This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers (this installment written by Liane Moriarty, author of WHAT ALICE FORGOT) 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.
(June 2011, Amy Einhorn/Putnam), the story of a
woman who loses 10 years of her memory. Publishers
Weekly described it as “moving, well-paced and
thoroughly pleasurable,” and Fox 2000 has
optioned the film rights. She has written two other novels as
well as the Nicola Berry series for children. She lives
in Sydney, Australia. See her website here.
1. Every time I sit down to write I need to commit to a word count goal, otherwise I waste too much time editing and re-editing my previous work, staring dreamily off into space, pretending that I’m thinking profound, poetic thoughts when really I’m just thinking, “Look at me being a writer! I’m so happy I’m a writer!’ My real thinking and planning gets done when I’m doing something else like driving or walking or taking the shower. When I’m at the computer, I need to write.
2. Actually, writing is nearly always the answer. Sometimes when I’m stuck, I really do need that cup of tea, or that chocolate, or a break, or a walk, but in most cases what I actually need to do is make myself keep writing until it flows again. I’ve always found this hard to accept because it’s counter-intuitive, like when people say you should exercise harder to cure a stitch. (Although, I don’t believe that at all. Stop! Rest!)
3. Asking myself “Is this any good?” is pointless. It just slows down my writing and I can’t tell anyway. It’s always the paragraphs I loved most, the ones I tenderly polished and re-read with pride, that my editor will suggest cutting.
4. Google is my best friend and my worst enemy. It’s fabulous for research but then it becomes addictive. I’ll have a character eating an orange, and next thing I’m googling types of oranges, I’m visiting chat rooms about oranges, I’m learning the history of the orange. It’s bad for my word count.
5. Friends and family do not believe you write fiction. They truly believe that every word you write is either autobiographical or based on them. I once had a character say that she never wanted to be invited to another children’s birthday party, and I never received another children’s birthday party invitation ever again.
6. Get a website. I thought it would be somehow presumptuous to have one too soon, but it’s the best way of connecting with your readers and I wish I had one so much earlier. (www.lianemoriarty.com) If you’ve finished your book, and you’re waiting to find a publisher, start developing your website.
7. Sometimes, just agree. When your publisher sends you the cover for your new book with the message, “What do you think? We LOVE it!” the correct answer is, “WOW! I LOVE IT TOO!”
Liane is excited to giveaway a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within one week;
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: Elizabeth won.)
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