How to deal with writers: Good advice for readers from online resource Ezine

Author of one of my favorite books, "The Scarlet Letter," Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote many true things about writing and writers.

Author of one of my favorite books, “The Scarlet Letter,” Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote many true things about writing and writers.

Words – so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.

—Nathaniel Hawthorne

I read advice columns for writers daily, and if the suggestions resonate with what I believe in as an educator, or what I know works, I’ll bring them to this blog. Some suggestions spur an entire blog response on my part. Here’s a column I read today that takes an unusual tack; it speaks to those who read our writing—our audience—and gives our readers advice about how to deal with us (for a change). 

The original article, found on the Ezine blog, written by Penny, Ezine‘s managing editor, can be found here. Ezine is an online resource for writers, and I highly recommend it, because the level of advice offered there is specific and pragmatic.

Ezine also publishes your articles, once they’ve been vetted by Ezine staff. You can join for free, and start uploading your writing. Along the way, Ezine will help you get published, and, most importantly, seen.

It’s a relatively simple way to get your opinions and writing viewed in the online format/writing style that’s become industry-standard (they do require you to follow certain rules for writing online, and those rules are, I’ve found, very helpful for organizing your thoughts, at the same time they help you polish your style).

10 Tips to Be Kind to Writers

“Easy reading is damn hard writing.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Scarlet Letter, A "stark tale" of adultery, guilt, and social repression. Have you read it? It's such a great book.

The Scarlet Letter, A “stark tale” of adultery, guilt, and social repression. Have you read it? It’s such a great book.

To celebrate Be Kind to Writers and Editors month, we’ve gathered 10 great recommendations to help you show your appreciation for the writers in your life.

Writers, feel free to share these suggestions with your friends and family. If you know a writer, please be kind to the writer in your life with these 10 tips!

  1. While writing isn’t brain surgery, it does require the writer’s full attention. Unless there’s a fire or another catastrophic event, keep distractions to a minimum and respect the time the writer dedicates to their craft.
  2. Be open to listening to our ideas. Writers are often considered hermits, but it’s not true! Occasionally, we writers will need to bounce an idea off another human. If we get that “Eureka!” look in our eyes, it’s best to just let us to our own devices, ask later, and know we appreciate your inspiration and help.
  3. Rejection and criticism sting, but we’ll take it in and ask for more when it’s delivered in a positive and constructive manner. Give it to us in the spirit of goodwill and provide specific reasons why you didn’t like or disagreed with the piece.
  4. You liked it? You really liked it?! Fantastic – we love hearing that readers (including those closest to us) love our work. So what did you like most about it and how did it move or help you? Please, be specific in your praise so we know you’re not pandering to our egos and we can keep up the good work.
  5. Comment on our articles, share our writing with your friends and family, interact with us on social media, and essentially be a part of our “fan club” to help promote our work. It’s not terribly easy to break into the open online, but it all starts with a support network of those closest to the writer.
  6. Write a positive review that highlights what you liked about the work and how other readers might benefit from reading it. Of course, if you didn’t like the piece, privately provide the writer with constructive feedback.
  7. Respect their progress and please be supportive. Most writers aren’t successful overnight and many of us moonlight in other professions (or would that be “daylight” or “sunlight” for those who haven’t quit their day jobs to focus on writing?).
  8. Writers are sponges – we soak up everything. Send us inspiration like candid questions, complicated queries, anecdotes, articles, book recommendations, article templates, etc. Often what doesn’t make its way directly into our work will indirectly influence our direction and outlook for future pieces.
  9. Get us out into the world from time to time. Encourage your writer to leave their work routinely and connect with other human beings. It’s important to their success and health!
  10. Bring them a cup of coffee or favorite snack. Writers are notorious for becoming so engrossed in their work or they simply don’t want to stop their progress once they’re in a good groove that they neglect even their most basic needs like food and water.

Next time you’ve enjoyed something you read, don’t take it for granted. Remember the writer behind it because as Nathaniel Hawthorne once said, “easy reading is damn hard writing.”

Nathaniel-Hawthorne-Quotes-3

Hawthorne’s quotes, by the way, come up frequently in resource searches. One of the books for writers I found while doing a search about his quotes looks quite helpful. Written by Don Fry (who I’ve never heard of until now), it’s called Writing Your Way: Creating a Writing Process That Works For You. I intend to take a look at it and possibly buy it, because I like his premise. He says that we’re taught to write a certain way that might not be right for you, and that we have to allow ourselves to write in a way we’re comfortable with. I think this makes a lot of sense, since trying to fit a round peg into a square hole never works for anyone! 

