(Read and Write)
Mary Turzillo

Writing is a solitary act, but this gives you time to structure your daily regime. Mary Turzillo is a rare gem. She’s won numerous awards (including the prestigious Nebula) and is also a really lovely, thoughtful person – she’ll do right by you, trust me. She’s been good enough to offer some basic guidelines for those novice writers who want to take their fiction to the next level.
The question posed to each author is – “A young author comes to you seeking advice. They’re riddled with insecurities and completely overwhelmed by the publishing industry. What are your Words from the Wise?”

MT – Write what you love. Have faith that of the millions, maybe billions, of potential readers in the world, some will be thirsty for exactly what you love.

maryWrite every day. Set a goal for yourself: a page, two pages, five pages. Something you can do as a minimum. You grow as a writer by writing. It’s a muscle. Every skill involved in writing, whether plotting, style, characterization, setting, or just being original, is a muscle. You have to grow those muscles.

David Eddings, or maybe Ray Bradbury, or maybe Jerry Pournelle, or maybe Marion Zimmer Bradley is credited with telling novices they should write a million words, then throw them all away. I say, you’ll get better the more you write, but don’t throw away anything. Maybe it’ll seem like crap in five years, but maybe in ten you’ll read it and see genius.

Finish what you write. Sometimes, even for pros, it’s difficult to come up with a satisfying ending, but with practice, plotting will be easier. The ending will be like a distant landmark seen through mist. March steadily toward it.

But if the first ending doesn’t work, try again.mmmmmmmm

Middles are a beast. Just keep feeding your audience titbits of suspense to keep them with you. If you’re bored with the middle, just write enough to get to the ending.

Polish, but accept that no work is ever perfect. At some point, stop revising unless an editor asks for revisions.

Have courage. Subject your work to editorial scrutiny. By that, I mean, find a potential paying market for it, then submit it there. Don’t ever pay to be read. When a story comes back, submit it again. Aim to get a thousand rejection notices.

Read what you love, but also expand your palate. If a book is popular, but you don’t like it, don’t just notice its flaws; ask yourself why it became popular. Learn from what you read. Take notes of clever things writers do.

Have friends. Have friends who are writers, and friends who are not writers.

People who don’t honour your writing time are not your friends.

Writing is a lonely occupation, and writers are prone to depression. Find a physical outlet. Running might work. Martial arts are good. Fencing works for me.

Just write. Every day. Preferably at the same time, maybe when everybody else is asleep. Just . . . write.