Friday, September 25, 2009

Post #100

Well, well, looks like I've hit the 100 mark! This is the centennial post--woo-hoo! I should do something special. "Top 100 list of..." maybe?

My 100 favorite books--too predictable. 100 places I'd like to visit--too much research. 100 stupidest things I've ever done--I suppose posting those on the internet would be number one....

So, what should I post on my 100th blog?

How about...

100 things I've learned about writing--the obvious, the odd, and the obscure....

1. I actually have it in me!

2. A synopsis is harder to write than a book.

3. A query letter is harder to write than anything else on the planet...

4. Read, read, read...and just keep on reading.

5. Good critique partners are worth more than their weight in gold.

6. Take advice on correction and clarification, but keep your own style. Too many cooks and all that :P.

7. Kill your darlings. You are going to have to cut some of your favorite passages.

8. Buy a copy of Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne. Seriously.

9. Let people who don't read your genre read your manuscript.

10. Take classes through local writers groups and conferences. Lots of them.

11. You will NEVER be a good writer unless you let someone tear your work to pieces. You have to get over it, and let someone else be completely honest with you. If you can't take honest feedback, you're in the wrong business.

12. Editing/critiquing the work of other writers is one of the best ways to learn how to improve your own.

13. NEVER try to make someone else's work sound like yours. You don't want them to take away your voice, don't take away theirs.

14. Network online--you can make some awesome friends (Hey, Shawna and KM!).

15. Publishing in online magazines is really cool. People who wouldn't normally buy a magazine just to see your story (as much as they love you) will click on a link in a heartbeat. And then they will tell OTHER people to read it!

16. The meaning of "4theluv."

17. Writers conferences are way expensive.

18. And way worth it.

19. Sometimes.

20. There are so many more publishers out there than I have ever noticed before!

21. Ideas come at really strange times, and in really strange places. Carry paper and pen EVERYWHERE.

22. Spending a tremendous amount of time in front of the computer requires a good office chair.

23. Some of the best ideas come way late at night when you're just too tired to get out of bed and write them down. Get up anyway, or you WILL forget them.

24. You may find that the awesome idea you got out of bed for is really complete gibberish.

25. Snarly characters are the funnest to write.

26. Show don't tell. Unless it's a place where telling is necessary. Um, yeah.

27. There are rules, and then there are rules that can be broken. "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

28. Sometimes stories start off as a title.

29. Characters often do what they want, and take the story in a direction I never thought of...

30. Stephen King is brilliant.

31. Dragons can be anything I want them to be if I'm the one wielding the pen!

32. So can Elves.

33. Stuff that never bothered me before in books bothers me now. Drat the rules.

34. Using index cards for outlining is actually helpful, and not a torture device created by a disgruntled English teacher.

35. I want a Kindle.

36. Writing is not condusive to keeping a clean house.

37. Getting your first acceptance letter is an amazing feeling!

38. So is getting your first check.

39. And winning "Editor's Choice" rocks.

40. Rejection letters get easier to deal with.

41. They still suck.

42. Composing limericks is a great way to work out stress.

43. I'm still not the greatest typist even after hours, and hours, and hours...

44. You can read your manuscript 2,187 times and you will still find a typo somewhere.

45. Blogging is actually fun.

46. Writer's block is completely maddening.

47. Response times from magazine submissions can range from three hours to three years. No rhyme or reason.

48. It's annoying to tell someone I write YA fantasy and hear, "Ah, the next JK Rowling."

49. The whole business is subjective. Editors print what they like. So don't take rejection personally--if a story gets turned down, submit it someplace else.

50. If an editor takes the time to write something about a story you submit even though he rejects it, take that as a big compliment. And of course, submit it someplace else.

51. When you finally start telling your friends that you're writing, at least one of them will admit to writing, too. (In my case, it's been about five or six!)

52. The process for writing one book may not be the same as for another. My first book came like a tidal wave and the first (lousy) draft was done in three months. The second one is coming bit by bit, but more refined. Even my short stories emerge in different ways.

53. My kids aren't nearly as impressed to hear, "Mommy has a story in a magazine," as I thought they would be. Then again, they're nine and six.

54. Walking the dog is a great way to get the creative juices flowing.

55. So is pacing around the garage. Or bike-riding.

56. There are an amazing number of teen writers out there. That is just SO cool.

57. Newbie writers are terrified of submitting their first stories. Well, guess what--the worst thing that can happen is a form rejection. The editor doesn't know you from boo. They're not laughing at your submission (more like "delete" and forget), and if they are laughing, they don't know who you are anyway, so who cares? Just do it. Get that first rejection letter. It will actually motivate you to submit more!

58. I knew this before, but I'll mention it anyway. Use a thesaurus. A lot.

59. Waiting for responses from editors and agents is maddening. While time in every other aspect of your life speeds by, time in this aspect moves like molasses...

60. Writers have to be marketers these days. Big time. (Often to the point where a not so great writer will get published based solely on marketing skills. Not something I'm too happy to learn.)

61. Some of the BEST books are ones that have not been published yet. Man, I know some talented people.

62. Literary magazines have some really, really strange stuff in them.

63. The difference between "plotter" and "pantser."

64. I've not learned as much as I should have (cos I'm at number 64 and I'm groping...).

65. Writers are super-supportive of each other, even if you write something they don't get. I've had so many writer friends--after finding out I write horror--shake their head and say, "I just can't believe you write that..." Yet they still want my advice and cheer my successes.

