I currently am very sick. I have succumbed to a disease that has shattered my ability to write. I want to share this disease with you in hopes that you will be able to withstand the infection that seems to be spreading amongst novice writers like myself. This is the disease of TMI or, Too Much Information.
What this disease feeds on is our yearning as beginners to gather up all of the little trinkets and golden nuggets of information that prestigious published authors want to toss out on the road for us to pick up in scraps. Or literary agents who blog or Tweet occasionally and try to throw us a bone while we fuss relentlessly over our query letters and outlines. Or the countless marketing tactics out there to draw in naive and hopeful new writers with workshops and how-to books that will make us “the next best-selling author.”
And, as I said at the beginning of this post, I have succumbed to this disease so do not think that I am above this myself; on the contrary, I am utterly and helplessly infected. I cannot count the times that I have come to my computer with the mission to work on my novel and , instead, I open up my email and see, for example, a Writer’s Digest advertisement. “The First 50 pages – how to get an agent to ask for more.” Really??? There is an article that will tell me exactly what to do to get an agent to want to read my manuscript and then want to sign me and then sell my book and then I will be a best seller?? (I know that article did not promise all of that but it is where my overzealous mind leads me and so, I click on it)…And then there are other articles, so I click on those. And then there is an ad for another company who does writing workshops for people working on Young Adult novels. Heyyy, I’m writing for Young Adult!! I need to check that out, too!!!
Three hours later, I have not added anything to my word count for my novel. But, I have made a lot of advertisers happy with my obsessive clicking on everything and anything related to writing that doesn’t involve me ACTUALLY writing. Now, let’s take a step back from this disease. I believe that we can live in harmony with it – I just desperately need a vaccine shot, pronto. Here is what the doctor suggests:
1. Get organized: It is okay to have resources in which you go to for inspiration or tips or ideas or whatever. But keep it organized. If you have writing-related emails in three different accounts and bookmarks galore on multiple browsers, no wonder this disease has made you a cluster of a writer. For myself, I have created accounts exclusively for my writing. ONE email account, ONE Twitter account, ONE Facebook page, ONE Pinterest, etc. Also, things can be narrowed down even more – like for your bookmarks. Make use of folders. Folders are your friends. Divide things up into categories like Agents/Agencies, Author blogs, Writing Workshops, Conferences to Attend, etc. This make finding information more efficient.
2. When looking for information, have a purpose: Do not, I repeat, do not get sucked into an email advertisement or random post unless there is a purpose for you to read it right now. Are you currently still working on your first novel attempt? Then yes, that blog post about how to build climax is fine. But why on earth are you reading a post about querying an agent?? You must finish the book before you get the agent, stop putting the damn horse before the cart! What good will that information do you if you never finish the book? That’s what I thought…
3. Writing and reading always come first: I think deep down we are all looking for a shortcut to the glorious “published” road. So we see these teasers everywhere in blog posts and workshops and we think, “If I just do this, then my road to being published will be so much easier because I will know the secrets!” When I really sit here and think about it, I don’t think there are any secrets that will make you get there faster besides this one: write. The best guide is for you to write as much as you can and read as much as you can (and when I say read, I mean read novels, not the blog post on “How to Write a Best-selling Novel”.) So if you only have one hour a day to devote to writing, 56 minutes of it better be your ass in the chair and WRITING. Hello??
So that is my prescription. I have avoided taking my medication today and instead, basked in the fever of this illness. However, I will be choking down that cure no matter how much it makes me gag because, in the end, I don’t want to be infected. I want to be a writer. And a writer has to write to get published. How’s that for your golden nugget for today?