Monday, May 19, 2014

How I found the Write Path

Today's post is brought to you via the special blogfest, How I Found the Write Path, hosted by Carrie Butler and PK Hrezo. The Prompt: Write a letter to yourself when you first started writing toward publication. Details here.

Dear Younger Self,

You know how you hope you'll make a huge success of yourself, buy a mansion with an ocean view from your earnings as a bestselling author, and won't be able to walk down the street without being accosted by fans begging for your autograph? Good news: You can still walk down the street without getting mobbed by fans. Go you! Bad news: You didn't become an author until much, much later in life. Why? Because you quit. Dumbest thing you ever did.

Writing in dribbles--a couple of paragraphs a month or a handful of pages here and there--will mean it'll take you nine years to finish your first novel. Seriously, girl? You want to take nine years to write a book? Waiting for inspiration is one of your first mistakes, though not your biggest.

Your biggest mistake, apart from quitting, was having a totally skewed idea of what it takes to get published. You didn't do the research, you didn't put in the hours, and you gave up before you hit any kind of momentum. Surprise, surprise, there's a business side to writing if you want to get published. It's not easy for a dreamer like you, but neither is it impossible. Remember that.

Here's what you're getting right:
You are reading a lot. That's the best thing you can do so keep reading. Don't turn your nose at different genres. Read anything you can get your hands on. Even non-fiction. You'll notice a difference in your writing when you expand your exposure to a variety of styles and story types.

You are currently fearless when it comes to writing. Hold onto that fearlessness. You'll need it when you start reading How-To books on the craft or sharing your work with others outside your family. That's when you'll start to think you are doing it all wrong and the first doubts will come nipping at your ankles. Continue to write what you love, not what you think other people will love.

Here's what you could improve on:
Write every day. Don't be afraid to draw up a writing schedule. It might seem regimental to your creative self, but you'll revel in it. Same goes with outlining. Get over the fantasy that outlining is somehow less organic and creative, and give it a go already. You'll thank me later. Write more short stories to hone your skills. Attend more workshops. Find a critique group and enjoy the support and encouragement of other writers. Only other writers can truly understand what it's like to be a writer.

One last piece of advice: Write down your ideas. No matter how certain you'll remember those ideas, trust me when I say, you won't.

And, whatever you do, don't quit, you big goose!

Lynda R Young
Author of speculative short stories and YA novels.
http://lyndaryoung.blogspot.com



136 comments:

  1. I could have written this to myself!

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    1. Crazy how many of us follow the same patterns.

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    2. Very true. We all have "Real Lives", I guess.

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    3. Real lives? Hmm, that's a matter of intpretation ;)

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  2. Brilliant post! It's a common misconception that this process is easy and fast. It's not. There is SO much waiting!

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  3. Awwwww your younger self is so lucky to have such a fabulous older and wiser self! Yay! take care
    x

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    1. If only I'd heard from my older self at the time...

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  4. Wait for inspiration and you'll never write!
    And remembering ideas later is darn near impossible.

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    1. and I still keep forgetting that last one. At 2am I'm struck with an idea. It's a great idea and it seems so solid in my mind. Not so much in the morning... sigh ;)

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  5. I love that you included what you did right.
    Who was it that said we must wrestle inspiration to the ground? It's like that!

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    1. It was Jack London who said you had to approach inspiration with a club :)

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  6. What great advice!! I too often wait for inspiration. And wait. And wait. And nothing gets done. Some days it's a 'force myself to sit and put in a few words' day. Don't like them, but they usually get the creative juices flowing once more.

    So proud to have shared in a publication with you - short stories ARE a great way to take a break & hone those skills.

    Terri

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    1. Thanks, Terri. Sharing the publication with you has been an honour. Writing short stories are the best way of taking a break.

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  7. I could definitely improve on writing more. And I love that reading is something you did right. Me too on that one.

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    1. Reading and writing are so closely interwined. To separate them is a huge mistake.

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  8. Some smart advice. I think for most of us, it happened much later than expected.

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  9. I got the reading part right, too. And isn't it such a shame how we tend to lose that fearlessness the more we learn and experience? I'm going to get some of mine back somehow! :)

    Madeline @ The Shellshank Redemption

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    1. It's another one of those slow processes of relearning to love and champion your own work, yet at the same time carefully considering any feedback you get.

