Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Young Writers' Month: A. A. Milne

"Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think." ~A. A. Milne

Writing is, in many ways, about these three things: bravery, strength, intelligence.

Be brave enough to write things outside your comfort zone. Often I have to make a difficult decision, swallow my pride, and do things to my characters (and move the plot in new directions) I feel uncomfortable about. Not because I'm a literary sadist (writers often treat their beloved characters better than they do people in the real world), but because it takes my writing to unexpected places, and keeps me on my toes. This stops me getting lazy and writing the same things.

Be strong enough to stand your ground, but also to accept criticism. No writer ever produces a perfect first draft. Similarly, we're blinded by our closeness to what we write. Ask for feedback from responsive, sympathetic readers and editors, and listen to them. But also know when you have to do what you have to do. Some books are rejected because of an editor's personal taste. If you know your story's worth telling, then keep at it. Also: don't read reviews. Or if you do, learn to develop a thick skin, because there will be bad ones.

Be intelligent and be smart. But being smart doesn't necessarily mean getting smart. Don't try to trick your readers and respect them enough not to patronise them. They can suss out your writing.

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