1. What kinds of stories do you write? (genre, prose/poetry/non-fiction,etc)
2. What is a genre you haven’t written—and why?
3. What writers do you think you draw inspiration from? (So not, your favorite writers, but the ones that you see their footprint in your work.)
4. What writer’s prose inspires, intimidates, and challenges you?
5. What writer’s characterization inspires, intimidates, and challenges you?
6. What writer’s plotting inspires, intimidates, and challenges you?
7. Tell me about an original character of yours!
8. Tell me some of your writerly obsessions—tropes, themes, objects, etc that keep popping up in your work, whether consciously or not!
9. Write a fictional Amazon review of your work—glowing, critical, or otherwise.
10. Write your own damn question, writer. Just tell me something!
I didn’t know which of these was best so I went with all of them. Background based on Mr. Gaiman’s fantastic jacket designed by Kambriel. Anyway, lovely bit of advice, really take it to heart.
1. Advice that demoralizes you. One young poet despaired when a teacher told her to put her poems in a drawer for ten years before sending them out. That advice plays into a paralyzing perfectionism. You can usually manage to see your words through fresh eyes in only a few days or weeks.
2. Advice that limits your potential. Could it be true, as a novelist once wrote, that if you’ve left a novel unfinished for a few years, you may as well forget about it? Not if your passion for project is still there or can be resurrected.
3. Advice that cramps your imagination. Should you only write from your own point of view or about a group to which you belong? No, that’s too rigid. Great fiction has been written from the point of view of the opposite gender or from another era or culture. It’s all about pretending.
4. Advice suggesting that what works for you is nonetheless wrong. One novelist worried when told it was best to “Get the story out first, then polish.” His own method was to polish each section before moving on. That worked for him because he never became paralyzed by obsessing over every minor detail to the detriment of making any progress at all.
5. Advice that’s more market-oriented than you are. You may often hear, “Anticipate what the audience wants and then give it to them.” While that has worked well for some authors, others can’t create at all if they’re not pursuing their passions. There’s a time to focus on whether your work is the best it can be for reaching the audience you have in mind. But to prematurely zero in on what you think “they” want can be inhibiting.
6. Advice that’s impossible to follow. My favorite example of this is “Don’t think.” I, for one, can’t write from my toes, elbows, or even my heart. The trick, of course, is to take this less literally, and to learn to think in more inclusive ways than the usual grocery-list-compiling way.
7. Crazy-making advice. Examples: “Read everything,” or its reverse, “Don’t read at all when you’re writing.” Obviously one can’t read everything, even in a particular genre. Focusing on junk leaves little time for the good stuff. I like to immerse myself in the kind of work I’d like to produce myself. As I read so many books, I’m not worried about imitating someone’s voice.
8. Advice that insists there’s only one correct way to write, propose, query, or submit your work. Should you always avoid adverbs? Never use the passive voice? Never start a sentence with “there are”? Every one of these “rules” is broken constantly by top writers. And while there are established formats for query letters, nonfiction book proposals, and novel synopses, for every successful sale based on those formats, there are numerous exceptions.
THE ACCURACY OF THIS HURTS A LITTLE.
THE ACCURACY OF THIS HURTS A LOT.