Once Again, Delilah S. Dawson Offers Great Writing Advice

Every now and then, Delilah S. Dawson will go on a bit of a jag, laying down a stretch of writing advice on her Twitter account. Later on, she organizes them on her website.

Yesterday, Dawson gave some great advice on editing your early drafts–why it’s important and how to go about it. There’s lots of good stuff in that thread, including a link to a very useful Chuck Wendig post on outlining. And I don’t think it’s in this thread, but yesterday she also linked to a great motivational post by Kait Nolan.

You know, it’s funny, when I write articles or other freelance assignments, I crank out early drafts, and then I revise them carefully, like Dawson suggests. However, when I write fiction, I tend to be very precious with my rough drafts–revising as I go instead of barreling through. I don’t know why, but it’s definitely something I need to fix.

As for outlining, I try to do do a lot of front-loading when I write a new story. I’d rather break it down and start over when I’m outlining than when I’m 75,000 words into a draft. In fact, that’s what I’ve been doing with my latest story–I think I’ve demolished my outline three times already. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just another way for me to be too precious.

Sad News for Writers

Mark Lawrence posted a link to a Guardian article on his Facebook thread earlier today that announces a bit of sad news for writers.

Here’s the important bit:

According to a survey of almost 2,500 working writers – the first comprehensive study of author earnings in the UK since 2005 – the median income of the professional author in 2013 was just £11,000, a drop of 29% since 2005 when the figure was £12,330 (£15,450 if adjusted for inflation), and well below the £16,850 figure the Joseph Rowntree Foundation says is needed to achieve a minimum standard of living. The typical median income of all writers was even less: £4,000 in 2013, compared to £5,012 in real terms in 2005, and £8,810 in 2000 …. [T]he survey also found that in 2013, just 11.5% of professional authors – those who dedicate the majority of their time to writing – earned their incomes solely from writing. This compares with 2005, when 40% of professional authors said that they did so.

Why the decline? Well, the theory is that the decline in book sales leads to a decline in booksellers. And looking at national reading habits, a recent Pew survey says the number of books read by the average American is holding constant, but the specifics are shifting–fewer readers are buying more books. My belief is that when this pattern is repeated over a period of years, it becomes a positive feedback loop, leading to even fewer books and writers and readers.

The article is limited to UK authors. And, from what I can gather, the respondents were novelists not bloggers, freelancers, reporters, etc. (although this may be an incorrect assumption on my part). Nevertheless, I would wager that the results would be roughly similar if such writers were included in the survey. Having looked for freelance work, it’s incredibly sad–albeit understandable when looking at the budgets of magazines, newspapers, and websites–how many editors want to pay very little if anything. The worst offer, of course, is to be paid “in exposure,” to which I always think, “People die of exposure.”

So sad news just about any way you cut it, unless people start reading more books, newspapers, and magazines, and I don’t know how to encourage that or to encourage people to buy from independent booksellers (which often mean paying more than Amazon or other online retailers). No wonder writers like to drink.

Damien Walter, The New York Times, and Your Brain on Writing

Damien Walter, a writer (both fiction and for The Guardian), writing teacher, and Clarion graduate (you can find him here on Twitter), recently linked to an interesting article on his blog.

The article discusses the results of fMRI scans of writers’ brains when writing. Apparently, novice visualize a scene, whereas more advanced writers narrated a scene. This finding was particularly striking to me because I am certainly guilty of this–picturing a scene in my mind and then describing it as a write.

However, as I would like to write a novel instead of a screenplay or a news column, the distinction is important. So how can I make the jump from “reporting” a story to telling a story that comes alive in a reader’s mind? Well, you’ll have to visit Walter’s blog for that. Like a good teacher should, he doesn’t just highlight the issue, but he offers a way forward. I hope you find it as helpful as I did.

An Interesting Anthology

While walking my dog this morning, I listened to the latest episode of the Writing Excuses podcast. In addition to valuable advice on pre-writing tools, Brandon Sanderson also announced that they are releasing an anthology, SHADOWS BENEATH.

Anthologies come out quite frequently, and many of them are exciting for any number of reasons. Heck, I have a copy of ROGUES sitting here, just begging to be read. But what sets this anthology apart, in my opinion, is the inclusion not just of stories by Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler, but also the inclusion of their brainstorming sessions, critique groups, and personal line edits.

One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to read 100 stories this year (You can track my progress either on my Twitter account or by searching for the hashtag #100ShortStoriesIn2014) because I wanted to write more of them. But when I started writing a short story, it quickly exploded into a potential novel.

Although my interest in writing short stories has diminished, I am still incredibly interested in learning from published authors–how they create, how they write, and how they edit. For $25 for the hardback version or $10 for the e-book version (you get the e-book free when you buy the hardback), I get new stories and useful lessons? That’s a heckuva bargain.

Where Have I Been?

Whoops, I didn’t post last week. Sorry about that. I had a bit of work to do, and time got away from me.

And to be honest, I wasn’t in a mood to post anything because I was a bit frustrated with a new story. I kept revising the opening pages over and over again. I was making zero progress, and what I had wasn’t very good. And instead of doing what I should–just finishing a rough draft–I kept reworking those same first pages. But the logjam has finally broken.

How? Well, I didn’t so much refill my creative well as I did give it a splash of something. I started reading fiction again (PRINCE OF THORNS by Mark Lawrence and now PROMISE OF BLOOD by Brian McClellan), and I went to the Degas-Cassatt exhibit at the National Gallery of Art. And now the words are flowing, so I’m in a much better place.

Even better, there is a new preview out for Edge of Tomorrow. And every preview makes it look better and better. And it comes out on my wedding anniversary. Somehow, I don’t think that’s how we’ll be celebrating. However, it’s also a few days before my birthday, so I know what I’m getting myself (well, that and the book it was based on–with a much better title: ALL YOU NEED IS KILL). Check it out below: