Five things about writing…a culmination of things remembered and reinforced this week

September 23, 2010 § 15 Comments

1. Communicate with your editor. Really. People think editors are unreachable. Writers think editors are ignoring them. Learn how to talk with them. They do respond. And if you have a question or you’re running late with something for a legitimate reason, communicate.

And if you don’t have an editor but you’re a writer, communicate with your inner editor. See what it has to say and listen, consider what it’s saying. (It’s likely your writer’s instinct talking.)

2) You are writing a story. You don’t think it’s a story, but you’re told to create one out of an idea that may have come from a roundtable of non-writers.  (People who don’t actually write are often GREAT at ideas, but have no idea the extreme craft that can go into making something out of one of their (crazy out-there) ideas. You know it’s true. You’ve seen enough movies/TV shows where you’ve said “Huh? How did that make it onto the screen?”)

So as a writer, it’s your responsiblity to turn an assignment, often someone else’s idea, into readable excellence. Or, say “no” if you can’t do it. Sometimes, you can’t. So just say “no.”

3.) Some things can be written quickly and sent out there. Most need time. Do not be afraid to approach the “written quickly’s” and do the best you can. Sometimes (only sometimes) writing something and getting it done is better than procrastinating, fooling around, sweating.

4) Proofing takes a village. So what that the piece is only 300 words? Get several people to proof it; they will each find something different – the wrong date on it, misspelling of an addressee’s name, a double “the” in a sentence….Just take the time to pass it around; don’t be afraid to ask such a favor. Most who are asked to read/proof something (short) will be flattered. 

5) Be careful, on the other hand, how much you ask someone to do regarding your article/story. Are you sure you want them to critique it? Do they know what you mean by that?  You may get a lot more, or a lot less, than you asked for unless you work out what you want as well as a timeframe in which you need it back. Be clear, be specific, be ready.

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§ 15 Responses to Five things about writing…a culmination of things remembered and reinforced this week

  • mandy says:

    Such great tips, thanks so much for sharing. I really need to print this out and stick it where I can reference it again and again as a reminder.

    • oh says:

      Mandy! I hope you’re writing like crazy. I haven’t been over to visit in a while and intend to do so in a few minutes. But really, I hope you’re writing like crazy.

  • shoreacres says:

    I was so pleased to see you use the phrase “writer’s instinct”. I’ve never heard anyone use it before – possibly because I don’t do enough reading about writing.

    But I have a post in my files titled “Writers’ Intuition” – an amazing little catalogue of things that have since (in the past two years) proven true. I’ve never posted it because I thought maybe I was crazy. (All right. I am crazy. I mean crazy in terms of knowing about writing things.) Maybe I’ll throw it out there, now.

    I’d add one thing to your estimable list. #6 – Don’t be offended when an unexpected editor shows up. A couple of weeks ago or so, I received a comment on a post about a mispelling. It was done nicely, politely, but still – I could feel my hackles raise. It took a few minutes to smooth them down, fix the error and THANK the reader. Not only did I get an error corrected, I’ve been much more attentive since to the things you list above.

    There’s always something new to learn!

    • oh says:

      I don’t know if I’ve seen it, either – “the writer’s instinct.” But those of us who read widely and write and write and write over the years certainly develop one. It’s there big time, and many arguments can ensue with the instinct regarding the keeping of favorite lines within a written piece that the instinct says to toss or the tangental paragraphs that start another whole plot line but the instinct says no, stick to the original plan. Ah, yes, it raves and riles and requires a good listen.

      As for your unexpected editor, well, they’re laudable in their courage to speak up, and i have found that if it’s a name that’s misspelled, this can ruin the entire credulity of everything else you’ve written in the piece. Names must be correct, checked, spelled right. But sometimes those unexpected editors can seem off track or out of line or something. My hackles rose in sympathy with yours and of course you acted professionally. kudos on that. Above all, we make mistakes in our blogs on typing or spelling or something banal like that and we can only hope for forgiveness – sheesh.

  • litlove says:

    Wise words indeed! I have a good relationship with my inner editor – lots of respect and politeness on either side, but it took a while to make it work. The flesh and blood editors I’ve dealt with in real life have been sweeties, one and all. And I so hear you about saying ‘no’ when something isn’t possible. That’s a trick I’ve had to practice a lot too! These things certainly didn’t come easy to me. Now I just need to persuade someone to take on my non-academic writing – any hints on that?

    • oh says:

      Dear LL – wow – wish I did have some wisdom on getting someone to take on your non-academic stuff – which will suredly be taken up when you make the right connection. I believe it’s down to two things anymore: 1) you meet someone who knows someone who knows someone who will publish you, or; 2) you fall upon some independent publisher or sell it yourself in some nouveau way (the Espresso machine OR online somehow)….I don’t know. I think we’re on the verge of something, really I do.

      Just keep writing.

  • jeanie says:

    All excellent counsel and I agree with it all! I will also add that when we added a totally non-subject-related proof reader to our magazine who wasn’t at all involved with the writing, our proofing improved a thousandfold. We were simply too close to it to really see!

    • oh says:

      Jeanie – that’s it! that’s exactly it! someone so removed from the subject matter and the look of it, makes a fine proofer. I love that this happened for you guys! (I am always trying to get Everyone to engage a proof reader.)

  • ds says:

    Yes, I would like to print this out, too. Such excellent advice. Thank you.

    • oh says:

      Dear DS – Hope all is well. And now, as with Mandy, above, I shall stop over and read what you’re up to…I’ve been on a 2-week writing stint…stuff comes in flurries, you know? thanks for writing, even when some of us don’t get a chance to write right back…OK, headed chez vous.

  • Bone Daddy says:

    You have such a command of the art/science/skill/discipline/folly that is writing.
    I would love to be a fly on your shoulder as you write to first-hand witness your creative process and flow.
    Nicely served. Thank you.

    • oh says:

      Ah, you would soon fly off my shoulder, impatient with my mutterings and musings…just to get 500 words on the page that are somehow meaningful. Thank you for your lovely comments. It inspires me to strive more.

  • Arti says:

    Helpful hints… thank you, oh. Two points particularly stand out for me, 2 and 6. Your point #2 just explains that we should view books and films as two different genres, or rather, two different forms of art, and explains the ‘discrepancies’ between the two in adaptations. While it’s always good to be true to the original writer’s intent, screenwriters have to tell the story visually, and therefore, might need to make some ‘dramatic’ alterations. For #6, thanks! Words of wisdom indeed.

    • oh says:

      Arti! thanks for your words, too. yes, there are amazing discrepancies regarding books vs movies (visual art) and more than anything, it’s always a curiosity to me. Strangely, you know what movie I adore but the book was nothing at all…get ready, you’re not going to believe this, but it’s THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA. Yeah, I know. Not a lot of people liked the movie, but there was something about it for me – the big city, the fashion and Meryl doing her usual fine job on a role that was a bit “thin,” shall we say?
      (oh, and another one: JULIE AND JULIA – I wasn’t over the moon about the book but LOVE the movie. Go figure.

      Anyway, thanks for reading and commenting – you really know your stuff and it’s great to hear from you.

      • Arti says:

        I’ve enjoyed The Devil Wears Prada too! And Julie and Julia as well. I think both movies are well done. Along the same vein, there’s a book that I’d rather prefer than its movie adaptation and that’s Confessions of a Shopaholic. The movie is utterly disappointing… despite the fact it has my fave Kristin Scott Thomas in it. But the book is one fine read. Enjoy talking movies with you… I’ll be doing a lot of that on my blog since ‘Award Season’ has started.

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