Almost four years ago, I walked into a little diner in downtown Ripley to my first writer's meeting. They called themselves the Appalachian Wordsmiths.
The Librarian had given me a contact name and phone number when she saw me checking out a book about writing. I called and was invited to come to their meeting. I showed up with a copy of a picture book manuscript I had written called, Picking Blackberries With Grandma. The members were so nice and informative, but I found out that night that I did not know how to write. I just thought I knew how to write.
I still have a lot to learn, but here are five things I have learned since that night:
1. I learned what passive writing is. That night one of the members was talking about passive writing. I had no idea what she was talking about. Passive writing saps the energy out of the most exciting stories. It shows rather than tells. Look for unnecessary words such as started to, could, would, there was, seemed to and look for inactive verbs such as was, is, were and are and replace them with active verbs. Verbs ending with "ing" are by nature more passive than those ending in "ed." Also watch for -ly words. If your verb isn't strong enough, find a stronger verb.
2. I learned that your first draft is just that, a draft. My kids ask me why I keep changing my stories. They think if I am a writer, I should get it right the first time. Well, we all know that is not how it works. A manuscript needs to be revised until you get it right. Not many writers get it right the first time.
3. I learned there is more to writing rhyming poetry than just making it rhyme. I have always written rhyming poetry. I love rhyming poetry! I learned it has to do more than just rhyme. It has to flow from the tongue, it has to have rhythm. The rhymes need to come naturally without forcing them. Use strong rhymes and strong descriptive verbs. After learning these things, I have gone back and rewritten a lot of my poetry. I found this sight on the internet today about writing rhyming poetry. It has very good tips.
By the way, March 2, is Dr. Seuss's birthday. Go over to Two-Lane Livin' and check out my silly rhyming poem called Toes!
4. I learned that you have to be patient and not give up. Many times I have almost given up. Luckily, something happens to change my mind and I keep writing. Having writing friends is very helpful. They understand what you are going through. They are going through the same thing. They know what it is like to wait for months and months before hearing back from a publisher. They know what is is like to get a rejection slip.
5. I learned it is okay to break the rules (once in a while). A few years back I sent in a manuscript for an anthology. The deadline for hearing back from the editor had passed and I had never heard from her. What did I do? Exactly what you are not supposed to do. I emailed her. I figured I didn't have anything to lose. She did not remember my story at first and told me to email it to her again. I did and I received an email back from her saying "Oh, I remember that story now. I rejected it early on because I felt it was too sad. I've changed my mind, I am going to put it in the book." I do not encourage anyone to do this. My instincts told me to and I got lucky.
What is something you have learned that has helped you most in your writing?