If you want to talk about any of this material I’ve presented here today, be sure to contact me at collaborativewriter@gmail.com or leave a comment.

Be kind to your writer by responding!

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The Silent Dialogue: How We Create The Book We’re Reading

One of the most interesting things that happens to us as writers occurs when we read.

The real story is created as we read.

The real story is created as we read.

We conduct a ‘silent dialogue’ with the text, and, to the extent we imagine the writer in our minds, making him or her seem real as we read, with its author. This imagined collaborator, the ‘author,’ guides us as we make sense of what we read, but we do all—or most—of the real work involved.

If you take notes while you read, you will inevitably ‘talk’ to the piece of writing. You might even talk out loud. If you’re like me, you ask questions of the text as you underline phrases, or draw circles around crucial words; or perhaps, words you don’t understand; ideas you agree with, disagree with, have a strong opinion about.

As soon as you begin to interact with the text, you’ve formed a relationship with its author, but it’s a silent one (unless you can somehow meet the writer and ask him or her your questions). Even so, the real relationship you’re having is not with the writer, for you are imagining him or her, even as you imagine the characters she’s created. The real relationship you’re having is with her writing, which becomes real for you as you interweave yourself, your values, your beliefs, your experiences, into what she’s written.

How could Lizzy and Jane be so patient?

I remember the first time I read Pride and Prejudice, for example. I was 16 or 17 years old, and I found myself frustrated by the slow pace the heroine’s life was taking. I could not understand how Jane Austen, with such sanguinity, allowed her protagonist, Elizabeth Bennett, to endure months of unhappiness and uncertainty over Mr. Darcy. Why couldn’t Elizabeth write to him? Why couldn’t her sister Jane let Mr. Bingley know how she felt? Why did nothing happen?

I remember yelling at that book, tossing it down in frustration, unable to continue reading. The relationship I formed with the writer I’d constructed in my mind was one of tension and irritation. I didn’t understand a lot of things in those days, but the primary thing I did not understand was that in my responses to the text, I was creating my very own version of Pride and Prejudice, the one I interwove with my responses, my ideas, my attitudes and opinions as I read.

My frustration at how slowly Darcy and Elizabeth fall in love, coupled with the arcane, stultifying social rules of Regency England, stemmed from beliefs I had formed in an era very different for young women than the one in which Austen wrote. My responses made excellent fodder for my writing, because my values reflected the changes that had happened for women since Austen‘s era, and therefore inspired a paper on the freedoms young women in America took for granted.

As a teacher, I’ve encouraged students to respond to the text conversationally, focusing less on the author as we have been taught to think of him or her, instead conceiving the text as a piece of writing you can engage with directly, commenting, complaining; noticing similarities or differences between the writing and our own experiences.

Although this process is considered a form of reader-response theory or critique, my goal has not been to get the student to critique the text, but rather, to form ideas and responses that will inspire writing and assist in self-awareness and critical thinking skills.

The values and mores of the Regency Era baffled me

One of the most valuable pieces of writing any reader can engage in, therefore, is a journal or diary of responses to a piece of writing. By silently engaging with a text, you will find that you have many things to say. Your personal responses to any piece of writing will inspire you to create something new, and you’ll learn about yourself and your values as you interweave your own reality with someone else’s words.

To get an idea of how to inspire your own writing through responding to someone else’s work, see Lisa Ede’s Work In Progress. To understand the culture in which the idea of the reader or audience’s response to the writing, rather than the author per se, became an important discussion, compare and contrast New Criticism with reader-response criticism.

Following I. A. Richards‘ study of reader misunderstandings and misreadings conducted in 1929, theory began to center around the idea that the reader creates the text they read, that there is no textual reality that exists a priori containing one—and only one—’correct’ meaning, that instead, the individual’s interpretation matters tremendously to how we make meaning.

In addition to this, and important to me when I teach, has been trying to convey the concept that the individual author’s personality or characteristics, while ‘important’ from the perspective of imagining authorial intention, should not derail teachers from what is even more important: getting the student to value their own writing.

