their work. Stop. Shut up. Don’t obsess over every single word. That’s for editing. This is the first draft. IT is going to be terrible. It’s supposed to be terrible. When you’re done, then you can try to make it shiny. Use all the Clorox and cleaning stuff you like, but first, you have to write the story.

  • a) What’s your greatest strength / skill in terms of writing/storytelling?
    Dialogue according to my Beta Readers, who knew!

    b) What’s your greatest weakness in writing/storytelling? What gives you the most trouble?
    Grammar & Spelling and other writing rules that my dyslexic mind has trouble wrapping itself around

    c) How many books or other projects have you actually finished? What did you do with them?
    Newbie here, I’ve drafted 10 books (I wrote them consecutively in a series for continuity), but that was a first draft, now working on major editing in the first book. Hope to have it out soon.

    d) Best writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. really helped you)
    write what you want to read,

    e) Worst writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. didn’t help at all, may have hurt)
    she thinks she’s a better writer than she actually is (from someone who hadn’t read anything I’d ever written!)

    f) One piece of advice you’d give other writers?
    Write the first draft like its Nanowrimo, no editing, no second guessing. All that comes later

  • a) What’s your greatest strength / skill in terms of writing/storytelling?

    Tension– I hope! I love how much character it brings out and how much it adds to the stakes of a moment.

    b) What’s your greatest weakness in writing/storytelling? What gives you the most trouble?

    Layering. Balancing everything going
    on in a moment and keeping all of it present in a scene. I usually write out the action, then have to go back in and increase the tension, add more thought and emotion, foreshadow, fill in atmospheric details, etc., to make sure I hit all the layers that need to be happening.

    c) How many books or other projects have you actually finished? What did you do with them?

    I have finished three novels. One I have on the back burner for eventual revision, and two are with my agent.

    d) Best writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. really helped you)

    Oh, man. It’s hard to say what’s impacted me most, because so many wonderful people have helped me in so many ways. Connect with other writers and listen to what they have to say, don’t give up, realize a first draft doesn’t have to be perfect, finish the book before you judge it, read books on writing, read in your genre, etc.

    I think the stand-out advice, though, has been to read a book a week. It’s hard with a writer’s busy life, but we can’t expect to be good storytellers if we aren’t good story consumers. Reading great books has been the absolute number one biggest factor when my writing improves. Want some recs? Read everything in this box.

    e) Worst writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. didn’t help at all, may have hurt)

    Write what you know. If that were good advice, the world wouldn’t contain most of my favorite genres. I think it’s a much better interpretation of that old piece of advice to write what you emotionally connect with– core human experiences. Betrayal, revenge, guilt, fear, hope, healing, determination, wonder, love. Write that.

    f) One piece of advice you’d give other writers?

    Read a ton, and when you react or connect, stop and think about why. The writer worked magic (okay, used a psychological principle) in that moment. Stop and think about why you had a reaction and how the writer built that moment. Connections happen sentence by sentence, and it’s all there on the page. Break it down. Figure it out. Use it yourself.

  • a) What’s your greatest strength / skill in terms of writing/storytelling? Me.

    b) What’s your greatest weakness in writing/storytelling? What gives you the most trouble? Me.

    c) How many books or other projects have you actually finished? What did you do with them?
    Finished 3 rough drafts. The great PC crash of 2013 ate them.

    d) Best writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. really helped you)
    Read. Write. Do it some more. Write what you want to read.

    e) Worst writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. didn’t help at all, may have hurt)
    read this book on writing…

    f) One piece of advice you’d give other writers?
    Read, write. Rinse and repeat.

  • a) What’s your greatest strength / skill in terms of writing/storytelling?

    Gathering information and presenting it in a narrative. Journalism (and the history degree) really built those muscles.

    b) What’s your greatest weakness in writing/storytelling? What gives you the most trouble?

    Building momentum. Like pushing a car with a dead battery, starting is always the hardest part. Once I get going my word count reaches a good pace, but the first 500 words are usually murder and I’m easily distracted.

    c) How many books or other projects have you actually finished? What did you do with them?

    I’ve had four plays for young people published and produced. I’ve published 72 articles and columns at Escapist Magazine, one at Slate and a handful for environmental blogs.

    d) Best writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. really helped you)

    Fail faster. Get words on the page and worry about fixing them later. You’re going to make mistakes, so you might as well make them fast and soon rather than wasting time worrying about it. No draft will ever be perfect, and getting stuff down quickly gives you more time to course-correct and tweak it into a successful piece.

    e) Worst writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. didn’t help at all, may have hurt)

    “Outlines stifle creativity and organic flow.”

    Wow.
    Much harmful.
    Very crap.

