8 Things Writers Should Be Doing Now
Last year I wrote about why writers can’t have nice things. It’s narcissistic and futile to whinge and moan about why the empty toilet roll hasn’t been replaced.
The whinging is partially about the changes in the publishing world and partially about our own self doubt and disbelief. It’s divisive and unproductive.
Let me reverse the focus, so we can have the nice things.
Here are 8 things writers should be doing.
1. Innovating –Why wait for the dust to settle on the ebook/digital revolution/death of the dead tree industry?
Learn all you can about publishing and go it alone or form a collective and do it together.
Innovate with form: flash fiction, short story, novella, multimedia, graphic novel, novel.
Set up a network (blog or facebook page or similar) to encourage new and emerging writers. Pass on the information you have learned to help others along the creative road.
Stop trying to predict the next trend in literature or imitate the latest Harry Potter/Twilight/Game of Thrones/50 Shades of Blue Rinse. Popular fads in our culture are like pop music; in two years’ time you won’t be able to give a good reason why something was popular.
Those things that stand the test of time do so for a reason. That’s why we have English Literature classes.
Recognise your influences and use them to your advantage. Acknowledge the canon of literature in your genre, learn the tropes and archetypes, and study it fastidiously. Then go and innovate.
2. Collaborating – writers are stereotyped as isolated and solitary beings. Break the pattern and work with someone on a project.
Here are four ideas to get you started:
- gather twelve people (preferably in your genre, or for a different challenge, select participants with different generic tastes). Set some parameters and create an anthology or novella, with each participant contributing a chapter or a piece of flash fiction
- create two characters and have them write letters to one another
- find an illustrator and work on a comic strip, picture book, illustrated story or graphic novel
- find a writing partner and write a series of essays about a particular topic, with each person taking the opposite position. Eg Is there such a thing as a Muse?
It may be simply for fun (like the Post Marked: Piper’s Reach project Jodi and I have been working on) and posted to your blog, or you may look for publication.
Collaborate within your genre and outside of it. You may find an area of interest you hadn’t considered.
3. Encouraging – if we do not pass on the information we have learned from one generation to the next, our legacy and inheritance will fade like cut flowers in a vase.
As writers, our aim should be to encourage new writers. It is not about being competitive but nurturing the essential artistic practices that constitute our culture.
The world needs more artists, whether their reach is to five people or five million. Provide guidance and mentorship to new artists.
Encourage people by starting conversations with people, either via social media or in person.
Communication and encouragement is the goal, not competition.
4. Meditating – go quietly about the noise.
Learn to tune out the white noise of social media, those spruikers who shout from the street corner, standing on their stolen milk crate, yelling above the heads of the pedestrians.
Instead, seek out the wise and learned for they have quieted themselves. And when they speak, we listen. Talk with friends about your progress; don’t shout it from the street corners.
Disconnect from social media once in a while. Don’t get distracted by all the shiny things.
Go about your business of writing and let it speak for you.
5. Learning – every writer should be a learner. Each new piece of work from flash fiction to a multi-volume fantasy series, there is something new to learn.
If you have only ever written novels, write short stories. If you have only ever written flash fiction, write a novella. Each format has its advantages and disadvantages and knowing them will improve your writing.
Learn as much as you can about the technical aspects of writing: grammar, point of view, dialogue, characterisation, setting and plot.
6. Focusing – Why do we write? This is the most fundamental question a writer must answer. I believe the idea of story is why I write.
Story is the heart of community. It is the shared history of a community. It binds, strengthens, admonishes, critiques, uncovers the truth, and questions.
As writers, we are sharing the story with our community. Let’s aim to tell the story in the best way we can.
Tell me a story and I’ll remember.
7. Revering – language is a powerful tool and we would do well to revere the power of words. Delve into the history of language; absorb it like a sponge. Let your characters delight in the words they use, even when they are ugly and hateful.
Words can seduce your reader into undressing, challenge them to take up arms or slap them in the face, breaking the fragile moistness of their lip causing blood to seep in between their teeth.
Understand the alchemy when words combine to tell a powerful story.
8. Writing – never lose focus or passion for your current work in progress. You will have moments when you believe your laptop wishes to fly (and you secretly hope it transforms mid-air into Optimus Prime).
Never let social media or promotion or blogging dominate your time.
Your characters can have a nice cup of tea while you have your little petulant frenzy, but get back to what you should be doing: writing.
Writing is the means by which we speak to the world. It is our voice calling in the wilderness, telling parables, fables, myths and legends.
Leave a legacy, not a meme.
* this article first appeared at Write Anything and has been modified for appearance here.