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  10. Love it! I pretty only got the reading part right :)

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    1. I personally think the reading part is the most important.

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  11. I would have to tell myself not to major in intramural sports!

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    1. Thank you, my dear Dezzy, from the bottom of my heart, for the hearty chuckle you gave me this morning.

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    2. omgosh, now I need to put little white stars on the blue duck!!

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    3. You realise that means UV unwrapping, painting little white stars on a transparent background, using the nodes editor to get them into the texture and then re-render after a little prayer?

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  13. Great tips! I wonder if quitting was part of the process, though? I quit for a few years, too (although I blogged very actively) and some of my most important emotional growth happened during that time. I think that made me a better writer today...

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    1. I quit for ten years (didn't write a word) and when I came back my writing quality had dropped. I was rusty and lacked confidence and it took a while to start writing something halfway decent again.

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  14. Gosh, I think most of us have/had a skewed vision of what publication would entail. So, so glad you returned. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

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    1. Yep. On the outside looking in it does seem pretty easy.

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  15. Write and read the two things that sure need to be done

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    1. Shirking on either has an enormous impact.

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  16. Your suggestions are perfect. And if I didn't write everything down, I'd have nothing to start with when I sat at my desk to create a story.

    Glad I stopped by. It was a very worthwhile visit. Thanks.

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    1. Having that nudge at the start certainly helps and cuts down all that staring-into-space time ;)

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  17. Great advice to share with your younger self. It's so easy to quit when the knowledge isn't there. But with experience comes awareness.

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    1. Ha, yep, awareness prevents some of those nasty surprises. If we're expecting a rough ride, then we can prepare for it.

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  18. Glad you pointed out the business side of writing. That is something I've blogged about before and which many people don't realize is there.

    Odd thing about outlining, I've always felt that to be the most creative and organic part of the process.

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    1. I agree with you about outlining. I just wish I'd learned that YEARS ago ;)

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  19. Well-written post with excellent advice, Lynda, especially the part about not quitting. One of my mantras is the quote from the movie, "Finding Nemo": Just keep swimming...just keep swimming!

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    1. Dory was awesome in the that movie :)
      A good mantra to have.

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  20. Great advice! I never finished a manuscript until I learned how to outline, so that was an important lesson for me!

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    1. While outlining isn't for everyone, it's great we've realised it works for us.

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  21. Nice letter:) I think mine would be even shorter, something like..."hey, why are you reading this when you should be writing?" ;)

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    1. lol, Mark. It has pretty much the same message though.

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  22. One of my biggest mistakes and regrets is not taking writing seriously enough at the beginning. Assuming I could never write professionally, even though I'd been dreaming of it my whole life, because I didn't write like some published authors said I should write. Telling myself it was just a hobby. Thanks for sharing your journey, and your advice, with us.

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    1. Expectations others put on us, and especially the ones we put on ourselves, can become such a major crutch.

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  23. It took me about three years for my first book. Little did I know how hard it would be to keep going.

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    1. After my nine years, I have to say three years is pretty good for a first book ;)

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  24. Great letter Lynda!
    Okay, let me see...
    Reading different genres. Check.
    Losing some great ideas through not writing them down immediately. Check X3.

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    1. only x3? For me that is more like x1000. That's one lesson I still struggle to learn ;)

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  25. 'Write every day. Don't be afraid to draw up a writing schedule. It might seem regimental to your creative self, but you'll revel in it.'

    Stephen King once called himself, 'a f-ing grind.' It's coarse, but I love it.

    I love your letter to little Lyn. And I love you.

    So glad our paths on this larger one have crossed and become braided.

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    1. Thanks so much, Suze. You have a talent for making me feel all gooey with delight. (Just quietly, I see us as sisters.)

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  26. I related to your regret over quitting for a while. I didn't exactly quit, but I wavered back and forth for a long time between writing and painting. And hey, I want a house by the beach too!!!!!!!!

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    1. Wouldn't it be awesome to have a writing room with a view of the sea, walking distance to the beach?

