7 Things I've Learned So Far, by Ann Weisgarber

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BY ANN WEISGARBER

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1. Know the trends, then ignore them. I’m a believer we must write the stories that haunt us and won’t leave us alone until we’ve put words to paper. Our writing will be better, the voices stronger, and the emotions will ring true if we follow our hearts rather than try to conform to the latest trend. Trends change but solid writing and good stories don’t go out of style. Agents and editors know that.

2. Each writer has her own process. Some writers start with outlines and others wing it. Some edit as they go while others don’t look back until they’ve reached the end. There are authors who write a book every year while some of us take years to write just one. It’s not easy to do but avoid comparing yourself to other writers. Your writing is unique and so is your process.

3. Work with a writing critique group. I’ve been meeting weekly with a critique group for eleven years, and the feedback is invaluable. We praise the good parts and point out the problem areas. Ultimately, the writer decides if the feedback has merit but it’s my policy that if three or more readers have complaints about a scene, I need to listen and consider making changes. I have a scene in The Promise that I brought to the group every week for two months before I got it where it needed to be.

4. Read each page out loud. You’ll hear the clunkers, the awkward phrases, and the words you have a tendency to repeat. You’ll also hear your rhythmic style and the poetic passages.

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5. There will be bad writing days. We all have them. We sit at the computer, fingers posed above the keyboard, and stare at the blank screen. When I’m stuck, I take a twenty-minute walk minus the phone or any electronic device so I can absorb nature and allow my thoughts to drift. Relaxed, I usually know what to do when I return to the computer. If a walk doesn’t help, I tell myself tomorrow is a fresh start.

6. Celebrate the victories. Writing is hard work, and it’s important we reward ourselves each time we accomplish a goal. Finished a chapter? A scene gave you fits but you finally smoothed out the rough edges? Celebrate. Buy yourself a flower, go to a movie, or take the time for a second cup of coffee.

7. Adopt an “Oh yeah? Just watch me” attitude. It takes courage to be a writer. The publication business is tough, and rejections are the norm for many of us. But we’re committed to our characters and we won’t let them down. With each rejection, you and I must find the energy to revise and edit our stories. We can and will prove the rejections wrong.

Ann Weisgarber is the author of The Promise and The Personal History of Rachel DuPree. The Promise was shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, was the first finalist for the Spur Award for Best Western Historical Fiction, and was a finalist for the Ohioana Book Award for Fiction. Ann serves on the selection committee for the Langum Prize in American Historical Fiction. She is currently working on her next novel, which takes place in Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, during the winter of 1888. You can find her online at annweisgarber.com.

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