7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Robin Antalek

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers (this installment written by Robin Antalek, author of THE GROWN UPS) 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: Robin is excited to give away a free copy of her 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. (Please note that comments may take a little while to appear; this is normal).

 

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Robin Antalek is the author of THE SUMMER WE FELL APART (HarperCollins
2010; chosen as a Target Breakout Book) and the new novel, THE GROWN UPS
(William Morrow, Jan. 2015). Her short fiction has appeared in Salon, 52 Stories,
Five Chapters, Sun Dog, The Southeast Review and Literary Mama among
others. She has twice been a finalist in Glimmertrain Magazine, as well as
a finalist for The Tobias Wolff Award for Fiction. She lives in Saratoga
Springs, New York. Connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.

 

1. Tell The Best Story You Can. This sounds easier than it is. Telling the best story you can often means you might have to go someplace that makes you uncomfortable. If you’re worrying about criticism, if you’re worrying about a specific audience, if you’re worrying about anything but the characters and the world you’re creating, then you are not fully in that story and your readers, any reader, will know that.  Let go. Trust yourself.  Allow your characters the room to breathe and ask what if. Write the you-know-what out of the story. Then do it all over again.

2. Embrace the Quiet. Our bright and shiny worlds have a lot of distractions. The trick is not to be the magpie, you know? But pay attention to the quiet. Listen to the conversations around you, remember the color of the sky, the twist of a subway riders hands resting in their lap, the body language between two strangers, the reaction of the grocery clerk to the long lines at six o’clock, the teenagers flirting and scooping ice cream at the beach shack.  They may seem like arbitrary and random scenes barely registering in your brain. But you never know when you will need them. Pay attention to the quiet and get used to it. It is absolutely essential to your writing mind.

(Definitions of unusual literary terms & jargon you need to know.)

3. Write Whether You Feel Like It Or Not. When my daughters were school age I walked them to school in the morning and then returned to my desk. I ignored the laundry and the breakfast mess and I wrote whether I felt like it or not. Good days or bad, that diligence shaped my life as a writer.

4. Don’t Edit Yourself. Use everything. The pain, the embarrassment, the loss, the unbearable happiness, the love, the lust. Write it down. There’s no right or wrong. It’s your world, your drafts, and your story.

5. Be a Good Member of the Literary Community. If you read a book by a writer you like, share it with others via any outlets you may have. If you get jealous, and you will, pour it into your work, not spite on social media. If you are compelled to give a review on Goodreads or Amazon, do it so it helps that writer, not takes them down. We all can do with a little kindness. Writers are fragile creatures. Kindness is everything.

(Tips on how to find more agents who seek your genre/category.)

6. Stay informed. Read, Read, Read. Everything and anything. Then re-read. It’s as essential as re-writing. If you don’t, how will you ever get better at your craft?

7. If You Write, You are a Writer.  When you get Published, you are a Published Writer.  No question about it.

GIVEAWAY: Robin is excited to give away a free copy of her 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. (Please note that comments may take a little while to appear; this is normal).

 

Are you a subscriber to Writer’s Digest magazine
yet? If not, get a discounted one-year sub here.

 

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

 

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Your new complete and updated instructional guide
to finding an agent is finally here: The 2015 book
GET A LITERARY AGENT shares advice from more
than 110 literary agents who share advice on querying,
craft, the submission process, researching agents, and
much more. Filled with all the advice you’ll ever need to
find an agent, this resource makes a great partner book to
the agent database, Guide to Literary Agents.

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9 thoughts on “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Robin Antalek

  1. Pattypans

    Robin, of all this series of articles I’ve read, yours is the one that has hit home the closest. All the article are good; don’t get me wrong. But this one is just what I need, just when I need it. Some of the points, such as embrace the quiet, are habits I’ve been re-realizing I need to get better at: noticing the little things. I do this quite a bit, but not enough. Other points, such as “Write whether you feel like it or not” affirms the importance of my recently implemented (and very, very modest) daily writing goal.

    And, like almost every other commenter, “If you write, you are a writer” gives me confidence to tell it like it is. Thank you for a very encouraging post. And I love the titles of your books! I’d love to hear how and why you chose them.

    PS to site: Please include me in the list of commenters from which the winner will be chosen; even though I do not live in the US, I can provide a US address for the book to be shipped to, and later sent or brought on to me, should I win. Thank you!

  2. blondie560

    Thank you for the great advice. I struggle with knowing there are a million and one things to do around the house, but if I close the door to my writing room, I can’t see them. Number 7 is awesome. I have never referred to myself as a writer because I haven’t been published yet( working on it!) but know I think I will.

  3. blondie560

    Thank you for the great advice. I struggle with knowing there are a million and one things to do around the house but if I close my door I can’t see them. I love #7. I haven’t referred to myself as a writer because I wasn’t published. Now I can.

  4. ngb

    Absolutely loved this post! Number 2 was exactly what pushed me into writing my first book, but I hadn’t realized it until reading this. I can say without exaggeration that I needed to read all seven of these today. Thanks for the great advice!

  5. Teeka

    Thank you so much for sharing this advice, Robin. #2 basically describes the reason I write…to share those small human moments that we all experience and feel we can’t quite ever share with anyone else. Congrats on the book!

  6. LiamC

    I am new to this site. I am not a writer, yet. I will always remember your advice to “embrace the quiet” whether I ever decide to write or not. Thank you!.

  7. jennhscott

    Ah! I struggle so much with ignoring the dirty dishes and laundry! (Well, I also have a toddler to work around, but that’s another thing altogether. Ha)

    I appreciate so much about this post, particularly #5 and #7. Oh, and #4.

    And #2.

    See what I mean?

    I’ve added your books to my to-read list on Goodreads, and I look forward to enjoying them (#6!) soon.
    Thanks for sharing!

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