Making the Move From Reader to Aspiring Author, part two


Making the Move From Reader to Aspiring Author, part two

Making the Move From Reader to Aspiring Author, part two

by Jan Drexler

Making the Move From Reader to Aspiring Author, part two

Today's post, along with last month's part one (you can read that post here) are part of Seekerville's new "Let's Get Back to Basics" series. Because we know how overwhelming learning to become a published author can be, we want to give beginners a helping hand and help veterans refresh their knowledge.

If you remember, I am in the process of sharing six steps to make the transition from reader to aspiring author. 

Step 1: Live Your Life

Step 2: Read as if Your Career Depends on It

Step 3: Study the Concept of Story

And now - here are the next three steps:

Step 4: Understand the art of writing vs. the mechanics of writing 

Making the Move From Reader to Aspiring Author, part two

There are two parts of writing – there is the art, and then there are the mechanics.

Learning the art of writing is easy…and the hardest thing we will ever do. The secret to learning how to write is to write! What’s so hard about that? Well, if you’re a writer, you know the self-doubt, that discouraging voice in your ear, and the experience of writing pages and pages of what seems to be nothing.

But every word we put on paper (or in our computer file) is valuable. With every sentence, every paragraph, we’re learning how to write. The act of writing is what develops the writer. 

Making the Move From Reader to Aspiring Author, part two

Here’s your fourth assignment, part A:

Write 100 words. Write like no one will ever read it. Let the words flow. Avoid the urge to self-edit.

Then put that page away until tomorrow. Tomorrow you can read what you’ve written, but until then put it out of your mind. Take heart! You’ve written 100 words!

When you open your document or your notebook tomorrow, tweak those words. Do they say what you meant to say? Change some of the words you used for stronger ones. Switch one sentence for another one. (This is called revising – a particularly useful skill.)

Now that you’re happy with what you wrote yesterday, write another hundred words – or more. Make this practice a daily habit.

But there is another part to writing: mechanics.

If you’re a grammar geek like me, this part is easy. And hard. I cringe when people use the past perfect progressive tense when they mean to use the past perfect. (It’s a blessing. And a curse.)

Don’t worry. I do understand that not everyone is a grammar geek. There are some of you whose eyes glazed over when you read the preceding paragraph!

There is help out there. A simple (and free) one is the Grammarly app for your computer. You can find it here. There are also many books written to help you learn the basics of grammar and punctuation – between homeschooling and adult education, you have plenty to choose from. Go to Amazon and do a search for grammar curriculum. There are many inexpensive workbooks to help. One of my favorites is the one we used for my children when they were in high school: Easy Grammar Plus.

I want to say something especially important here, and then I’ll be quiet about this grammar and punctuation stuff (for now.) Here it is: 

Writing is an art, and every artist needs to be able to use his or her medium. Painters need to understand watercolors, acrylics, and oil. Sculptors need to understand clay. Quilters need to understand fabric. And writers need to understand words. Don’t depend on an app like Grammarly to write for you – use your words like a paintbrush to convey your story to your readers. 

So, here’s your fourth assignment, part B:

Do an internet search for “English verb tense charts.” Find and download a simple chart of English verb tenses. Refer to it as you write. Learn to recognize the different verb tenses and how to use them properly. I found this one on Pinterest: Easy Verb Tense Chart 

Step 5: Learn and Practice the Habits of a Writer

Making the Move From Reader to Aspiring Author, part two

What are a writer’s habits?

If you’ve been around Seekerville long enough, you have probably discovered that every writer works in their own way. Each writer develops their own habits and method of working.

My husband loves to tell me about James Patterson’s writing habits. According to a recent interview, Mr. Patterson writes seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year. He gets up around five thirty, does some housework, writes a bit. Takes a walk for an hour or so, then comes back and writes until eleven or twelve. (I think my husband wants me to take afternoons off and sell books like James Patterson!)

But that schedule wouldn’t work for me.

Neither would anyone else’s.

But MY schedule works for me, and YOUR schedule will work for you.

The point behind developing habits is to have the habits – have the routine. Even if you can only eke one hour of writing time out of your weekly schedule, grab it! Own it! Make it your habit!