66. I now have a cosmic connection with my laptop.

67. I back up my work on two flash drives, one of which I take everywhere. The idea of losing my writing because it's not backed up is enough to give me cold sweats.

68. It was easier to tell total strangers that I'd started writing than it was to tell friends and family.

69. No matter how many acceptance letters I get, nor how many times I see my work in print, nor how many praises I get from fellow writers, I still have moments when I think it's all been a big mistake and I'm just a big faker.

70. An amazing number of fortunes inside fortune cookies can be applied to writing.

71. Don't look at publishing statistics if you want to stay motivated.

72. Writing short stories about your novel characters is a great way to improve characterization--and open up publishing opportunities at the same time!

73. I thought I was a night owl before...

74. The people I thought would be the most critical of my writing weren't.

75. I have more computer skills than I thought (and in some cases, less).

76. It's the weirdest, and the most personal, stuff from my past that has made it into my writing. (Mostly in the form of symbolism, so don't get your hopes up!)

77. You can never learn enough.

78. Every fiction mag wants submissions in a different format. :P

79. Pay close attention to guidelines--something as simple as not having a particular word in your subject line can mean your story is deleted unread.

80. Weasel words are those little words that weasel their way into your manuscript way, way too often.

81. My weasel words are "just" and "so."

82. Some stories simply do not fit into a genre. I still haven't figured out what to label them, though.

83. Never agree to review a book you haven't read yet--you may end up hating it.

84. It is possible to go from thinking your book is brilliant, to thinking it is complete rubbish is less than a two seconds.

85. Never delete an unfinished short story. Some day the ending WILL hit you--then you will be hitting you...

86. Netbooks rock.

87. I LOVE the feeling of finishing a chapter.

88. Don't over edit. You can edit forever. At some point you just have to stop, before you turn your book into another book entirely.

89. For every article that gives a particular piece of advice on writing, you will find another someplace else that completely contradicts it.

90. For every magazine that says, "No vampire stories," you will find one that actually wants vampire stories. No one editor is the the supreme expert on what people want to read.

91. Some of the paying markets have some of the worst writing, and some of the non-paying markets have some of the best.

92. This should be obvious, but I'm going to say it anyway--do your research. Even a small detail, like saying a mirror is Victorian when it is not, is enough to bring scrutiny to your work.

92. Be grateful for every acceptance, no matter how small.

93. If you write short stories or articles, as soon as you finish one and submit it, start on the next.

94. The above advice is really, really hard to follow if you are anxious about the response on the one you just submitted!

95. Read as many books on writing as you can--Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and Steven King's On Writing are two good places to start.

96. It's ok to call yourself a writer even if you haven't sold a thing. If you write, you're a writer.

97. Submitting queries is exhausting.

98. As is searching for places to submit them.

99. Save every rejection letter.

100. Every writer has his or her own unique experiences with writing, and you may find you disagree with a lot, or all, of the other 99 things I've listed. And that's OK.


Bekah said...

Awesome, Kat! #24 is SO true for me!! I got out of bed at midnight or so convinced I had the greatest plot idea, and the next morning I was like "what the heck this is stupid" :D

Bekah said...

Oh, by the way, I love #96. How incouraging. :)


Kat Heckenbach said...

Sometimes I find that staying up late writing gives me some goofy ideas, too, and when I read them over the next morning, I'm like, "What was I thinking??" But then, sometimes, with a little tweaking it turns out great. Ya just never know--better to write it out and find out later it's garbage than miss the idea of a lifetime, right?

KM Wilsher said...

This is soooo great! 100 reasons we all love Kat!!!!

I love them all, but:
14. Network online--you can make some awesome friends (Hey, Shawna and KM!).
and 17 way cool :)
And weasel words uh uh! Yep I've got them.
OH, and 'save every rejection letter'
Okay, I love so many!

Congrats on post 100!
You are awesome :)

Dayle James Arceneaux said...

I'm with you on 91-96 of them depending on the time of day.

What? That's a really good percentage.

Shawna K. Williams said...

Hehe...#83, yep, deifnitely read first!

This is so funny, Kat. And SOOOOOO true! I've discovered that making jewelry is condusive to writng. Don't know why, but it helps my brain juices flow. I've got so much of it lying around as a result of trying to crack writer's block, that I'm going to use it as promotional giveaways when my book releases.

I've learned that a lot of people live inside my head, and that every story needs at least one unicorn.

Kat Heckenbach said...

Thanks, Dayle! 91-96% is an "A" in most classes, so I'll take it--you bet :).

Shawna, where do I get in line for that "promotional" jewelry? And, yes, EVERY book needs a unicorn--can't wait to find it.

I also thought of a couple more:

101. Rejections tend to come in clusters.

102. Despite my night-owl tendencies, I write best in the morning. Hm.

Hannah Nicole said...

That was so much fun to read! I can DEFINITELY identify numbers 2, 28, 29, 32, 33, 46, 51, 58, 65. 69, 84, 85, 87, 88, 89, and 96! :D

I love your blog, BTW, it's really awesome. :)



Kat Heckenbach said...

Thank you, Hannah! So, so much!!!