Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border
photo by Gene Tunick of Eureka, Montana

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Tip O'Day #452 - Lessons to Unlearn

Guest blogger Margaret Callow tells the lessons you must learn, and then unlearn.

What I know of the craft we call writing has been sourced to me by learning along the way. I’ve gathered up suggestions, advice and knowledge. Add to these copious reading. It seems there is not a writer around who is not willing to guide another, often based on their own ideas and assumptions. It is a support system I think most writers cherish. I know I do.

On the road to getting published, prospective friends are met, some only to be discarded. Others are kept and nurtured, like all good friendships. While always grateful for input and help from others, for me this is also a cautionary tale. Learning can be confusing. I offer you some simple examples. Beware of too many adjectives and adverbs; distance yourself from had and the; be warned of purple prose; never info dump; be wary of prefaces. No matter the genre, it all applies. If like me, you are a willing learner, all of this will be assimilated eagerly like food for a hungry chick in a nest, but here’s my dilemma: be ready to throw it out the window at a moment’s notice.

There will probably be many experienced writers who on reading this will nod knowingly, but I am sure there are some less confident who like me have had quite a rude awakening. Or is it only me? Surely not. When my first novel was picked up with an offer to publish, I spent many a weary hour with the editor writing back in all the missing hads, extending description, adding adjectives and adverbs which I had so carefully avoided, and numerous other small adjustments which I had considered no-no's.

Please don't take this as any form of criticism of the editor, far from it. So grateful was I that she liked my work, I would have gladly written these things in my own blood, had she asked.

So for any would-be writers out there, just remember nothing is written in stone. Personal preferences often play a part in editing. Hopefully, just as you know the story you wish to tell, so your editor knows all about editing.

Learning never stops, that I do know. Last autumn, I signed a contract with Holland House Books. They are interested in my three early Medieval rebellions and a novel which is based on a true Norfolk story, about the last man to hang as a public spectacle at Norwich Castle in 1849. Working with H.H. editing is almost done and once again, I have absorbed a lot of new information. I hope this work will be published sometime this year. It is only a working title at the moment, but when there is a link, you can be sure you will see it somewhere!

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