    Whenever I’m having the most trouble with an article, the solution 90% of the time is to pull out a notebook and outline or re-outline when I’ve lost the through-line. I don’t always outline before I write — at least not in a detailed sense — but I’ll often make a list of points I want to hit as a “to do” list or keep a notebook open and outline as I go.

    f) One piece of advice you’d give other writers?

    Start sending pitches for anything — grants, stories, scholarships, articles, a webseries or anything else that catches your eye. Don’t think of it in terms of [i]getting[/i] what you’re applying for, but as learning how to sell yourself and your writing. I got work as a game journalist almost immediately in a field where people try for years to get a foot in the door, and that was because I’d written enough grants to know how to sell an idea rather than selling myself. The greatest writer in the world won’t get published if they’re an unprofessional mess no one wants to work with, but a writer who can craft a good pitch and show she has all her ducks in a row? Golden.

  • I actually want to add something, re: my pitching advice. This seems like post-writing advice, but it’s not. Developing pitch skills also helps you get a handle on a piece before you start writing it. It’s learning how to develop an nucleus that contains all the DNA to build a fully-functioning organism. I’ll write pitches for stories before I even write them at times, just so I know where I want to go with it — handy trick.

  • Here goes…

    a) What’s your greatest strength / skill in terms of writing/storytelling?
    This is a hard one to answer, because I still consider myself new as a writer, and need some more critiquing to work out my strengths. I do enjoy building and developing the romance between my main characters though, so I’m hoping that translates on the page and is one of my strengths 🙂

    b) What’s your greatest weakness in writing/storytelling? What gives you the most trouble?
    Description! I love writing the action as I see it in my head, but going back and making the reader an all encompassing part of it, usually has me floundering to find the right words

    c) How many books or other projects have you actually finished? What did you do with them?
    I’ve finished two (if you count my current WIP in edits). The first one (written prior to learning about writing) has been hidden in a dark, dark place, never to see the light of day again

    d) Best writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. really helped you)
    Read, read, read.
    Never stop learning about writing, and never stop writing.
    Believe in your story. Believe in your writing. You’ll always be your biggest critic.
    Get your work critiqued, not by a family member/friend, but someone who knows the craft of writing
    Join Twitter! Get amongst the writing community

    e) Worst writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. didn’t help at all, may have hurt)
    Write what you love to read, which is actually GOOD advice, but its a kick in the guts every time I’m reminded there is no market for my story due to saturation. Still, I won’t give up!

    f) One piece of advice you’d give other writers?
    Writing can take time. A lot of time. Make sure you’re in it for the right reasons, that you can’t imagine going a day without sitting down and writing some words. You love it THAT much. You may never sell a book, but you must never let yourself stop writing, or learning about writing.

  • a) What’s your greatest strength / skill in terms of writing/storytelling?

    My characters. People love the people that I write.

    b) What’s your greatest weakness in writing/storytelling? What gives you the most trouble?

    Plotting. I am easily distracted by tangents and find it hard to stick to one “main” storyline.

    c) How many books or other projects have you actually finished? What did you do with them?

    I have published two books, conceived a multi-author anthology and saw it published, and have a short story in an upcoming collection.

    d) Best writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. really helped you)

    Enter late, leave early. You don’t need to include everything in a scene, just what is important to the reader.

    e) Worst writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. didn’t help at all, may have hurt)

    Write X number of words a day, no matter what. Putting down useless verbiage that you cut out later is not progress.

    f) One piece of advice you’d give other writers?

    Don’t be afraid of the process. There will be times when you hate your book–that’s normal. Push on through it and keep going.

  • Greatest strength: Economy.

    Greatest weakness: Remembering to describe the physical setting for the reader.

    How many projects finished: For this pen name, 3 novelettes of a planned series of 7. All self-published at Amazon, Apple, ARe, BN, Kobo, Smash.

    Best writing advice: Do the work.

    Worst writing advice: That won’t sell.

    Advice you’d give other writers: Trust your characters to make the very worst decisions for themselves. Let them do it, and go from there.