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  27. Brilliant!! I like your final statement, Lynda. "Don't quit, you big goose!" Ha, after hundreds of rejection letters I think of quitting, daily.

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    1. Oh, please don't quit. There's only regrets in quitting.

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  28. Reading definitely helps. And I'm a fan of 'write down your ideas.' Not only does it help you remember, it frees your mind to move on (or back) to something else. May you have a never-ending supply of Post-it notes!

    Enjoyed your entry. :)

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    1. Yes, exactly!! Freeing the mind to move on really does help.

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  29. I love this, Lynda. Reading is such an important part of being a writer; especially diving into all types of genres. I've actually learned a lot about my own sense of style through dipping into the unlikely reads of other authors... especially YA Fiction.
    And yes! We must keep writing, no matter what! I know it's hard to write every single day... especially those who have day jobs and households to keep up with. But we should really try to not take too much time off from our writing because then we are more liable to lose the muse and creative juices.
    Thanks for sharing your letter with us=) I'm looking forward to reading more thanks to Carrie's fantastic idea!

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    1. Definitely when we weaken that creative muscle it loses its strength. I know this for a fact.

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    2. Writing down your ideas...gee, I wish I had written that down a long time ago. Of course I'll remember this great idea...it's great, right? Heck I can't remember to buy milk on the way home from work. Yes, write down those ideas!

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    3. hehe I have trouble remembering the milk too until I need it :P

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  30. Hi, Lynda....

    Terrific letter. I particularly like the last sentence about writing down your ideas... you'll forget. SO TRUE. This is something I need to do. I have forgotten of few already and as I get older the memory is certainly NOT what it used to be. I use to have THE MEMORY... I never forgot a name or phone number. Damn, I wish I had that ability now.

    Like you, I started very late. Too late. But it's okay because we learn through life and use what we learned in our writing.

    Thanks for sharing a part of you...

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  31. Aww, what a sweet letter! Carrie had such a good idea with this meme. I've loved the letters, especially yours. Have a great week!

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  32. I love that last line--I may have to steal it for myself.

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  33. Yes, I could say some of these very same things to myself! Ah, the things we learn, hindsight. But at least we learn them!

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    1. exactly right. At least we learned them. It's never too late.

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  34. HI, Lynda,

    I can so relate to thinking that I'll remember stuff, when I often don't. Writing in dribs and drabs does cut down on productivity. I'm yet to learn I need to get more done. Good letter to self, encouraging. Good stuff.

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    1. It's crazy that's one lesson I keep forgetting and I ask myself the next day, "What was that cool idea I had?"

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  35. Nice letter and good advice.

    I keep plugging away with shorter works. I find them easier to deal with. I suspect it is because I have more to learn. :-)

    Anna from Shout with Emaginette

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    1. Shorter works take less time, but they are just as challenging, if not more so, because they demand succinctness.

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  36. Great letter! Funny you called yourself a big goose :)

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    1. lol, I won't share what I sometimes call myself ;)

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  37. During a very busy time of my life, between college and getting my first big job, I was writing very little. It took me years to finish a particular manuscript. I was also writing in dribbles, when that wasn't normal after my prolific college years.

    Fantastic letter to self.

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    1. It seems to be part of most people's right of passage in this field of work/creativity.

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  38. Spot on Lynda. I'm sorry to hear you gave up years ago but I'm sure that's why you are much more resilient now. Great writerly advice!

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    1. Some days I'm more resilient than others ;)

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  39. 'Don't quit, you big goose' sounds like excellent advice. Do you think you'd have taken it?

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    1. Good question. I might've listened to the advice if I'd heard it from peers rather than family, but at the time I wasn't part of any kind of writing group. Silly me.

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  40. Love it! I totally quit too for a number of years, but we always circle back to what we love, eh? I'm totally with you on the reading. That's the single best thing I've done to improve my writing.

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    1. Any writer who dismisses reading is making a huge mistake. That guilt while reading when you think you should be writing is a misplaced guilt. Reading is as important. Even when there're deadlines, every writer still needs to make the time to read.

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    2. Agreed--and the more you do, the better your understanding of where your own story should twist and change. I think it becomes almost intuitive if you read enough.

