October 29, 2008

Writing Advice from Jayne Pupek

Largehearted Boy posted an article about author Jayne Pupek's diverse playlist of music to accompany her debut novel Tomato Girl. With the approach of NaNoWriMo I too have created a playlist as inspiration for my own writing. But one needs more than a few songs to create a good story. With this in mind I asked Jayne Pupek for some writing advice I could use and share with my readers. Here is her list of 10 important things aspiring writers should know:

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1. Writers write. That's what we do. While inspiration certainly plays a role, I think discipline and hard work matter more. It's important to love the work of words and storytelling. It's also important to show up regularly to do the work. A nurse doesn't wait for the urge to care for a sick person before he or she administers medicine or changes a bandage. I've never understood why writers sometimes believe that inspiration has to strike before they can write. I think that's a myth that results in wasted opportunities.

2. Read everything. Good storytellers usually love to read or hear other good stories. As a writer, it's important to see what works and what doesn't, and there's no better place to begin than by reading what others have written. While the goal isn't simply to imitate, we can learn rhythms, patterns, and techniques from other writers. How do writers grab the reader's attention? How do they develop believable characters? How do they handle points of view? How is tone established? So much can be learned from reading.

3. No excuses. This is related to #1. I often hear people say that they'd love to write, but they don't have a quiet place at home or can't find the time. Stephen King balanced a child's desk on his knees and wrote in that position. Raymond Carver used to leave his house and go write in the car to find the quiet he needed. If you want to write, you'll find a way. No one said it would be easy.

4. Keep a Moleskin handy. Sometimes the best ideas come when you're in line at the market or waiting at the dentist. I keep a Moleskin notebook with me at all times so that I can write a few notes to remember the idea when I get back to my laptop.

5. Seek out someone objective. It's difficult for a writer to be truly objective about his or her work. It's often just as hard for a friend or family member to be objective. Find people who are willing to be honest about your work. Maybe consider an online critique group or enroll in a workshop for writers.

6. Welcome rejection letters. No sane person likes rejection. Unfortunately, rejection letters are just part of the process. As much as possible, try to remember that all writers receive them. Even J.K. Rowling received them.

7. Focus on the writing, not the publishing. While it may be your goal to publish, the writing should always matter most and come first. Publishing is a business. Writing is an art. They marry at some point, but I think a common mistake is for the new writer to focus too much and too soon on getting published.

8. When you are finally ready to publish, be persistent and determined. It's easy to get discouraged, but that's when you really have to believe in yourself and be tenacious.

9. Consider keeping an idea file to ward off bouts of writer's block. Ideas can come from any where--the news, other books, postcards, poems, dreams, etc. Because fear of the blank page can immobilize a writer, collecting ideas and keeping them in a folder or box assures a writer of always having a place to begin.

10. Be kind to yourself and others. Writing is solitary work and sometimes difficult. It's important to take good care of yourself and to help others on this journey.

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1 comment:

bermudaonion said...

Great advice! Jayne is wonderful!