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7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Eric Griffith

Categories: 7 Things I've Learned So Far, Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog, What's New.

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers (this installment written by Eric Griffith, author of BETA TEST: A NOVEL) at any stage of their career can talk about writing advice and instruction as well as how they possibly got their book agent — by sharing seven things they’ve learned along their writing journey that they wish they knew at the beginning.

GIVEAWAY: Eric is excited to give away a free copy of his novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Kimmyjewel won.)

 

    

Eric Griffith is the author of the sci-fi novel BETA TEST from Hadley
Rille Books (find it on Amazon), which Publishers Weekly called “an unusually
lighthearted
apocalyptic tale.” He narrowly averted a career in food service
when he
began working in tech publishing almost 20 years ago. By day he
works
as the features editor for PCMag.com. By night he sneaks out of the
house to write fictions. He currently lives in Ithaca, New York, with his
girlfriend and anywhere from three to five dogs at a time. You can follow
his online exploits daily via http://egriffith.info. Find his book here.

 

 

1. Write The Acknowledgements As You Go. There is nothing more horrible than leaving someone out when you make public thanks. Ask anyone who’s won an Oscar and forgot to mention their dad, their wife, or their all-powerful agent. There’s a long time lapse between finishing a manuscript and publication, and let’s face it, you don’t have a mind like a steel trap anymore. I guarantee someone will be forgotten in if you don’t write your acknowledgements as you work on the book. Sorry, Mom.

2. Mentally Cast Your Characters. Having a hard time getting the voice of your character just right? Assign actors to play the parts of your characters. I tend to go with Hollywood names, but I’ve used friends and family as well (even when the character is not really like their personality). Don’t get stuck thinking it has to be a current actor – there’s a century of movies to pick from, and sometimes a young Steve Buscemi or Kathleen Turner fits a character better than the current older versions.

(Writer’s Digest asked literary agents for their best pieces of advice. Here are their responses.)

3. Script First, Action Later. Dialogue can be hard enough, but then “blocking” a scene—choreographing the action that takes place while characters are talking—that can be a nightmare. Movies don’t worry about that too much. Scripts are 90% dialogue. Try writing a scene the same way: just write what they say, leave out all the “gazes,” “nods,” “smiles,” and any movement at all. What you get may be all you need.

4. Establish a Routine, then Steamroll Those Who Get In Your Way. We all are told to treat writing like a job, but that’s pretty hard because chances are you already have a job! Probably an occupation that you want to keep, so you can continue to do things like eat and get back to watching “Hoarders” on A&E to feel good about yourself. Nevertheless, you must set up regular time to write. Then whenever someone tries to schedule you out of that time…don’t do it. Those hours are sacrosanct. If you can, get out of the house. Kudos to you if you can schedule at-home writing time for when the family is away. I suggest when they’re at church or volunteering at a soup kitchen. It might make you a bad person, but you’re a bad person with finished pages. (Bonus: you do don’t have to get dressed.)

5. Family and Significant Others Can’t Be Trusted. Look, they love you. That means they either love you so much they can’t say what you need to hear, or they’re probably furious at you (that’s the flip side of love, baby!). What’s more, they’re probably not writers, either. Family is for support (if you’re lucky), not criticism. Don’t expect to get anything constructive from them.

6. Cultivate Readers, Not Just a Writing Group. A good critique group is invaluable. You need like-minded writers to help you see your gaping plot holes, wooden characters, and lack of a theme. The problem is, time. Most groups can only meet a couple of times a month, once a week at best. Getting through a whole book can take forever –reading 2,000 words a week, it would take a year to get through a 100,000+ novel. Get those primary readers in your back pocket: a small army of elites who will be prepared to read your entire book in one big lump and give you the feedback your group may never get to, especially on those final chapters.

(The term “platform” defined — learn how to build an audience of readers.)

7. Get Ready to Go On Tour! The chances are extremely slim you’ll be sent on a book tour by your publisher. That’s for successful writers! But, guess what, you are your own marketing department, so you must create your own tour if you want anyone to ever know about that book. To start, make friends with the local book store for an opening. Then get going on a blog tour (hire a pro to help you or cultivate relationships with bloggers who love books, starting now now). Go to conferences. You should be on every panel that will take you, at every tiny local literary fest to the biggest conventions. Yes, all the travel and accommodations will cost you. But it’s a nice tax deduction, and an investment in your future as a writer. This is one of those “work locally, think globally” deals that will sell some books.

