Monday, September 14, 2009

This is a summary of the article titled "How to be a successful writer: 12 suggestions by Judith Krantz." My input--if you care to read them--is in italics.

Part I

1. Don't allow yourself to be intimidated by the work of other authors. You may not be Cheever or Dickens but that doesn't mean there isn't a market for your work.

This one stymies me all the time. Even when I'm halfway through a manuscript and feeling like things are going pretty well, I wonder what gives me the right to think I will ever have something worth contributing to the world when there are already so many wonderful books out there. Tuning out that voice of premature defeat is a constant struggle.

2. Pick the area in which you would like to be successful, and read the works of writers in that area with an alert and analytical eye.

I enjoy this part of the process most of all. I must confess though I have become somewhat a bit of a writing snob, thinking I would've done it differently, thus writing a more engaging book. I realize this mindset contradicts what I wrote in answer to Number 1.

3. Don't imitate. The trick is to find your own voice -- the thing that you can do what others cannot. The only way to find it is to write and write some more. Keep a diary. Write to friends. Letters of complaint count. Keep on writing.

I couldn't agree more. Voice is often a difficult concept for an aspiring writer to grasp. It doesn't have to be. We spend years cultivating voice when it's really unnecessary. . Just get out of the way and tell the story as only you can. Your voice will develop and become more apparent with each work.

4. Outline, outline, outline! Whatever you're writing, from a novel to an article -- with the possible exception of poetry -- needs a beginning, a middle, and an end. Don't start until you know where you plan to go. Your outline will probably change as it grows more real and takes on a life of its own.

If the thought of an outline makes you want to throw down your pen and never take it up again, don't despair. Many prolific writers outline as little as possible, yours truly included. But it is a necessary evil if you ever want to be an efficient writer. Look at it as planning a trip. You may not know exactly how you'll get there. You may take a few detours along the way and encounter a few unexpected delights, but you should have a destination in mind and a road map beside you before you ever leave home.

5. In any fiction, identify your main characters early. List character traits for each one. Visualize them. Don't try to break new ground unless you're prepared to wait a long time for recognition.

I tear pictures out of magazines of how I imagine my main characters and pin them on my bulletin board so I always have a face in front of me. It reminds me who this person is. I fill out as much of a biographical sketch as possible early on. I learn more about my character as I go along, just like I do with people in real life who I've known for years. But it's good to know a lot going in. Your characters are living out their story through you. You should have a good idea what that story is.

6. Have a private place to work in. My (her) sign says, "PLEASE, do NOT knock, do NOT say hello or goodbye, do NOT ask what's for dinner, do NOT disturb me unless the police or firemen have to be called.

This seldom works for me. I'm too tempted to answer the phone or stop for food or take the dogs for a walk. I need more discipline in this area, especially if I someday hope for aspiring writers to think of me as some sort of expert in this field.

Tune in tomorrow for Part II of How to be a Successful Writer by Judith Krantz

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