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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).

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).

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