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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Guest blogger: Camy Tang

Today, I have a very special guest on my blog, Camy Tang, author of Sushi for One, which is a fantastic book. Camy is a dear friend I've known for what seems like forever, so I thought it would be fun to share with you some pieces of her journey.

First off, thanks to Dream for letting me guest blog today! She and I have been friends for almost as long as I’ve been writing, because one of the first writing communities I joined was the Steeple Hill online discussion board, where Dream is forum host.

Anyway, back on topic. Dream asked me to talk a little about the journey “here,” from financially-strapped unpublished writer to financially-strapped published writer.

I made a lot of mistakes on my writing journey. I like lists, so I’ll break it down into five things not to do as a writer:

1) Don’t ever forget God.

Don’t laugh, because you’ll be astounded at how easy it is to do.

I started off on my writing journey with a stinky attitude. I didn’t care about what God thought about my writing, until He asked me to lay it down. Luckily, He allowed me to take it up again, but the entire experience made me realize that when it comes to writing, I don’t want to be outside His will ever again.

If I don’t give my life entirely to God, then my writing (which is part of my life) isn’t His. It becomes mine. And I do all kinds of things to foul it up.

I have to keep remembering that this writing—my contracts, my stories—all need to be His.

2) Don’t slack off on learning writing craft. At all. Ever.

Brandilyn Collins first mentioned that a writer should be constantly striving to perfect his/her writing craft. I took that to heart.

I try to take at least 30 minutes a day to either read a few writing articles, or read a chapter from a writing book, or listen to half a workshop on MP3. I set this aside if I’m on deadline, but I try to make this a priority.

One of the reasons is because it’s amazing how much basic writing craft I forget if I haven’t read about it in a while. My brain is like a colander, because eventually it all just dribbles out. So, I have to keep refilling it.

3) Don’t neglect your critique partners.

Without my critique partners, I never get that healthy dose of humility, reminding me that my writing is not unadulterated genius (imagine that!). At one point, I wasn’t critiquing my crit partners’ writing because I was spending all my time on my own writing. Those crit partners didn’t stick around for long.

Critiquing is about giving and receiving, building friendships and relationships with people who care about you and help you achieve your writing goals.

So for goodness’ sake, don’t neglect them or chase them away. (Don’t ignore their comments, either, because that will chase them away for sure.)

4) Don’t be stubborn.

This is in relation to anything you won’t move forward on. Life is too short to spend too much time on any one thing.

Lay aside that manuscript, even if it’s finaled or won in X number of contests, and write something else.

Lay aside your thoughts about that nasty comment by a writer/judge/editor/agent and at least try to stop dwelling on it.

Lay aside your determination to keep that one scene in your story if several people have told you to cut it.

I am ashamed to say that I spent way too much time on my second manuscript, fondly dubbed “The Bad Book.” I cringe at the number of industry professionals who were subjected to its horrific writing, cardboard characters, and no-conflict plot. I have also let one bad comment paralyze my writing for weeks. I have clung feverishly to my favorite scene/line/character/plot device and refused to cut it when everyone and their dog told me it wasn’t working.

5) Don’t be a lemming.

Don’t write what’s already out there. Write what’s not out there, what you’d like to read.

I admit, I took a bit more of a risk that some other writers. I wrote Asian American characters even before multicultural stories had become popular. However, I’d had a direct word from God to do so, and I wasn’t as stressed about it because I wasn’t about to disobey God yet again.

However, too many writers don’t strive to be unique or original. They write things too similar to what’s already being published.

Sometimes, they write similar things because they don’t KNOW what’s already out there. That’s just stupid, in my opinion—know your market! If you’re targeting a specific genre, know what’s already been done before so you don’t copy it.

In sum:

Sorry, I was long-winded (so what else is new?). I hope this has helped some other writer avoid problems on this writing journey, because it’s wonderful and rewarding and just plain fun!

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