I have a zillion “how to write” books. They seemingly multiply on their own in my bookshelf, but if I think my way through it, they all appear when I am feeling uncertain about my writing and feel the need for a “helpful book” to sort myself out. I buy them, maybe peek through a bit of them, and then toss them for the next novel.
Jodi Meadows, in Pub(lishing) crawl, has written a blog entry that really says all you need to do:
1. Read. Read lots and lots and lots and lots.
2. Write. Write lots and lots and lots.
I’d probably add #4, since that’s where I fail worst: Send stuff out.
I think the critiquing and sending stuff out parts are the most important for me, anyway, at this point. Critiquing your own work is one thing, but learning to critique others’ is even better. The Canadian Authors’ Association has these carefully defined critique groups, with rules that are followed religiously and which result in real progress with writing. The process allows writers to hear criticism of their work without the duty to respond, and let’s them take away the critique and choose whether to use the info. Because of this everyone takes the time to write a careful, thoughtful comment on the story. I’m a member of the Early Reviewers and Member Giveaways groups on LibraryThing, and in exchange for free books, you are asked to write a review.
Some I’ve sloughed off, I admit, mainly because I either didn’t like the book or couldn’t remember it (argh!)(I do read a LOT). But others I try to write a good review for, with few details of the story but creating the desire in someone to read it. It helps me see the good parts of some not great books, and the review as a whole helps me find the problems in my own writing.
The sending thing in is a battle for me. So I’ve made a pinky swear to send in at least one of my mystery stories for publication. I’ve got my class holding me accountable. That, and contest entry deadlines, mean that I do send things in occasionally. I realize I should be keeping track of them in a book somewhere, or on my computer, and I’m thinking now, ooh, I should get that organized RIGHT now.