7 Things I've Learned So Far, by Nina Benneton

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers at any stage of their career can talk about seven things they’ve learned along their writing journey that they wish they knew at the beginning. This installment is from novelist Nina Benneton. GIVEAWAY: Nina 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. (Update: Jami G. won.)
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This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,”where writers (this installment written by Nina Benneton, author of COMPULSIVELY MR. DARCY) 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: Nina 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. (Update: Jami G. won.)

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Nina Benneton was on her way to win a Nobel prize in
something, anything, when a wonderful husband and the
requisite number of beautiful children interrupted her plans.
She turned to writing. COMPULSIVELY MR. DARCY (Feb. 2012
Sourcebooks) is her debut novel. Publishers Weekly said of
the book, "Die-hard fans of everything Austen will enjoy this
update of her classic tale." Visit Nina at www.NinaBenneton.com
and follow her on Twitter.

1. Be kind to yourself. As a non-native English writer, I have a secret, shameful flaw: sometimes I cannot tell the singular from the plural. First assignment in an advanced, professional writing class: my character glanced behind to check out her butts. (I see two when I look behind me, don't you?). The teacher's mouth frothed; the class giggled. Did I slink away in shame? No. I chose to be kind to myself. Laugh. Clarify with native speakers about singularity and plurality of various body parts. Note to self: two cheeks, one butt. Move on to make other mistakes to entertain teacher and classmates.

Writers are very self-critical people. We berate ourselves for the little flaws and the big flaws. But, if we don't have self-acceptance and self-love about our writing, we don't feel safe. If we don't feel safe, we cannot see our weaknesses with a clear-eye and, most importantly, with compassion. Without compassion, the process to improve our craft will be fraught with needless self-flagellation. Stop. Be kind to yourself.

2. Don't reject yourself. Let others reject you. Many writers I know resist finishing their manuscripts. Or, if they've finished, will not submit their manuscripts. They'd rather reject themselves than take a chance and receive a rejection. I don't know about you, but I'd rather let a professional reject me than amateur-me reject myself. An editor tells me she usually requests many more submissions than she has time to read at conferences because only a small percentage of writers will send in the requested submissions. Writers reject themselves before they get to her.

Celebrate your rejections. Rejections mean you've overcome self-rejection and managed to finish and submit a manuscript. You're way ahead of the thousands of writers who've rejected themselves. Don't reject yourself.

(The term "platform" defined -- learn how to sell more books.)

3. You are not a misunderstood genius. Accept this, and you will find that your growth as a writer leaps and bounds off the chart.

Sometimes you have to listen to the professionals. The novel of my heart, the novel my family and friends raved about, the novel fellow writer-friends complimented, the novel I was sure would find a home was rejected. My agent and the editor recommended I work on something else. Move on, they said.

After I got over my I'm-a-misunderstood-genius part, I listened and moved on. I shelved the book and started working on another. I honed my craft with more writing classes. I now have clarity about why that novel was rejected. I see the weaknesses of the story that the agent and editor saw. What I learned from that rejection has helped me to become a better writer. You are not a misunderstood genius.

4. You are a grasshopper. As young Caine did in the American "Kung Fu" TV series, I've been lucky to find wonderful mentors. Writers, especially writers who teach, are some of the most generous human beings. As long as you don't become a dementor and suck all the energy from them with your I'm-a-misunderstood-genius whining, and you show you're willing to practice bum glue and show up on the page everyday, they will cut open their veins and transfuse into you all the wisdom, the know-how, and the encouragement you will ever need. From them, I've received advice and referrals to agents, editors, and other great teachers. The best writers want other writers to succeed. Ignore everyone else and find these people, these Master Pos, and sit at their feet. Tell them you are a grasshopper.

5. Duct tape your internal editor. Your internal editor is your worst enemy. He doesn't want you to succeed because he'll be out of a job. Silence him. Do what I did with a tip a wise teacher gave me. Take the ugliest stuffed animal you have, duct tape its mouth, and give it a name. My duct-taped internal editor, Ignoramus, sits next to my laptop. After I silenced him, I got published. Duct tape your internal editor.

(What to write in the BIO section of your queries.)

6. Nothing you write is ever wasted. Park your bum down and write. Everyday. That's the best advice I've received from a prolific, multi-published, writing teacher. Even if what you write today will be deleted tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, you are training your writing muscles. By parking your bum down and writing everyday, no matter what, you integrate writing into your life. Writing becomes as natural a part of your day as brushing your teeth. This daily writing habit will help insulate you against your internal editor, against rejections, against everything but words on the page. No training session for an athlete is ever wasted. Nothing you write is ever wasted. Lastly, remember...

7. Writing is not brain surgery. It's much harder. But nobody dies.

GIVEAWAY: Nina 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. (Update: Jami G. won.)

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How to Blog a Book by Nina Amir discusses
how to slowly release a novel online to generate
interest in your writing and work.

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

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