Wednesday, January 2, 2008

PANNING FOR WRITING GOLD

It is a new year once again. Most of us look on the New Year as an opportunity to make a fresh start, and hopefully get things right this time. Yes, yes I know those New Year resolutions most often run amuck. However, always the optimist, I believe we may gain some morsel of usefulness from this annual exercise, so we need to keep trying. Over the years those nuggets may turn into a gold mine of useful ideas that will add sparkle to our writing and lead us to success. Read on for just a few suggestions to add to your list.

Goals are like tunnels in a mine. They lead you in the direction you need to go to reach the gold. Hint: “I am going to get published this year” is not really a goal. Getting published is not wholly in your control. How many manuscripts you will submit is controllable. Reading a specific number of books to educate you toward that end is a possible goal. Writing a specific number of pages or writing for a specific length of time each day is a reasonable goal. So set goals and make sure they are doable.

Don’t let the gold slip through your fingers. Writers often have brilliant bits of inspiration come to them at the most inopportune times. You may be driving, sitting in a doctor’s waiting room, standing in line at the grocery store, or almost anywhere. How do you preserve those grains of gold dust? Carry a pad and pen, or better yet, a mini recorder. Record those ideas and play them back later. When you have time, add them to your idea file so that you can refer back to them when your muse is uncooperative. Never, ever toss out an idea. What won’t work now may work later.

While I’m on the subject of mini recorders, I use mine to read my writing aloud and play it back. Especially, if you write picture books or poetry, it may help you hear where the story or the words don’t flow. Try it yourself and see if it works for you.

Be a gem collector. Try collecting words, phrases, names, whatever little jewels come your way that tickle your fancy, and tuck them somewhere to add sparkle to your future writing. You don’t need to use someone else’s metaphor in your writing, but you can use it to inspire your own.

Record keeping is a necessary evil. Keep good records of your writing, submitting, and sales. Some work is yours to sell again and again. Some work, once sold, is the publisher’s and not yours. Make sure you know the difference and keep accurate records. You may be able to multiply the gold you have.

Don’t submit fools gold to an editor. Do your research. Even fiction writing contains facts. Be sure you aren’t passing along false information. If you write a story about two animals living in South America make sure both animals exist in South America. I wrote a poem once about a raccoon washing his food. An editor quickly notified me that it is no longer considered to be true. Was my face red, I should have checked the facts before submitting the poem. I lost the sale.

Make sure every submission is your best work. Make it different enough to stand out above the rest, with fascinating characters and plenty of conflict. Make your words come alive on the paper. Give an editor the gift of “pure gold”.

Happy New Year!

© 2008 Sharon A. Soffe

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