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

GIVEAWAY: Robin is excited to give away a free copy of her newest novel, THE GROWN UPS, 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).
Author:
Publish date:

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).

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 7.39.35 PM
Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 7.39.20 PM

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).

Image placeholder title

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:

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 3.39.23 PM

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.

The Story That Drove Me to Write

The Story That Drove Me to Write

Award-winning author Stephanie Kane shares the book that launched her career and provides insights for how you can pursue your story.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Epiphany Moment

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Epiphany Moment

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, let a character experience an epiphany.

Eat Your Words: Your 8-Point Checklist for Writing Original Recipes

Eat Your Words: Your 8-Point Checklist for Writing Original Recipes

Food writer, cook, and committed vegan Peggy Brusseau explains how you can craft a cookbook that engages your reader and stands out from the crowd.

Flash Fiction Challenge

28 Writing Prompts for the 2021 Flash Fiction Challenge Challenge

Find all 28 poetry prompts for the 2021 February Flash Fiction Challenge Challenge in this post.

How to Not Write in the Pandemic, Early Days

How to Not Write in the Pandemic, Early Days

Novelist Rebecca Hardiman gives us an insight into the obstacles that cropped up for writers at the start of the 2020 global pandemic.

7 Tips for Writing Police Procedurals That Readers Love

7 Tips for Writing Police Procedurals That Readers Love

Mystery and crime novelist Russ Thomas explains how best to create a police procedural that will hook your reader and keep them coming back for more.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 560

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write an alien poem.

3 Tips for Writing with a Co-Author

3 Tips for Writing with a Co-Author

Shakil Ahmad provides the top 3 things he learned while co-authoring the book Wild Sun with his brother Ehsan.

Viet Thanh Nguyen | The Committed | Writer's Digest Quote

WD Interview: Viet Thanh Nguyen on The Committed

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen discusses the challenges of writing his second novel, The Committed, and why trusting readers can make for a more compelling narrative in this WD interview.