Sticky Note Wisdom for Aspiring Writers

by Carrie Gordon Watson

Every writer is an “aspiring writer,” no matter how many books they have, or haven’t yet, published.

Rethink that adverb you’re about to use.  It’s probably not necessary.

A fabulous verb trumps an adjective any day of the week.

When you’re not sure what happens next in your story, put your main character in peril.

When putting your main character in peril, ask, “What is the WORST thing that can happen right now?”

Go there.

Every time you start a new scene, ask yourself, “What does my main character want?” Never stray far from the answer.

There is no such thing as writer’s block – there is merely time in front of the computer and time away from it.  But your story is always in your head.

All writing is good writing.  So go ahead—fire off that email/tweet/Facebook post.

Word count, like weight, tends to fluctuate constantly.  Avoid fixating on the numbers.

Only let people you really trust critique your work.

Allow your critiquers tell you the truth or you will stagnate as a writer.

Remember the subjective nature of critique, though, and learn to trust your gut.

Write to your favorite authors and tell them how their work has touched you.

Someday, someone will consider you their favorite author and will write to tell you how much your work has touched them.

Keep all notes from readers in a special file; take them out and re-read them from time to time.

Remember that writing can be a lonely endeavor.

There is no fast track to publishing; there is no fast track through publishing.  Learn to be a good waiter.

While waiting to hear back about your work, keep writing.

When you aren’t able to write, read.

Read the current work in your genre.

Read outside your genre.

Re-read the classics.

Go to every writers’ conference you can afford.

Go to every writers’ retreat you can afford.

Know your audience intimately.  If you write for kids, hang out with kids.  Learn what’s important to them, what motivates them, makes them tick.  Learn their speech patterns.

Lovingly hand select every word.

But don’t be too attached, because you will probably have to get rid of many of them.

If you decide to use an agent, sign with an agent you trust implicitly.

Trust your editor to see the bigger picture.

If any part of the editing process isn’t working for you, let your agent handle it.

The only guarantee you have is that if you give up, nothing will happen.

Someone’s going to get their book published.  It might as well be you.

Carrie Gordon Watson is a YA author and high school teacher from Northern California. In her past life, Carrie was a performing songwriter, but in 2003 she swapped song writing for fiction writing. Her debut novel, QUAD, was a 2008 ALA Quick Picks For Reluctant Readers.