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Friday, November 13, 2015

How to Be a Writer Without Writing Every Day (Shana Chartier)

[It is my pleasure to introduce Shana Chartier who has a slightly different take on daily writing than I do.]

That's right, I said it. Hold in your gasp. Continue to breathe normally. Because I'm going to tell you the story of how I became a published author without constantly writing, and you're going to feel a little better about yourself.

Obviously being a writer means you have to write. Google it–there are memes for miles. But there's so much more to it than that. Ten years ago when I was in college, I realized that my political science major might not have been the best decision for me. I was young and indecisive and really, really naive. So I told myself that I would write a bestselling novel and be set for life. Piece of cake!

My first novel was 50,000 words (because everyone knows that's the minimum for being published, right?). I wrote when the muse struck, which for me is whenever. Sometimes I don't write for months, then BAM! Twenty pages come out in one session. That's my writing style. Deal with it.

I researched query letters. I emailed all of New York City and anywhere else that took YA, which these days is everyone because money. I swam in an ocean of rejection and my own tears. And I realized that just writing wouldn't be enough. I needed to see what was getting published, and why. What's the difference between a book that gets left by the toilet and a book you can finish in one sitting?

I spent the next decade reading, studying, examining word usage and voice. I wrote two more books that got not a single bite. I got sad. I stopped writing and kept reading and sometimes got mad at the books that got published when mine was clearly so much better (note: remove cockiness in post edit). What was I doing wrong?

I tried to force it. I wrote a bunch of really bad short stories, thinking if I just keep writing, I'll get something out there! Meanwhile, wisps of ideas for my next book were coming in, little by little. And then one day, a plot crashed into my head. I wrote and wrote for three months, and 230 pages later, a book was born.

That book is called Past Lives, and it's available on Amazon right now thanks to Pants On Fire Press.

So here's my point: being a writer is so much more than writing. I disagree with the notion that we should force ourselves to write every day. That just leads to frustration and more blocks. But if you can't write today, be a writer today. Read a little to see what's marketable. Think about how you would describe the lady in front of you at the DMV, and then think of three alternate descriptions that could be better. We can be writers by thinking like writers--and that doesn't necessarily mean putting fingers to keyboards all the time.

So if you didn't write today, don't beat yourself up! But if you also didn't think about the written word, about how to use it to convey your message, then maybe feel a little bad. Hey, dreams don't come true by staying in your head--you still have to take some kind of action. So do something writerly today: describe the room you're in; research a few literary agents you want to contact and personalize that query letter (it matters); read; read; READ; map out an outline of your plot points. Just do something! We are the only ones who can create the life of our dreams. What are you doing to move forward as a writer today?



Past lives is available through Amazon as a physical copy or through Kindle.

You can also follow Shana through twitter or her Facebook author page. https://www.facebook.com/shanachartierauthor
https://twitter.com/shanachartier

[Also read my reply to this article here.]


If you would like to guest blog for Writing About Writing we would love to have an excuse to take a day off a wonderful diaspora of voices (even if they don't always agree with me). Take a look at our guest post guidelines, and drop me a line at chris.brecheen@gmail.com.

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