Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Writing Advice and Advice to New Parents

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig
This post is especially for all the newer or more uncertain writers out there.  The ones who are frozen while working on their manuscript because they’ve read so many writing craft books and posts that they’re just afraid of messing up if they work on their story.
My sister had twins last summer and quickly found that there was something about a new mother that made experienced moms want to give them advice…on any and all topics.  But every baby is different and every mom is different.  I decided I’d bite my tongue and only give advice to my sister when asked for it.  After all—what did I even know about raising twins?  I had my babies 4/ ½ years apart and they’re getting pretty old now.  And I’m forgetful.
When she did ask me for advice, I tried to phrase it so it didn’t sound bossy coming out: “Sometimes I’d try to….”
Ultimately, each parent has to try different approaches to see what works.  Maybe the babies need a nap schedule.  Maybe they don’t adhere to a schedule well.  Maybe they need a late-morning nap and then skip the afternoon nap and then turn in for the day after an early supper.  Who knows?  You have to experiment to find out what works.
This is what makes me nervous about giving advice to new writers, too (which I’ve already done via email twice in the past week. And, clearly, which I try to do on this blog.)  What do I know, when it comes down to it?  I know what’s right for me and my books (most of the time.)  Each genre, each writer, each book—is different.
Some books are more commercial than others. Some books have a clear genre classification. Some books are lyrical and different and unable to be easily categorized.
Some writers are retired. Some are parenting challenging children. Some care for aging parents. Some work weekends and nights.  Some face health problems. Some are still in school.
I remember reading volumes on writing.  I read books from the library.  I read blogs and forums.  My mind was boggled by all the information—and the way that so much of it appeared to be contradictory to other bits of advice or information.
It’s not any easier now.  Should we get an agent?  Query publishers?  Self-publish?  Should we write every day?  Write to trends?  Outline?  Wing it? 
I know what I did.  I took it all in and tried different approaches until I figured out what worked for me.  And even then…I’m still making adjustments, ten years in.  What I need, what works for me, is always changing.  I would have never believed that I’d choose to use an outline, if you’d asked me. Even if you’d asked me two years ago.
It’s good to be informed.  It’s good to listen to others and hear what works for them.  But, ultimately, we have to experiment on our own to find out what works.  And maybe we have to be open to new ideas and new approaches if what used to work no longer works for us now. 
We can read all the new parent books and all the writing craft books…but at some point we have to put it all into practice and give it a go.  Make mistakes and learn from them and grow and improve and try and screw up.
There really are no rules. And the only way we can really fail at writing is if we don’t write at all.
Image: MorgueFile: kamuelaboy