From Another Writer’s Blog: How to Find a Writing Partner

I’m going to paste this in from the Savvy Writer’s blog, although I would like to say upfront, I personally am not advocating that one find a writing partner specifically to find someone to critique your work. That is not the most important aspect of the writing process, from my perspective, especially since we don’t always know why we want to write, nor are we all looking to be published. A lot of the time, my writing is just for me; I don’t need anyone to critique it to tell me, after a lifetime of reading published writers, that it isn’t very good, or, conversely, that it is publishable.

However, this is not to say that published, and professional, writers, do not have this as a primary concern; of course they do. It’s just not the focus of the Collaborative Writer. The urge to edit is very strong in most writers; in my opinion, it is more than a bit of an evil, and needs to be overcome, otherwise we edit our writing out of existence.

I can’t stress this strongly enough: we are way too self-critical, and focusing on the end-product, via critique, seems like a viable goal until you find yourself blocked, with nothing to say, largely because you’ve painted yourself into a corner. You’ve been so self-critical, so aware of what you “should” have said, that you no longer even know what it is you’d like to say, or might need to say. 

So, this is my proviso, before you read Ms. Sebek’s otherwise excellent piece: keep in mind that she is mostly concerned with the end product, as she must be. But that doesn’t mean that all writers must think about the end product before they’ve even produced the product in the first place.

From the Savvy Writer: If you’d like to write a book or keep up with your blog, you may consider finding a writing partner who’ll motivate and inspire you to accomplish your writing goals. If you find the right writing partner, you could co-author a book together and wind up on the #1 Best-Sellers List! The key is to find someone who’s like-minded but also balances you. For example, if time management isn’t your strength, find a writing partner who has impeccable time management skills. You’ll learn how to cultivate this skill which can help you grow as a writer.

A writing partner can encourage you to say goodbye to writing gigs that keep you stuck. It may be scary at first but when you have someone supporting and telling you, “You’ll be all right,” it can make the transition smoother. You’ll earn more money because you’ll work on projects you enjoy. This will attract new clients to you because you raised your ‘vibration’ which makes you more attractive to clients.

Benefits to working with a writing partner
1. Professional criticism. Constructive criticism will improve your writing. After all, you don’t want to send shoddy writing to an editor, do you? Your writing partner can suggest how you can simply your sentences or more descriptive words. If you haven’t channeled your “inner editor,” a writing partner can point out errors such as the misuse of quotation marks (periods and commas go inside them). A writing partner can point out the overuse of exclamation points or the em dash. The feedback you receive is invaluable.

2. The melding of genius minds. Two heads are better than one, right? Perhaps you have an idea for a book but would like to co-author it. Finding the perfect writing partner means you know the idea or concept backwards and forwards; you know and understand the message. You have a clear vision and know the target audience. Choose a writing partner that isn’t caught up within their ego — this is why lawsuits unfold. The right writing partner is someone who’s open to brainstorming, adds value to you and the project, and is professional.

3. Motivation. Sometimes you’re not in the mood to write. A writing partner can motivate you to stay the course and accomplish your writing goals. If you’re stuck in your comfort zone, a writing partner can push you out of it. They can encourage you to take a risk and apply for writing projects you never dreamed of applying before. A writing partner will push you towards success and cheer you on without taking any of the credit.

4. Inspiration. Choose a writing partner that (sic) inspires you. Perhaps they wrote and published three books and coach other writers. Maybe they volunteer at a children’s organization and help young kids find their inner writer. Find a writing partner that (sic) will make you want to succeed in your writing career and do better.

5. Accountability. This word has been thrown around over the years by life coaches and therapists and has become overused; however, it still has some value. You are responsible for you. No matter how much a writing partner pushes you, they can’t use Harry Potter’s magic wand and magically make you accountable for your writing. You can only do this. Hold yourself accountable if you want a successful writing career!

Where to find a writing partner?
1. Networking events.
2. Social media websites.
3. Your local bookstore.
4. The library.
5. Local and online writing groups.

[And, of course, the Collaborative Writer and forum

If you think you’d like a writing partner, start ‘tweeting’ about it or post something on Facebook. Reach out to writers in your community and attend local writers groups. Make a list of the qualities you want in a writing partner. List your strengths and weaknesses and see where you could use improvement. Find a writing partner that’s willing to commit to the process, and you’ll be on your way to a fun and successful writing career. Good luck!
Rebecca @ http://savvy-writer.com/2011/05/how-to-find-the-right-writing-partner/comment-page-1/#comment-16243