Other writerly habits can include things like journaling, using writing prompts to get the creative energy flowing, and developing a pre-writing routine. Whatever works for you! 

Your fifth assignment: Find your writing time and make it a habit to always use that time for writing. Even if it’s only fifteen minutes a day…you can write one hundred words in fifteen minutes.

Step 6: Develop a thick skin - - your story is not YOU 

Making the Move From Reader to Aspiring Author, part two

This one came as a surprise to me as I was working on this post. I thought I had this covered…until I received a rejection letter last week. Ouch!

Oh, I know. Our stories are our babies! We’ve poured our heart and soul into that story! It is an extension of ME!

But no, it isn’t.

Once we hit the “send” button on our story, it is no longer part of us. It belongs to the world.

And sometimes the world doesn’t think our story will be a good fit at this time. Sometimes the world is looking for Amish stories instead of covered wagon stories. Or maybe our story wasn’t as ready for the big world as we thought it was.

This is where we need our thick skin. Which is another way of saying that we need to put some emotional distance between ourselves and our work.

When we receive a rejection, or a stinging criticism, or a bad review, this is what we do: Take twenty-four hours to get over it. Eat chocolate. Feel sorry for ourselves.

And this is what we don’t do: Never complain on social media about the situation. Never attack the reviewer/editor/agent/crit partner. Never think that we are any less talented of a writer than we were two days ago.

And then, after you’ve given yourself twenty-four hours (or maybe forty-eight, if it was a particularly bad experience,) pick yourself up. Dust yourself off. And go back to work. 

Making the Move From Reader to Aspiring Author, part two

We go back to work because we are writers.

Sure, we took a blow, but it didn’t really change anything, did it?

And it helped us to develop that thick skin we need.

For your sixth assignment? There isn’t one. There is nothing I can suggest that will help you develop the thick skin you need except to write. Submit. Enter contests. Take the blows when they come (believe me, they will) and learn from them.

That's it! Six steps! I hope you use these six steps in the spirit that I shared them - a way to learn and grow as a writer. We're all in this together!

It's your turn now: Which of these steps has been the most meaningful to you?

One commenter will win a copy of a book out of my secret stash... If you're the winner, I'll give you your choice of several titles to choose from - and the list will include authors other than me! (Don't you love surprises?)


49 Comments on Seekerville: The Journey Continues: Making the Move From Reader to Aspiring Author, part two

  • Vince
    on April 20, 2020 | 01:10 Vincesaid :
    "Hi Jan:

    I think number 6, about having a thick skin, is of major importance. What happens when your writing is autobiographical and you put your heart and soul into your work, (write what you know), and what you thought were original solutions, feelings and even wisdom, gets dumped on by others? That's hard. That seems to be a rejection of both you and your work -- even if you are, indeed, very good at distancing yourself from your stories, this kind of rejection is still hard to deal with.

    Should the aspiring writer avoid the autobiographical at first? In a way, that too seems to be counter-intuitive. As many writers have been quoted as saying, "Writing is easy. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein." :)

  • Glynis
    on April 20, 2020 | 08:24 Glynissaid :
    "These are great, Jan! I am developing some good habits this year, especially writing every day. I've only missed a few this year and realize that even if it's less than 100 words, sitting down and doing it has been really good for me. I've never really done a revision to a manuscript, so to have a finished draft and revising it is on my to-do list this year. I want to improve those skills a lot."
  • Ruth Logan Herne
    on April 20, 2020 | 08:49 Ruth Logan Hernesaid :
    "Glynis is right, these are solid tips of habits to follow... and what I especially liked was your mention of other people's habits... we can't write or work by others' guidelines. We have to find what works for us, what we can meld into our lives because none of us lives in a bubble...

    And by the way, does Patterson have a wife? Or a maid/housekeeper?

    Just thinking out loud.

