Here are ten “pearls of wisdom” I’ve picked up in the last couple of years:
*Write what you know and research what you don’t; in other words – try to be as authentic as you can in order to be believable – whether you’re writing fiction or not – it turns off a reader when something doesn’t ring true;
*When quoting someone for a newspaper piece, wait for the right quote! People are amazing and no matter what age, when they are excited to share something that’s important to them, they say beautiful things – I found this was the case for every single article I’ve published; sometimes the best quotes come after the person relaxes and shares something, almost like an afterthought;
*Use a recording device for interviews – not only because of the obvious, getting the quote right – but it also helps to listen to it later and hear the excitement in the person’s voice and the event;
*Don’t give up – submit! so far, I’ve published everything I’ve submitted – even my Thanksgiving poem – (except for my ms, which I only started submitting recently); I became a freelance journalist ONLY because I submitted stories to the local paper and someone (awesome Editor that he is) liked what he saw and gave me a chance; it comes down to what the author, Janet Evanovich, says in her book “How I Write” — you’re not going to get published if you keep it to yourself – you have to submit!
*Listen to conversations around you – people say the most hilarious things in the most mundane places, like the grocery store and the oil change/tire store, etc.
*Don’t let the publishing industry dampen your spirits — they are human — really — and they are making business decisions — it’s not personal! Even if my ms doesn’t get taken up by a publishing house, I will still write my next ms — it’s completely based on the market and the bottom line and I get that;
*Reading the ms out loud is a must — especially to hear if the words come out smoothly, naturally or trip you up;
*Writing is a work of art! Before I realized this, I used to be so careful about my grammar, etc. and then I’d see a best-selling novel and find “errors” — or what I perceived as errors — like starting a sentence with “And” or having a sentence without a verb, etc. When writing prose — those rules are not so set in stone and it depends on the dialog or the flow. Perhaps the writer wants it to sound hurried. So she uses short words. Or the writer wants to keep it going and going and on and on because she wants to make a point of how long it really is…Just. Like. That.
*Avoid cliches! They’re just overdone and it makes for a boring piece. I love reading new ones – especially similes and metaphors that make me laugh;
*Exchange your ms with writing buddies who will give you the good, the bad and the ugly. (thank you Michele and Nancy!) Not only are they helping you with your ms, but when you help them with theirs, you also learn a lot too.