Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom for Writers (and Everyone Else too),

The deadline for the Kay Snow Writing contest is only two days away. Last year I won third place in the adult fiction category and this year I'd like to go even better.

But I'm struggling. I've decided to send in the first chapter of my middle-grade novel but have succumbed to "beginning-itis." That is, I keep changing the start. There's a lot of 'wanting' going on: wanting more of a hook; wanting the character's voice to shine through with more humour; wanting to avoid The List pitfall which is overdone in children's writing just now. As in:

  1. I initially wrote this in first person present tense.
  2. I changed it to first person past tense.
  3. I've just rewritten the beginning for the sixth time.

You get the idea.

As is my usual modus operandi when in freefall doubt, I hurried to my groaning bookshelves. (I own more writing books than most public libraries.) But today nothing was speaking to me. So I bundled the three-year-old into the car, with the promise of reading three million picture books, and sped off to the Central library--the one library that reasonably competes with my stack. There was one book in particular I wanted, but I left the library lugging seven tomes in my classy green library book tote.

Two of those books were by Michael Seidman. He used to be an editor for Walker and Co., and it was in that role I met him at a long-ago writing conference. (I don't remember much of that pitch, except that he was kind and a good listener and requested the first pages of my ms.) I believe he now works as an editorial consultant, at least if Google is to be believed.

I opened his book, Living the Dream, An Outline for a Life in Fiction. I hoped I'd find something for my scattered, anxious soul;

"Don't worry about failing, don't worry about being wrong. Enjoy what you're doing for the sake of doing it... And when you're done writing, when all the words are on the page, then look at them closely, examine each one and decide if it's the word that belongs there... Is what you've written better than what you wrote yesterday? Is there growth? Is there honesty? Is there you?"

Growth: you betcha. Honesty: darn tootin'. Me: I sure as hell hope so.

Somehow, that calmed me down.

I've got 48 hours to get the words right. Wish me luck.


  1. Good luck! Sounds like you've taken all the actions possible.

    And thanks for bringing this writing contest to my attention.

  2. Thanks for reading and commenting, Christopher. Have you entered writing contests before? How has it gone for you?

  3. relax and let go and tell a good story
    ..good for you for hanging in there
    but remember the most important thing is that you are writing

  4. Good advice, Suz. I think I'm just a bit too close to my material at the moment. Lots of writers say they put their draft away for a couple of weeks and then reassess.
    The important thing is not to lose the "fun" feeling. That's why I like Microfiction Monday so much!

  5. It is possible we may all die penniless, alone, and unread. Therefore, we may as well enjoy the writing for its own sake. I say have fun and worry about publication later. Wow. What a cheery comment I have left for you today!

  6. Actually, MGN, you did make me laugh! I had a much more enjoyable writing day thanks to you.


If comments be the food of love, comment on. Give me excess of them... (With apologies to The Bard)