What Not To Do Wednesday: Let Writing Books Lie

ImageSo, January, 2012. I made a resolution to read my books on writing instead of letting them sit there on the shelf, collecting dust, giving me that look.

Not that “come hither” look, either. More of that “you know if you’d read me, you’d be a better writer, but okay. You know better than me, the expert and successful writer. So just keep typing away and ignoring me” look.

But did I read them? No, I did not.

Now it’s 2013–and I’m an older and wiser writer, grasshopper. Because (and here’s a novel idea) I’ve started reading my books. And occasionally, I’ll order a book or two. Especially if a. a book is recommended (like Save the Cat. Read it and learn, grasshopper) or b. I can get it cheap (like when the Writer’s Digest Shop runs a sale event).

So I’m reading The Writer’s Little Helper by James V. Smith (He wrote the Delta Force best-sellers). Now, honestly, I’m not a big fan of those kinds of thrillers. But what James V. Smith says, in a simple and engaging style, can be applied to whatever genre you write–and make you a better and more successful writer.

And I’m a big fan of that.

So, don’t be a foolish little grasshopper like me and let your writing books lie unopened. Read them! And make 2013 the year of writing success!

What Not To Do Wednesday on Business Cards

Every time I think I’m doing something swell (writerly speaking), I forget about the ripples. You know what I mean about the ripples? Like when you drop a pebble in the water and the ripples expand outward, affecting the waters further and further away?

So I’ve been researching agents and editors for the Rutgers conference (and I have found SO many wonderful sites/blogs packed with great info! I’ll share those soon!) and I came across a blog post from a writer who’d attended in the past and she mentioned business cards. And I thought,  thank goodness, I have plenty of business cards. Because I have THREE different–no, FOUR different business cards.

And then one of those ripples banged into me. Self, I said, you better check your business cards since you’ve made some changes lately. And uh-oh. Most of the cards had the Hall of Fame blog on it.  A few had my old website. Which means I’ve been blithely handing out business cards for the past…let’s see, 9 months, with outdated information.

Oy. I suppose I don’t need to tell you that I was pretty annoyed with myself, grasshopper. I should make a checklist of “What To Do When Changing Your Web Presence” rather than what I do do, which is changing one thing, then catching up with the ripples as they inevitably bang into me. Don’t do that, grasshopper. Make your checklist, and put “Check/change business cards” on the top of the list. Then you can do a happy dance (like me!) when the NEW BUSINESS CARDS arrive from Vistaprint! And P.S. I also ordered a sheet of sticky business card labels that I could slap on a manuscript, which I thought was scathingly brilliant, not to mention ripple-evading.

(If I’m being perfectly honest, I love designing business cards. But you probably had an inkling of that when you read about the four business cards, piled in my desk drawer.)

What Not To Do Wednesday on Revisions and Bathrooms

The last week or so, I’ve been doing a major bathroom makeover at the Hall house (well, I haven’t been doing it–I have a guy) and working on a major revision on my YA novel (which I have been doing, all by my lonesome).  I do not recommend pursuing these joint activities if at all possible. Unless you work better with buzzing, sawing, thumping and other builderly things going on in the background.

So I woke up this morning, thinking of Becky Levine and a contest she held a while back in which I won her book, The Writing and Critique Group Survival Guide (a very swell book, by the way). Becky wanted three sentences with a metaphor for revision (and a whole bunch of points she wanted us to make) and here’s what I wrote:

Revisions are like the Bathroom Makeover from Hell when you look around your very serviceable bathroom, knowing there are some things you must keep because you love them so, some things you can’t change without ruining the structure, and some things that absolutely must go because they’re just unnecessary or downright ugly. So you roll up your sleeves and get to work, and along the way, you find that everytime you make a change, it affects the whole makeover. Till at last, after a TON of blood, sweat and tears, you’ve got a pretty decent bathroom–and you vow you’ll NEVER do that again, until you walk into your very serviceable kitchen.

I would just like to say that the Bathroom Makeover from Hell was extremely apt.

But I need to add a few points because, grasshopper, I have learned a few things about makeovers and revisions since then.

1. Do not assume that the work will be done in the time period first agreed upon. Stuff happens. So you could probably save yourself a whole lot of stressing if you picked a date about 30 days after your projected completion. Then you’ll be all “Wheee! I’m going to finish early!” Which is way better than sending an email saying, “Could I get a few extra days? Say like 30?” To editors or relatives planning to stay in your home.

2. Check the details. Sure, it may seem obvious what side of the trim board should be painted. But trust me when I tell you that it can be trickier than it looks. The same way that it may seem obvious that you no longer need a character and can easily dump him/her. But that, too, is way trickier than it looks (though you may not realize it until 70 or 80 pages later).

3. Save everything. Of course you’re going to save important stuff like receipts and contracts. But you also need to save little things. Like that extra paint label that’s some sort of secret coding to paint guys–or else you may end up sending a Juniorette Hall to the store to buy more paint in the middle of the project with a paint can lid that you’ve wrapped ever so carefully but somehow still ended up with a mess on your hands. So save every version of your manuscript you’ve worked on. You never know when you may need that one little paragraph from way, way back–and if you try to recreate it, you’ll find that you’ve dropped a few words here and there, making a mess of things.

I’m sure I could come up with lots more What-Not-To-Do’s. In fact, I’m sure you could come up with something I’ve left out and I’d be glad to have your insights. Because I’ve got plenty more revising and painting on the horizon/bathroom.