    AHEM. :)

    Great stuff, Jan, and even for those of us who aren't beginners, I know I need some back to basics reminders on a regular basis. It gets my head out of the sand.
  • Mary Connealy
    on April 20, 2020 | 09:06 Mary Connealysaid :
    "Jan I like The Art and the Mechanics of writing. That's a great way to put it.
    I call it the temperament to be a writer, and that you're born with. And the craft...and you can spend years working on that."
  • kaybee
    on April 20, 2020 | 09:10 kaybeesaid :
    "Good basics, Jan and thanks for sharing. I like the 100 words challenge. I'm writing my WIP (work in progress, for the real newbies) in a linear progression and even though I have an outline, I don't always know what's going to happen within the confines of the outline, so sometimes I just have to sit down and write. And if I get 100 words into it, or 200, it starts to flow. But these are all good tips and I would hesitate to choose one.
    We do have to develop thick skins, even or especially after being published. I got a lot of criticism when I was a news reporter, but it didn't hit me where I live the way criticism of my fiction does. Still we soldier on. I have always kept an Encouragement File and need to update it.
    In the greater Seeker world, what's your take on reading reviews? Do you plunge right in, do you get a trusted loved one to vet them first, or do you pretty much ignore them, reasoning that your book must have something going for it or it wouldn't be published in the first place.
    I hope everyone is keeping safe and busy.
    Your Kaybee"
  • Lee-Ann B
    on April 20, 2020 | 09:15 Lee-Ann Bsaid :
    "Developing a thick skin has been a life long learning process for me beginning with classical piano competitions to fundraising (talking to major donors) to rejection letters. I think the most helpful reminder to me is they aren't rejecting me, it's the PROJECT ( yikes - was extremely hard learning that when trying to raise thousands of dollars). Another friend told me, when I received yet another rejection letter, it's not "no", it's " not yet"."
  • Missy Tippens
    on April 20, 2020 | 09:36 Missy Tippenssaid :
    "Jan, a great post again here in part 2! I think step 4 is really important. Art vs Mechanics of writing. I know when I just contests, this really stands out to me the most. Some writing is mechanically great, but I just don't feel anything. Other times, I'm swept away into a story that might have some mechanical errors. I think voice has a lot to do with that. And the ability to be a storyteller. Voice is definitely something we develop by writing, writing, writing. And by letting our life experiences, our joys and pains, be present in the words we pour on the page, not holding back our feelings."
  • Missy Tippens
    on April 20, 2020 | 09:37 Missy Tippenssaid :
    "Typo alert! Was supposed to say: when I JUDGE contests"
  • Jan Drexler
    on April 20, 2020 | 09:45 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "Good morning, Vince!

    I agree. I'm not sure an author who wants to write stories that touch the readers' emotions can write anything but autobiographical. We can only write what we've experienced - at least, the emotions we've experienced. So we open that vein. We make ourselves vulnerable. Because if we don't, we risk writing nothing but pablum."
  • Jan Drexler
    on April 20, 2020 | 09:46 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "Hi Glynis! Those are great goals: finishing and revising. And you'll do it!

    I miss our face-to-face meetings! Someday we'll get back to them. :-)"
  • Jan Drexler
    on April 20, 2020 | 09:49 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "You know, I've wondered that about Patterson, too. I haven't looked up his bio, but I imagine him as a single man with no family. In my imagination, a housekeeper comes in a couple times a week to clean and do laundry, and he never cooks at home. So his time is his own.

    As much as that kind of life appeals to me, I know it would get old. Fast. Like after one day.

    Except the housekeeper. I could live with one of those!"
  • Jan Drexler
    on April 20, 2020 | 09:55 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "Like Missy says below, you can have a mechanically perfect manuscript that has no life in it.

    Both are important for the writer. You can learn grammar and punctuation, and you can develop your God-given talent, and both take a lot of time and work."
  • Jan Drexler
    on April 20, 2020 | 09:59 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "You brought out a great point, Kathy. When you write non-fiction, you're conveying facts. Non-fiction requires a different skill set than fiction, and not as much of yourself (that bleeding vein!)

    But in fiction...your deepest thoughts are in that story. The deep issues that define your life. It's hard when people criticize those.

    Thick skins. And plenty of chocolate. And tea. A nice cup of tea works wonders."
  • Jan Drexler
    on April 20, 2020 | 10:01 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "And on reviews: I read them. Not all of them, but I do read them.

    One thing I look for are criticisms that are repeated. For example, if 80% of the reviewers didn't like the way I wrote my dialogue, then I maybe I need to look at that.