  • a) My greatest strength? I guess I would have to say that it would be my sheer command of language. I’ve received feedback from multiple sources praising my voice, and colorful prose. I can make the words sound pretty, it seems.
    b) My greatest weakness? I rarely ever have any semblance of a plan. I tackle all my projects as though they’re NaNo projects. I attack, relentlessly, slamming words down by the hundreds, but I have no outline, no road map, not even a flash light. The end result tends to be a mired mess of scenes that are interesting individually, but my books thus far read more like unrelated short stories than cohesive works of fiction.
    c) To date, I have written a number of poems and about three short stories that I’ve submitted for publication (no success thus far). I’ve also completed three full-length books, all of which are in a pile in a drawer gathering dust, while I try to gather enough courage to go through them again and heavily (completely) revise. There are also something like eight gajillion story starts that fell by the wayside years ago. I’ve never revisited them and don’t even know what I was trying to accomplish with them anymore.
    d) I’m paraphrasing, but it was something like: Every writer reaches a point during a book when he or she thinks that what they’ve written is the worst thing to have ever been scrawled onto virtual paper in feces and blood, and that it would be a mercy to just print the thing and burn it. No matter how successful an author is, this happens EVERY SINGLE SOLITARY TIME they write a book. Their woe is universal and befalls us all. The antidote is to just swallow the angst and self-hatred and finish the thing. By the end it rarely looks as bad as it felt halfway through. Weirdly enough, I’ve found that intensely liberating.
    e) Hm. This one’s tough. Most advice is pretty helpful. The worst of the less-than-totally useful bits of truth nuggets is probably to find a genre and stick to it. Someone once postulated that every writer has one genre in which they flourish and once we find what works for us, we should put all our focus into becoming the best in that one genre. I don’t know that I’d agree with that. My most interesting writing happens when I try to break the mold and explore a type of world or story I’ve never tried before. It expands my horizons, if you will.
    f) What would I tell other writers? Don’t give up on your dream. I’m a scientist/researcher by day. For a long time I figured that writing fiction and being a glorified biochemist couldn’t possibly mesh and that I’d be better off focusing on the path that was going to make a profitable career. Then I attended a TED conference in Coconut Grove, FL, and had a bit of a breakdown. I realized I was unhappy without my fiction. I won NaNoWriMo a month later. I’m still struggling with trying to balance huge workloads and finding time to write on the side, but whenever I actually manage to put ass in chair, it just makes my whole day. It’s how I’m dealing with any and all mental anguish that extended stress can cause. It’s how I stay sane.

  • a) What’s your greatest strength / skill in terms of writing/storytelling?

    Creating a relatable story that draws out the emotions around events readers have probably been through – like the loss of a loved one.

    b) What’s your greatest weakness in writing/storytelling? What gives you the most trouble?

    Plot. I keep writing myself off the beaten path and filling pages with scenes that need to be cut later.

    c) How many books or other projects have you actually finished? What did you do with them?

    I’ve finished the 1st draft on 3 novels, a novella, a novelette, and 17 short stories. I’ve published all of the short stories and the novelette. I’ve heavily revised/rewrote the novella then gave it to beta readers. It still needs a lot of work before it’s ready to publish. I put one of the novels through two more drafts and gave it to beta readers – at which point I saw how much work it still needs and I’ve moved on to finishing my next project. I’m currently about 30% through my forth novel and I’m hopeful it will be the one I publish first.

    d) Best writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. really helped you)

    When you’re writing your first draft turn off your editor, don’t look back, just keep on writing until it’s finished. I’ve told this to many people who have been rewriting their first novel for years and haven’t even gotten close to finishing even the first draft of it. You can always go back and fix it, but you need to finish it first.

    e) Worst writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. didn’t help at all, may have hurt)

    After reading Stephen King’s book “On Writing” I thought I should try writing a novel without an outline. Surprise surprise, I’m not Stephen King with his decades of experience and amazing talent. So yeah, outlines help me a lot and I always use them, usually even for short stories. Great book though, I’ve read it like 4 times now.

    f) One piece of advice you’d give other writers?

    Study story structure. All of my trunked novels went wrong because I didn’t understand story structure. Learning it has really helped me construct my stories the right way before I even start them now. I highly recommend K.M. Weiland’s novel “Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story” link: http://www.amazon.com/Structuring-Your-Novel-Essential-Outstanding/dp/0985780401

    She breaks it down in a simple, effective, and awesome way that is easy to understand. Blake Snyder’s “Save the Cat Beat Sheet” is also an invaluable tool in helping me lay out my story with good structure. Google it. Learn it. Now to read all the comments of you awesome people to learn more! Thanks for this Chuck. Awesome idea!

  • Strength? Fighting scenes. I guess being in plenty of fight and growing up around violence. The words come easier when the action starts. I write all the details as vivid as I can to try to bring the pain and danger to life.

    Weak? Narration. The word come slower, more clunky when the action stops. Getting the character from one place to the next and showing how they feel about the things that just happened (action) is my weakness.

    I’ve finished a novel 91,000+ words, its in the process of being edited for publication. I’ve finished a 3,000 words short story and submitted it to Tor.com earlier this week.

    Best advice was: Write. Everyday. No matter what, write.

    Worst advice was: I can’t remember. It wasn’t good enough.

    Write your story. The story that you need to tell. The story eating its way out of your frontal lope.

