Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Reseach and Development - R & D of your writing business

The "head" of your writing business is Research and Development. Okay, what does this entail? Very simple: learning new things.

"Learning new things?" you may ask. "You mean, like English composition and stuff like that?"

Not necessarily, but it could be, depending on your situation.

First, the publishing business, like any other business, is ever-changing. No writer in the history of the world ever got published without some influence or "help" from experts. If you are serious about writing, there are a few books about writing that is essential to have. The first is "Elements of Style" by Strunk & White. This is a small book about the mechanics of writing, and is vital to have in your arsenal. The next is Stephen King's "On Writing." King talks about not only his life and how he got published, he also breaks down the crucial parts of a writer's life and offers excellent advise on writing style, plot development, dialogue, work habits, query letters to literary agents, and even rejection. If you read at least these two books, you are well on your way to knowing a lot more about the writing industry.

Are there other books about writing that I recommend? Certainly . . . although, for the sake of time, I will only mention one more here: John Gardner's "On Becoming A Novelist." This one was recommended to me in April of 2010 by a literary consultant named Ian Graham Leask as he stopped for a writing conference at the library in Red Lake Falls. I read it, and I can certainly say that one area in which I was lacking was forever changed because of Gardner's book: editing. Gardner's book gives a straightforward and moral approach to writing. Of the one area in particular that I was lacking, Gardner helped to influence my writing. Or, more specifically, my editing. Before, I would read a particular chapter three or four times and then more on to the next one, and the changes in that chapter would sit for a long time (anywhere from a few months to a few years) before I made the changes on the computer. Gardner's method is as follows: break each chapter down into parts or scenes. Read each scene 3-4 times, immersing yourself into it, until the chapter is done. Then, make the changes and repeat the process. It may seem slower, but I have actually gotten more accomplished using this method.

Bookstores and libraries are full of books to help you with your writing. Are these stinkers out there? Of course, but you'll have to weed through them. Besides, you do not have to do everything that these books tell you. Take the best parts out that fit your life.

What else can be learned in this R & D section of your business? Well, simply reading a good novel or story in the same genre that you are writing will help. In fact, over the years, I have made a study on reading the first novels of the most successful fiction writers, to see what they wrote to become as successful as they are: Stephen King's "Carrie", John Grisham's "A Time To Kill", J. K. Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" and so on. Read the first novel of your favorite author. Even read a different genre. You'd be surprised what you could learn, depending on what it is that you read.

Okay, anything else, Mark? Yes. I would read anything you can about success and motivation. "Think and Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill and Dale Carnegie "How to Win Friends and Influence People" are only two such examples. Also, reflect on your own life. Find an author who is coming to a town near you and watch his or her presentation. Can you see yourself doing that? You can even get a good book on public speaking, if that's one area in which you are lacking. Also, how about a good book on marketing. Because if you want to be successful at writing, you will need to take the bull by the horn, so to speak, and learn how to market your book.

I hope this has helped you get the perspective on the R & D portion of your writing business. Now, this does not need to take up gobs and gobs of time. Earl Nightingale taught that if you devote 15-30 minutes a day to learning your craft, in a few short years you would be classed as an expert in your given field.

I would also recommend, if you want to be published one day, that you also learn about query letter writing and literary agents. In fact, even if you are still on your first draft, start writing your query letter. Believe it or not, your one page query letter is harder to write than a 1000-page novel. Don't ask me why, it just seems to be. Also, go on the Internet and find blogs about writing. The first that comes to mind is - the blog on this site in extremely valuable and there are even more links to other sites. I highly recommend this one.

Now, go forth and conquer. Learn . . . expand your knowledge . . . and you will succeed.

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