    On the other hand, some reviews are so over the top, they can provide a good laugh. :-)"
  • Sandy Smith
    on April 20, 2020 | 10:27 Sandy Smithsaid :
    "OK, I had to look it up. James Patterson has a wife and a son."
  • Sandy Smith
    on April 20, 2020 | 10:30 Sandy Smithsaid :
    "What gets me about reviews are the ones that are upset if there are religious references and they definitely didn't want a religious book. So that is strictly on the reader. I don't think it is right for them to criticize that just because they didn't know. If it upsets them so much, they better make sure the author or publisher isn't known for Christian fiction."
  • Sandy Smith
    on April 20, 2020 | 10:33 Sandy Smithsaid :
    "I liked the suggestion to write 100 words a day if nothing else. I can do that. I also agree with not trying to follow someone else's schedule when it's not right for you. I could never get up and write early in the morning. I know it works great for some people (like Ruthy!) but I am just not a morning person. So I try to figure out what works for me.

    Please put me in the drawing!"
  • Jan Drexler
    on April 20, 2020 | 11:13 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "Thanks, Sandy!

  • Jan Drexler
    on April 20, 2020 | 11:18 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "That's a great perspective, Lee-Ann, but it sounds like it has been a hard lesson to learn. My daughter was a music performance major for a couple years during college (string bass) and the pressure was enormous. I can't imagine a classical piano competition!

    On the other hand, I envy your talent. :-)

    But look at that - those skills you gained doing those two activities (piano and fund raising) have given you just what you need to be a writer. Perseverance, performing under pressure, and being able to take "no" (aka "not yet") for an answer are all valuable."
  • Jan Drexler
    on April 20, 2020 | 11:19 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "It really has to be a blend of the two, doesn't it?

    But at the same time, you can pay a good editor to fix the mechanical difficulties!"
  • Jan Drexler
    on April 20, 2020 | 11:23 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "Hi Sandy!

    The great thing about writing 100 words a day is that you might do that for one or two days...but then you find yourself writing 150. Or 200. Pretty soon you're up to 750 or 1000 a day because writing is addictive. You find yourself looking for more time to write to get that story down. It can be so much fun. :-)"
  • Jeanne Takenaka
    on April 20, 2020 | 11:25 Jeanne Takenakasaid :
    "Jan, I love all the tips you've shared in this 2-part series. What a great idea to write 100 words a day, in part just to develop the habit. I also appreciated what you said about creating and sticking to a writing schedule that works for us. This has been my biggest adjustment since COVID19 "got real" and my guys are all home 24/7.

    Wise words!"
  • Jan Drexler
    on April 20, 2020 | 11:50 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "Everything has changed in family dynamics, hasn't it? Except for our need/desire to write!

    I think I should have put in a seventh tip - be flexible! That's my mantra now that we have two puppies in the house!"
  • Bettie Boswell
    on April 20, 2020 | 12:24 Bettie Boswell said :
    "These are great steps to take. So sorry I haven't checked in here lately...miss you."
  • Jan Drexler
    on April 20, 2020 | 13:24 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "Bettie! It's good to see you again!

