Monday, February 20, 2017

To begin is human . . .

A popular post from September 2009

By Heather Moore

I’ve been to many writers conference over the past eight years, and listened to maybe close to 100 presenters. I’m at the point where I’ve heard pretty much everything, so I rarely take notes anymore. Mostly I’m interested in publishing stories—as in how did this bestselling author get his/her start?

At the Book Academy conference held at Utah Valley University this past week, Brandon Sanderson was the keynote speaker. If you are a fantasy writer, for children, YA, or adult, his books are a must-read. He writes the Alcatraz series for middle-grade readers (they are hilarious for adults as well. Also, for you omniscient pov writers, this series is a classic example). He also writes epic fantasy. Elantris is his first published, and the Mistborn trilogy has propelled him to pretty much stardom. I'm dying to read Warbreaker, his newest release, but I'm trying to get my WIP progress drafted first.

Brandon talked about how he wrote novel after novel (I think it was 12-13) before he finally got his #6 book a publishing contract. When he heard from the editor who wanted to buy his book, he contacted an agent who he’d gotten to know over the years through various writers conferences. The agent signed him.

Brandon gave some advice on things he wished he would have known before he tried to follow market trends (which wasn’t successful for him). I won’t reiterate it here since I don’t want to plagiarize, although I did ask him if it was okay to blog about it. And I think he said yes. Or maybe I just told him I was going to, and he looked at me funny. I’m not sure (since when I'm around famous people I'm lucky to remember my name), so to be on the safe side, I’ll just tell you about one of the things he emphasized.

“Write what you like to READ.”

This sounds so simple, but when you really think about it, it makes a whole lot of sense. This can solve some of our writer’s angst when we are trying to think of a new genre to break into. Say you are published in historical fiction (like me!) and you see all of your friends getting huge advances in children’s lit. Hmmm. Should I switch genres? Catch the tide? Do I love children’s lit or am I just trying to copycat?

So I pause and ask myself: “What do I READ?” That’s the answer. If I don’t like to read what I’m writing, then guess what? The passion will fizzle out all too soon.

So, like Brandon, who decided to not follow the tide and write what he was passionate about (Epic Fantasy), I think I’ll do the same—not the same genre, but you know what I mean.

One last quote from Mr. Sanderson, which I thought about putting on my whiteboard in my office, but then didn’t want to be reminded of a big revision in my near future:

“To begin is human.
To finish is divine.
To revise is hell.”


Maria Zannini said...

Really sage advice. I'm enjoying your posts about your conference experiences.

Annette Lyon said...

THAT is the best writing quote I've seen in a long time. LOVE it.

Juliana said...

The conference yesterday was lots of fun and I loved Brandon Sanderson's keynote address. What fun!

That advice reminds me of something Ray Bradbury wrote in his (amazing) book, "Zen in the Art of Writing."

"I grew up reading and loving the traditional ghost stories of Dickens, Lovecraft, Poe, [etc.] ... I tried to write stories heavily influenced by various of these writers, and succeeded in making quadruple-layered mudpies, all language and style, that would not float, and sank without a trace. I was too young to identify my problem, I was so busy imitating.

"I finally figured out that if you are going to step on a live mine, make it your own. Be blown up, as it were, by your own delights and despairs."

I would love to share this entire chapter, which absolutely ignites my creative spark, but I'll leave the rest to be discovered by you in your own time. An amazing book! :)

A Musing Mom (Taylorclan6) said...

Excellent advice. Perhaps that is why there are really good blogs in cyberworld - the good ones write what interests them or what they know.

The really funny ones write with unique perspective.

The dull write about another dirty diaper.

Thank you for sharing your wisdom and your journey.

By the way, it's not plagiarism if cited correctly. Please include references at the end of work in APA format.

L.T. Elliot said...

Wise advice. Also, if you're writing what you read and reading recent releases, you'll be more up to date on what's going on in your preferred genre. Well, that's my thought.

Taffy said...

Great keynote!

Terresa said...

That last bit says it all. Excellent post! I'm off to check out Sanderson now...

momofa2e said...

Loved that conference. The one they did in Ogden a few weeks ago was really fun, too.

Heather Justesen said...

I entirely agreed with Brandon on that last quote. I always love the way my book looks after revisions, but I HATE doing them.