As part of the Love Poison tour, I have invited Author Pete Barber to write a guest post, advising aspiring authors how to drop the “aspiring” bit and become true authors. 😉 The following is his advice. Enjoy!
Thank you for inviting me to write a guest post.
Advice for Aspiring Authors
Seven years ago, my life circumstances finally allowed me the luxury of choosing what I wanted to do with most of my time. I chose to write. Or more precisely, I chose to learn how to write. If you want to judge whether the time was well spent, my newly released novel–Love Poison is only a click away :).
Here are six things every aspiring author needs to know:
- Learn to explain things as a list because people pay more attention to lists :).
- Write a lot of words. Most of the words I wrote in the first three or four years weren’t very compelling. But I’m still using many of those ideas, just expressing them better. No word is ever wasted—if a sentence stinks, don’t do it again. If it’s good, it’s yours to keep for the right moment like an unspent bullet.
- Read. I read far more now than I ever did before I started writing—forty or more books a year. I watch a lot less TV, too. I don’t think that’s worth its own place in the list because it’s just a consequence of not having the time. I still watch Modern Family and Big Bang Theory, though. A writing obsession is okay, but you have to keep it real, dude!
- Character development. Maybe it’s just me, but I never really understood what that meant when it was a topic heading in a “how to write” book. Here’s how I roll: characters grow on the page just like babies grow into cute kids, awkward (possibly obnoxious) teenagers, and then adults—well-adjusted or not. Their arc isn’t something mysterious, it’s just what happens to them as they get exposed to the challenges they are confronted with in the story. As each of my characters jumps onto the screen, I make a note in a separate document file—name, physical attributes etc. Then as the character grows and fleshes out, I add to their notes. That way I don’t get confused.
- Plot. I spent a lot of time knocking my head against hard objects trying to understand Donald Maass, and Swain, and many other writing experts when they insisted that I make it harder for my characters. I did make it tough. Yes, I did, but as I was throwing wrenches at the poor people populating my tale, concurrently, I was working out how they’d overcome the obstacles. Well, I finally figured out that’s not the point those writing sages were making. Frankly, you don’t have to worry about a plot being compelling if you write your characters into a cul-de-sac with eighty-foot walls, set in a valley, and then fracture the water main at the top of the hill during a freak power outage. You’ll need a hell of a compelling plot to get them outta there. So, I try not to worry about my peeps. I just follow them into the latrine and let the latch jam. Once they’re stuck, then I lose sleep working out how to extricate them out without too much soggy Charmin hanging off the heel of their boot.
- Compelling story-lines mean a lot, but without good mechanics, they won’t hold a reader’s attention. I learned some stuff about writing mechanics from books, but mostly from the online critique group I belonged to. I joined Scribophile, there are plenty of others, but here’s the thing–it forced me to put my work in the public domain. Even though I was scared to death at first. Heck it is really scary. Especially when you see other work posted by people who can really write, and your only constructive comment is, “Wow! This was great, why aren’t you published?” Of course, you know they’re going to one look at your piece of amateur yuck, and barf, or laugh until their sides split. But the comments I received taught me a lot. Those great writers gave me pointers and shared links to places where I could learn. Not everyone was nice, and the criticism, most valid, some not, hardened me to accept those cutting comments that will continue to go with the territory, because we can’t please everyone.
If you’re an aspiring writer, click over to Scribophile. Take a look at the work and also at the critiques—what have you got to lose?
About The Author:
Great tips! I’m going to check out that critique website. Thanks for sharing this. 🙂
Glad it could be helpful!
Here is what I know. Pete Barber is a superb writer. The single thing he said that is most powerful is a writer must read. And we must read across the spectrum to expand our knowledge of the universe. I find I am in awe of authors of genres I seldom before read such as fantasy and scifi. New horizons with every word and world.
Reblogged this on So, I Read This Book Today and commented:
Read closely… I think you will find this QUITE interesting!
Thank you for re-blogging! 🙂
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I couldn’t help it – brilliant article! 🙂
A well-written article with excellent advice!! I know what you mean that you wind up reading a lot as a writer. Furthermore, I believe a writer cannot grow unless they do that. Inevitably, you pick things up and it can also provide an inspired idea in the most opportune moments in time. Thank you for sharing this, Pete 🙂
I met Donald Maass once – he was a speaker at a Calgary RWA seminar (I don’t belong, I grew up with the woman who was President at the time). It was interesting, and I use some of the tips in my stories. Then I sat with him at lunch. I was heading to New York so…. we talked about places to eat in NYC. Can you say missed opportunity? 🙂 Great interview, Pete!
Thank you, Pete! You addressed the crucial aspects of writing–particularly the mechanics–and made it easy for any aspiring author to understand. Seasoned authors often say that the first million words don’t count, but that’s a misnomer. The more you write, the more you learn and the more proficient you become. it’s never a waste!
Hi, April. Thank you so much for allowing me to guest on your excellent blog. I appreciate it. . . . Pete
Thank you, Pete! Great advice!
Great advice, Pete. Glad to hear you still watch Big Bang Theory, lol.
April, you should know I stalk this guy all over the blogosphere! Great interview and I particularly like what Pete said about character development. It’s true – characters grow throughout the book. You don’t need a 10,000 biography about each one before you start writing. A writing friend recently realised this at a workshop at which a novelist was dispensing with the ‘holy cows’ of writing rules, including character development. My friend said she’d always tried to fill her notebook with details about her characters before she started writing and didn’t have much to record apart from the basics but once she was half way through the book she found she knew a lot more about her characters because they had developed and grown as she wrote.
Haahahaa about you stalking him. 🙂 Yes, character development is very important!!! That’s neat about your friend filling her notebook with details of her characters. 🙂