  • Wotcher! Last to the party as ever.

    a) What’s your greatest strength / skill in terms of writing/storytelling?
    Apparently, I’m good good at natural sounding dialogue even when I’m writing species or people who speak in an odd way.

    b) What’s your greatest weakness in writing/storytelling? What gives you the most trouble?
    Turning it from a play into a book! I always get dialogue first, I write it up and then showing the emotions that go with isn’t always easy. I think sometimes I tell for the sake of it, when it’s clear anyway.

    c) How many books or other projects have you actually finished? What did you do with them?
    I have an open ended short story project going, an idea for a novel which is just that and a novel which is a bit more than an idea on the go. However, right now I’m finishing the K’Barthan Trilogy… which is going to be four books long… because I can’t count. That should be out in July, if all goes well.

    d) Best writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. really helped you)
    Terry Pratchett used to reply to e-mails. I sent him one and he told me the best thing you can do is write, write a bucket load of stuff every day, even if it’s crap, hone your skills. He was right. I got a job doing verbal branding and it was one of the best things I ever did, from the point of view of learning to write.

    e) Worst writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. didn’t help at all, may have hurt)
    That I’m not a ‘proper’ writer if I fail to churn out a book every month. Some of us are blessed with the ability to do that but most of us have a Real Life which also requires our attention. I felt horrendous about myself after that for a long time, even though I am supposed to achieve that on about 2 hours a day in term times only.

    f) One piece of advice you’d give other writers?

    Do not compare yourself to others. If you’re self published that is particularly important. Write what you want to as well as you can. If it doesn’t sell, write more but on the whole if you write what fires you, your enjoyment/commitment will come through in your words and eventually it will sell, if only a little. Avoid looking at the Hugh Howie’s of this world and yearning for fairy dust. Avoid reading all those Wow-I-can’t-believe-this! posts on Kindleboards from people whose first book went to the top of the bestseller lists and is now grossing them $10,000 a month. Also avoid the posts on kindleboards from people bemoaning the fact they’ve only sold 500 books this month (a good month for me is 5). Other people are different to you, there will always be those who write better and faster. Set yourself realistic targets that fit within the parameters of YOUR life and YOUR ability and then work your way towards them, one word at a time. I am on the brink of completing a trilogy. It took me 13 years to get the first book right and 5 to write the rest. I made myself very unhappy comparing my progress to that of others.

    And um… yeh, that’s it.

    Cheers

    MTM

  • a) What’s your greatest strength / skill in terms of writing/storytelling?
    I’ve been told I’m pretty good at dialogue.
    b) What’s your greatest weakness in writing/storytelling? What gives you the most trouble?
    Exposition. In many of my drafts, I end up with a lot of one-sentence paragraphs.
    c) How many books or other projects have you actually finished? What did you do with them?
    Since I started writing in the fifth grade? I’d say around 10-15. Most of them sit on my laptop, never to see the light of day, but the latest story that I finished (in 2012) is one I’ve been working on revising.
    d) Best writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. really helped you)
    When all my one-sentence were pointed out to me. I didn’t even notice them before, but now that I know I do that, I can work on fixing it.
    e) Worst writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. didn’t help at all, may have hurt)
    “That was really good.” Alright, thanks, but it was a first draft. What’s wrong with it, man?
    f) One piece of advice you’d give other writers?
    Keep writing. The more you do it, the better you’ll get.

  • a) What’s your greatest strength / skill in terms of writing/storytelling?

    I think it’s a toss up between dialogue and details. Dialogue would be my traditional answer. I often feel like my writing is strongest when I have two characters interacting. But for the past year or two I’ve been working very hard on detail and description, and I think that work shows.

    b) What’s your greatest weakness in writing/storytelling? What gives you the most trouble?

    Choreography. Sometimes a scene comes together and it works great, but more often it takes me several drafts to get the choreography down so that my readers know where everyone is all the time. Critique partners and workshop really helps with this one.

    c) How many books or other projects have you actually finished? What did you do with them?

    I’ve “finished” three book projects, in that I have novel-length stories with beginnings, middles, and ends. Most of them are very, very rough and mostly were for funsies, so probably won’t be going anywhere.

    Blessings is one of my WIPs that’s nearly done (about halfway through my “final” edits before it’s ready to be sent out). I also have a few short stories/essays that actually have gone places (Bloodroot Blooming, Naan in the Afghan Village, The Coming Day), and a few more short stories that I’m prepping to submit.

    d) Best writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. really helped you)

    Be specific. Details are what make a story alive.

    e) Worst writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. didn’t help at all, may have hurt)

    “Said is dead.” SAID IS NEVER DEAD, DON’T BELIEVE IT.

    f) One piece of advice you’d give other writers?

    Find a critique partner, workshop, or beta reader (or more than one!) and be open to criticism. It’ll make your writing stronger.

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