Those of you who follow my blog know that I’m currently in the Master’s program for Creative Writing. In class recently, we read an article penned by a big-time literary agent in which she gave out writing advice to the newbies. While some of the advice was sound (the traditional show-don’t-tell, limit adverbs, watch punctuation), some of the advice was downright mean—and worded that way as well. Now, to be fair, this was not an assigned piece of reading for class, but it was quoted for an assignment. Since I read everything I can about writing, I decided to take notes on the article, and was surprised when I saw how cruel the literary agent was to her audience. The advice came out more like she was angry with all writers and perhaps even angry with her job in general. Initially I thought it was just me, but then I read the comments and saw that others felt the same.
Hey, we are only human, even us writers, and occasionally we mess up.
To that end, I thought about ways we could lift each other up as writers. We are all on the same path with the same goals, so I thought it would be better to note what is awesome in our writing instead of what we are doing wrong. Besides, it is nearly impossible to hit every single writing technique perfectly every time. We sometimes get stuck on grammar, plot structure, dialogue, theme, or characterization. I’m not saying we shouldn’t strive for perfection or read lists in which literary agents dole out tips, but we definitely don't need the negativity. There's enough of that in the world, and writing, for many of us, is an escape or an out.
Below is my list, and please feel free to add to the list in the comments!
If you have a writing friend, lend advice about their poetry, novel, or screenplay. I know everyone is busy and reading a manuscript takes time, but perhaps you could read a few pages of the opening or even answer a specific question they have on a character or the narrative.
Leave a book review for another author if you can! Even if you just post a star rating on Amazon or Goodreads, this counts. As an author, I love getting reviews—not only does it help by providing feedback, it can also boost sales.
Every writer has bad days. Some days, I feel like my writing is going well, and some days, I want to just quit forever. Send your writing friend some motivational memes. Tell them they rock! One helpful sentence can mean the world to a struggling writer.
In looking over a piece of writing, make sure to point out where the writer does a terrific job. Writers like hearing this, even if they swear they only want your constructive criticism. Writing comes from the heart, so if you can find a writer’s strength and highlight it, you will lift them more than you realize.
Invite your writing friend to be a guest blogger if you run a blog. Or better yet, post their stories on your page (with their approval of course). You might also consider a book review blog to help spread the word about books/authors you enjoy. You would be surprised how much this helps book sales!