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Saturday, October 6, 2012

On ‘trying not to suck too much’ otherwise known as ‘Honing your Craft’



Writers have to practice their craft.
This is more than just writing every day on one project, or even writing every day on lots of different projects:
·         It’s going out of your way to hone your craft.
·         It’s finding honest critiques, or feedback in from sources other than those inclined to be kind to you.
·         It’s admitting you don’t know everything there is to know about your writing or your publishing or your art and actively seeking out opportunities to improve.
So, when I read Chuck Wendig’s rules on becoming a successful writer I laughed and agreed and knew I wasn’t alone because what he said encompassed what I felt but hadn’t been able to give words to. And one of those things was the challenge to finish what I’d started (and that’s a lot) and to try not to suck too much – it’s advice available to everyone who reads his blog.
Since he gave the advice, it seemed only fair that the penmonkey became part of the process, which he obligingly does by providing weekly flash fiction challenges. These can seem mundane or downright impossible, but they encourage writers to maybe move out of their comfort zones in subject matter, as well as making them write a complete piece within the constraints of 1,000 words, which takes both discipline and skill.
Going to conventions, workshops, and writing groups is also beneficial. These public gatherings of writers expand our world, and bring us into contact with other writers and other points of view. We can gain emotional and psychological support from just knowing that there are others like us, and we can gain new perspectives that we might not have found on our own.
Entering competitions is another way of building discipline. Word limits, deadlines, new topics, and unfamiliar forms that we wouldn’t usually try are all ways competitions or open calls can provide us with impetus to build our skills, and writers should always be looking to learn to improve technique or try a different approach. It’s the only way to add to the toolbox of skills they have to draw on in order to complete their tales.
Feedback can strengthen our skills. It can build our confidence even as we learn of areas where we can improve. Regardless of where we find it, feedback is a valuable part of helping us not to suck too much and we need to seek it out. We can always choose what advice we take or leave, as long as we listen with an open mind.
Anyone can be creative, but to be creative within a specific set of rules takes talent, discipline and skill. The flash fiction challenges are a way of developing all three, as well as expanding your repertoire. In addition, by reading how other authors have undertaken these challenges, we learn other ways we might have approached them … and we learn we are not alone.

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