Today we have an extra-special guest post from blogger extraordinaire Margo Lerwill – one of the brains behind Wicked & Tricksy, and author of the feisty, Norse-themed urban fantasy short Dis. While she’s here, I’ll be over there. Take it away Margo…
All writers, regardless of genre, fiction or non-fiction, planning for self-publication or seeking a traditional contract, will smack up against the same questions sooner or later: Am I ready?
There are a lot of answers out there, a lot of opinions on how to gauge where we are in our development as writers or where our manuscripts are on the readiness scale. One popular rule of thumb is the 10,000 hour rule that says it takes about that many hours of focused study and practice to begin to produce consistently professional work.
A similar philosophy suggests the sweet spot dwells somewhere on the other side of 1,000,000 words. The numbers are not the point. They are simply the method of turning up the volume on the idea that it takes a LOT of study and practice to become a writer of quality.
Now one might expect me to say that we shouldn’t be daunted by such a grand task, such an investment of time. A journey of a million steps begins with just one? No, actually, I was going to say that a journey of a million steps should lead immediately to step number one million and one.
Our development as writers shouldn’t stop because we got that nice traditional contract and certainly not just because we might be seeing some good sales figures from our first couple of self-published works.
Remember that old saying about having to be twice as good as everyone else to get half the respect? Those of us who are pursuing self-publishing are still there. We have a lot of weekend-wonder novels to live down, even when we weren’t the ones who wrote them. The only way to do that is to constantly improve, in professionalism and especially in our craft.
To that end, I suggest embracing another cliché. Writing is not a destination but a journey. Each work should be better than the last, and we should avoid falling into the trap of thinking we don’t have anything else to learn.
These are the kinds of idea that got me involved in a group blog that Dave graciously plugs here at his blog with fair regularity. Wicked & Tricksy is the result of a convergence of desires. A couple of us wanted to scale back on our personal blogging to allow more time for writing, and another wanted to shift her personal blog from writing to science.
Wicked & Tricksy was a way to maintain that internet presence, continue to participate in the online writing community, and continue to pay forward some of the breaks we’ve gotten along our development process, all without having to tear ourselves away from our writing 5-7 days a week.
Next on our wish list was inclusion and positive honesty. We want the blog to be for aspiring writers by aspiring writers. Because the four of us who write at Wicked & Tricksy got acquainted with one another on the forums of former literary agent turned writer Nathan Bransford, we also had strong feelings about maintaining the unique atmosphere we’d found there.
Anyone who has had much experience with online writing forums will know that forums have a personality of their own. They can range from cheerleading camps where no one ever gives sincere criticism, just unquestioning support, to blood-sport arenas where every other post begins, “Please don’t flame me for asking this question.”
The Bransforum, as the residents nicknamed Nathan’s forum, is one of the few that has achieved a balance. People can disagree and debate, and writers can get honest opinions of their work, but in a self-imposed and self-policed flame-free zone. Topics get as nitpicky and technical as serial comma usage or as broad and thoroughly subjective as different creative styles.
Members range from very inexperienced writers who are still drafting their first novels to professional developmental editors to writers who have just landed major agents or who come with a handful of short story credits to their names. More Talented/Legitimate/Valid Than Thou attitudes are not encouraged.
Because we haven’t found a lot of places like the Bransforum, we wanted to make Wicked & Tricksy another such safe haven serving writers of all experience levels. We have had to steer the comments in a more positive direction a couple of times in the five weeks we’ve been open for business, to remind people that beginners are as welcome as advanced writers and that there is a difference between debating a topic and ripping the commenter or their opinion. So far so good.
We also wanted a unifying theme to the blog, which we discovered when we looked at the genres of our own WIPs. Sommer Leigh writes YA sci-fi and horror, S.B. Stewart-Laing writes historical fantasy with a co-author, Claudie A. writes high fantasy and occasional sci-fi, and I write epic and urban fantasy. A speculative fiction theme it is! (Though Wicked & Tricksy covers writing topics applicable to all/most genres more often than not.)
So there it is, our wish list complete. Each of us blogs on a different day of the week, Monday through Thursday, with a guest blogger featured on Fridays. Some weeks have a theme. We just finished Villainy Week. We’ve got World-Building week coming up.
Many thanks to Dave for letting me promote Wicked & Tricksy here and for being our guest blogger today. Feel free to check out Wicked & Tricksy and show Dave some support!
Her work has appeared previously in Deep Magic, Leading Edge, and numerous local newspapers and periodicals no one has ever heard of. She has refused rehab for her addictions to templates and outlining tools. She blogs about her stories at Unsafe Haven and about the craft of writing Urban Psychopomp.
As always, please feel free to leave any questions in the comments.