    I'm glad you liked the post. :-)"
  • kaybee
    on April 20, 2020 | 13:25 kaybeesaid :
    "I agree with Jan. Once the words are out, they usually start flowing. And that is when our characters surprise us."
  • kaybee
    on April 20, 2020 | 13:28 kaybeesaid :
    "I am so thankful that my kids are grown and I don't have to guide them through this. I can barely get out of my own way. Don't have kids at home but my husband works nights and sleeps days, except when he can't sleep and wants to talk, so it happens on both ends. I plan to work when he's the most tired. Except when I'm on deadline."
  • kaybee
    on April 20, 2020 | 13:30 kaybeesaid :
    "Missy, it's such a delicate balance, isn't it? There is nothing like the arts, adn of the arts, there is no art like writing."
  • kaybee
    on April 20, 2020 | 13:32 kaybeesaid :
    "Lee-Ann, I wish I could play the piano or any musical instrument. Also fund-raise. So happy when my children graduated high school, not because they'd completed 12 years of public education, but because there were no more fund-raisers. SIgh."
  • kaybee
    on April 20, 2020 | 13:34 kaybeesaid :
    "Sandy, I agree. If the book is marketed as inspirational fiction, what do they EXPECT to find? One relative and one friend said they liked "Westward Hope" because it didn't "hit them over the head" with religion. Oh, well, maybe I'll hit them up on the next one."
  • kaybee
    on April 20, 2020 | 13:39 kaybeesaid :
    "Jan, agree on the 80 percent principle. It's the same two-out-of-three principle I use with contest feedback. If that many people have doubts, it's worth looking at."
  • Tonya @ Sprinkle on Glitter
    on April 20, 2020 | 14:25 Tonya @ Sprinkle on Glittersaid :
    "I think they're all meaningful! Number 6, having a thick skin can get you through alot. I can use improvements in all of these areas. My prayer right now is finding the right direction and guidance to improve. All of these are things I'm going to add to the list."
  • Tonya @ Sprinkle on Glitter
    on April 20, 2020 | 14:26 Tonya @ Sprinkle on Glittersaid :
    "I set a goal to write 100 words a day a few weels ago. You know that can add up to 1 flash fiction a week :)"
  • Jan Drexler
    on April 20, 2020 | 14:48 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "Tanya, you're so right. 100 words might not seem like very much, but they add up. Think of Ruthy's (and many others') 1K a day. That's 365,000 words a year. That's a lot of words!"
  • Pat W
    on April 20, 2020 | 16:02 Pat Wsaid :
    "Jan, thank you for this Back To Basics Series. As far as part 2 goes, Learning the Art of Writing as well as developing a thick skin will be the hardest for me. I understand that the learning the Art will come if I put in the time. Lots and lots of time. It's the thick skin thing that gives me pause if I'm to be completely honest. I'll just have to remember it's the work being rejected. Then I'll be able to put the voodoo dolls away!!!! Just kidding! Thanks again for all the priceless tips. "
    on April 20, 2020 | 16:51 SARAH TAYLORsaid :
    "Jan Thank you for this wonderful Post I Love reading these Post!"
    on April 20, 2020 | 16:54 SARAH TAYLORsaid :
    "In answer to the question #6 I sometimes find myself distancing myself !"
  • Jan Drexler
    on April 20, 2020 | 19:03 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "Sometimes the best way to help develop that thick skin is to have an "I'm going to show them!" attitude. Go out to prove them wrong! :-)"
  • Jan Drexler
    on April 20, 2020 | 19:03 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "You're welcome, Sarah!"
  • Jan Drexler
    on April 20, 2020 | 19:05 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "That distancing can certainly help keep you from feeling like YOU are the one being rejected.
  • Lucy Reynolds
    on April 20, 2020 | 21:26 Lucy Reynolds said :
    "Interesting post. Thank you for sharing."
  • Debby Giusti
    on April 20, 2020 | 21:27 Debby Giustisaid :
    "Jan, great info and motivation! I loved all your points! Thank you!"
  • Angeline
    on April 20, 2020 | 23:04 Angelinesaid :
    "Thank you for the post"
  • Glynis
    on April 21, 2020 | 08:21 Glynissaid :
    "I miss you all too :( I just keep saying 'this can't go on forever', right?"
  • Vince
    on April 21, 2020 | 12:19 Vincesaid :
    "Hi Jan:

    "...we risk writing nothing but pablum."

    That about sums it up! I could not have said it better.

    It seems that the more skin we have in the game, the thicker that skin needs to be. Makes me think of Miranda Lambert's Tin Man song where she offers to trade her broken heart for the Tin Man's armor. "
  • Jan Drexler
    on April 21, 2020 | 12:56 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "Thanks, Lucy!"
  • Jan Drexler
    on April 21, 2020 | 12:57 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "Thank you, Debby. :-)"
  • Jan Drexler
    on April 21, 2020 | 12:57 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "Thanks for stopping by, Angeline!"
  • Vince
    on April 22, 2020 | 00:10 Vincesaid :
    "If you seek the fame
    and the accolades
    the slings and arrows
    will be sent your way.

    Outrageous fortune
    won't depend on luck
    and writer's block is
    no place to get stuck.

    A real thick skin can
    help garner one's trust
    especially for
    a rhinoceros.
Making the Move From Reader to Aspiring Author, part two

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