GIVEAWAY: Eric is excited to give away a free copy of his novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Kimmyjewel won.)

 

500x500_maychuck-1If you’re interested in a variety of my resources on your
journey to securing an agent, don’t forget to check
out my personal Instructor of the Month Kit, created by
Writer’s Digest Books. It’s got books & webinars packaged
together at a 73% discount. Available while supplies last.

 Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

 

Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more.
Order the book from WD at a discount.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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21 Responses to 7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Eric Griffith

  1. mertianna says:

    I love humor, and writers who write with humor! The tips are wonderfully useful. I have to admit the steel trap is more like a booby trap these days. I’m writing down everyone’s names now. I only hope I remember where I put the list…

  2. Kylara says:

    Great advice. Once I actually finish a book, I am excited about publishing and promoting it!

  3. sddblake says:

    Great idea about mentally casting your characters. I’m going to try that.

  4. jmcewan says:

    Being an aspiring author, I enjoyed your realistic advice. I struggle with with tip #4, but I think I will try harder to develop some sort of writing schedule. Thanks!

  5. Mimiweisbond says:

    Hi Eric
    A. I wish I’d read your first tip ten years ago. And B. Why do they think the lizard’s plastic?

  6. dawnallen says:

    Definitely a good list. Thanks!

  7. dkeymel says:

    All sound advice. Some I need to follow. Thanks and I’d love to read your work.

  8. kimmyjewel says:

    I’d also love a copy and it will take me a minute to be ready for touring!

  9. puppeterry says:

    When I cast the characters, I lean toward Bogart, Karloff, and Mae West. I’d like to use Chaplin, but that would cause a problem with dialogue!

  10. I love the plastic lizard on the cover!

  11. cheriedurbin says:

    I’d love a copy-and I’m ready to go on tour! :)

  12. First of all I love the cover art. Second of all I appreciate the tips given.

  13. DurnKS says:

    Great tips and advice, Eric. Point #4 really hits home with me as well. My wife is supportive of my writing, but she can’t help but stroll into the man cave and interrupt a good flow. When I calmly explain the importance of uninterrupted sessions, she gets her feelings hurt and gives me the silent treatment (which I use to my writing advantage).

    I read an article which pointed out that writers need to learn to overcome background noises and disturbances. For me, as a beginning writer, I struggle with that. My right-sided brain produces more efficient writing sessions when my surroundings are quiet. For now, children are not part of that equation, but I’ll worry about crawling across that bridge when it’s constructed.

  14. jody on edge says:

    Thanks for some very practical advise that still leaves plenty of room for dreaming! :)

  15. HuffmanHanni says:

    I find #2 useful for the historical novel I’m hoping to write. It’s got quite a few people in it and it is helpful for me to actually see what these people look like. I felt creepy goggling images of ‘young dark-haired man’ or ‘young blonde woman’ but once I weeded out the porn, I had to focus on finding just the right person for the character I had in mind. I have a binder with pictures I’ve printed out along with characterstics and motivations for them. I need to physically see that stuff when I’ve been thinking about scenes.

    I’m having the hardest time with #4 and 5. I’ve had numerous conversations with my husband about a schedule and trying to respect it. I finally made a sign that says ‘Madness in Progress. Do Not Disturb.’ with pictures of a frustrated writer that I post on the door so he knows not to bother me. I sometimes wonder if my husband is being too nice to me when he reads a draft over. I keep telling him to give it to me straight and while he claims he is, I don’t believe him.

  16. KarenLange says:

    I love these tips. I need to do more of #3. Sometimes I get to thinking too much rather than just let it roll. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  17. nash62 says:

    We need to set up a regular writing schedule but I liked the advice to steamroll whoever gets in your way. It’s true, you have to tell people to leave you alone when it’s time to write.

  18. Jrhoday says:

    HAHA, 4 and 5 are so true for me! I have to tell my wife “If you loved me you’d leave me alone.” I always find myself receiving deconstructive criticism also. Thanks for the advice!

  19. I’m in rough draft mode right now and cringe at every “smile” and “nod” and “gaze” and “look” that slips through, but I let them go with the idea that’s what revision and editing are for. For some reason it never occurred to me to not write them in the first place.

  20. I love this guy’s voice–especially when he writes about family and critique groups!

  21. pulcherrima says:

    Oh, my gosh. I do the ‘dialogue first, block later’ trick all the time. I thought I was only doing it when I was feeling lazy and not wanting to actually take the time to write out the entire scene, but it’s nice to hear that it’s actually a good writing technique :)

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