If Walls Could Talk: Keep On Keeping On

M.H. Norris

For the first time ever, the entire 18thWall team was together at L.I. Who. One night, when we went to grab some dinner, a discussion came up regarding one of the panels. Ben Kasson made the statement that someone had asked one of the actors for acting advice.

M.H., Nicole, K-9, James, and Ben. The whole gang.

Her answer was to keep on acting. Which is really good advice, but Ben was in the middle of making a point. Writers give that answer too. Keep on writing, don’t stop.

“Read everything you can get your hands on” is another favorite of mine.

As Ben pointed out, the truth is that is honestly the best, and easiest, answer to the question that a lot of creative professionals get.

Keep On Keeping On

Week to week, I try to offer some advice sometimes something I overhear and need to chime in on or something I struggle with on my own writing.

One thing I took away from the weekend is don’t be afraid to ask that question. Honestly, you don’t know the answer until you try even if it is the keep on keeping on. Sometimes, how they deliver that answer actually answers your question a bit.

New writers go through a few stages the second of which I haven’t fully manage to coax myself out of. The first is the idea that you are the best writer there ever was and that your words are going to inspire the masses and that what you spent hours scribbling away at is worthy of the New York Times Bestsellers List.

I might exaggerate just a bit but you get my point. A lot of people who enter this field often times come in with confidence.

If you’re still in this stage, let me attempt to burst that bubble. Trust me, you’ll thank me for it later.

There is a very large chance that your writing is bad. Grammatically full of errors, POV issues everywhere, dry prose, forced dialogue—these are all problems I’ve spent weeks covering because they are some of the most common problems I see in new authors.

snoopy

The other most common problem I see in new writers is that they don’t realize that there are any problems in their writing. You think I’m exaggerating but I’ve seen people who are trying to make the jump from writing in their bedrooms to actually having their work out. There have been times where I’ve wondered if the writer is going to be able to handle the jump.

What do I mean by that?

When you let someone else take a look at your work, whether it’s a writing group or an editor or even a friend, it leaves you feeling a bit exposed. I’ve heard someone use the example that it’s like sitting there naked—and it’s not an incorrect comparison. Especially if you’re passionate about the subject, you put a piece of you into what you write and having someone sit there and judge it isn’t the most fun of experiences.

I’ve been doing it for years and I’ll be honest, it doesn’t get a lot easier.

But aren’t the things that are most worth doing hard for a reason? It makes the good parts seem that much sweeter.

Here’s my other piece of advice for writers who want advice on how to get published or how to get better as a writer.

Do Not Do It Alone

I had someone ask me about this once. Did I really share pieces of my novel with other people before it was published?

And the answer is, yes, I did. I had people seeing bits and pieces of Badge City so that they could tell me how it was going. They saw rough rough drafts and drafts close to the finished product.

Badge City: Notches

In my opinion, my writing is stronger because I allow people to give me advice. I allow that not so invested opinion to come in and help me make things stronger. It helps me to get out of my own head and look at it. The very act of having to justify some of the choices I’ve made sometimes points out what’s wrong with a story or a scene.

Another conversation I had earlier this week was talking about the idea of walking up to myself even as recent as five years ago. Would younger me recognize me? Superficially, probably.

Would younger me recognize my writing as her own if it was sat in front of her?

Absolutely not.

First off, five years ago, I never imagined I would be writing mysteries, much less getting ready to launch a series of my own. Nor would I imagine some of the opportunities I’ve had in the last five years.

For my birthday, James and Nicole gave me a collection of my work, including some of my older stuff they dug up from the depths of their computer storage. Some of my stuff is hard to read because all I can see are the mistakes.

Keep On Keeping On

There was a second stage, I mentioned it earlier. The one, to a certain extent, I’m still in. The funny thing is it’s the polar opposite of the first stage.

It’s where you hate everything you write and everything seems like garbage and you can’t understand how people buy your work and how on this Earth you manage to be one of your publisher’s bestsellers last year.

Like I said, I’m still in it a bit. There are honestly days where I hate what I’ve written and it sometimes takes James telling me it’s not that bad to keep me from deleting it all.

You have to Keep On Keeping On when you are in a stage like that. And trust me, I know just how hard that task seems to be. How all you really want to do is to chuck your work into the bin and start from scratch because it seems awful and it’s never going to come together.

This is another time it’s good to have people around you to help you. Because sometimes what the piece needs is a little push in the right direction and you’re so involved, so invested that you can’t find it yourself.

After Ben’s discussion, I did think a little over the advice I’ve given, the ideas I have for more, and what I would say if someone asked me the question.

I would probably tell them a lot of what I said here today. And of course, I would have to end it with the traditional…

Keep On Keeping On

1 Comment

  1. Very exciting about the first ever 18th Wall face-to-face get together … and a great, very informative post.

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