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    3. Yes! That intuition also helps to make your story flow more naturally rather than coming across like it's been painted by numbers.

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  41. Beautiful post, Lynda. I'm so glad you found your way back to writing!

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  42. It’s the business side of writing that’s messing me up, too, Lynda. “Continue to write what you love, not what you think other people will love.” This is the best advice, Lynda. Thanks! Outlining stories/essays/memoir—it helps me survive sometimes. ~Victoria Marie Lees

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    1. I hope it helps.
      And omgosh, I wish I knew about outlining so much sooner!

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  43. Loved this letter - because I faced my quitting/dribbling times too, and I know that continuing to write through it all is important. :)

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    1. Mini breaks also help, just to refresh the mind.

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  44. Sitting down and writing every day was one of my biggest pieces of advice too! Writing isn't a whimsical existence of waiting for the muse to come calling, otherwise no books would get written. I recently read Make Believe and loved your entry, so I'm glad you persevered and got published. :)

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    1. Way to make a girl blush :)
      Thanks so much, Nick. That means a lot.

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  45. Don't you wish you could go back and really GIVE this letter to your younger self? I do!! I loved all of your advice, and this rang especially true: " Continue to write what you love, not what you think other people will love." It's so hard not to slip into the latter - it can be so insidious!

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    1. My goodness yes, I so wish I'd heard that advice when I was younger. Of course, I might not have listened to it since I was also a little silly then and thought I had all the answers ;)

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  46. hello my pixie one! I love the simple yet honest and superb vice you give yourself. writing daily is a hard task sometimes, but you're right, when you can do that, you can build yourself better!!

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  47. As a dreamer and lazy non-writer, I'd like to believe that dreaming about a dream is more fun than making one's dream come true. No?

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    1. I think you're onto something, my wise friend. Unfortunately I can't just dream. I have to at least try too.

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  48. Such an identifiable post! Love it! And I'm glad that you made it back to writing, even if you did quit :) That's the important part.

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    1. Yep, as much as it would've been nice to get a letter from myself, more than likely I would've taken the same course. Sometimes there are paths we have to tread.

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  49. Ohhh you're so right about writing all your ideas down. I have forgotten so many of my own. I really like your letter. I have started later as well and there have been many times when I was about to give up, but I can't ignore the characters so I dive back in. Best wishes!!

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    1. Characters have a way of speaking louder when we pretend not to hear them ;)

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  50. I really enjoy reading these letters! So many of us made the same mistakes! You have great advice!

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  51. Ha! Loved the good news/bad news line. Made me laugh. :) Wonderfully insightful letter. Really enjoyed it.

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  52. Yes! Reading is an oh-so-crucial aspect that we sometimes forget. :) Thanks for sharing, Lynda!

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    1. I sometimes wonder why we forget that since it's inevitably reading that first gets us into writing in the first place.

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  53. Awesome letter! Don't quit and write every day. That's some really good advice!

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  54. You have some great advice. Love this letter. Your enthusiasm and kindness shine through.

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  55. I love your letter, Lynda. I think you've been courageous and inspirational all at the same time. I think you're definitely going places. I'm glad to know you.

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    1. wow, thanks so much for your lovely words. They mean a lot to me.

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  56. Replies
    1. Woot! Thanks, Kelly, for popping in and leaving a comment

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  57. I love this letter to yourself. I agree, I need to do a better job about carving out some writing time/editing time every single day. Maybe I need to get up earlier during the week to get it done. Lots of great advice. Thanks Lynda!

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    1. I write better in the mornings when I'm fresh--it's just that getting-out-of-bed thing that's difficult ;)

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  58. Oh wow. I loved this! You hit it all right on the head if you will excuse my cliche! So very true for so many of us. The Write way might not be what we thought it would be when we started on the path.

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    1. Cliches are welcome in the comments ;)
      I do wish I'd known back then everything I know now. All part of the growing process, I guess :)

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  59. These are some wonderful tips! Thanks for sharing.

    www.modernworld4.blogspot.com

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  60. Lyn, I loved this. Writing irregularly has become a norm for me for the past few weeks. But I plan to write every day from now onwards. I agree with the bit about reading. Reading all kinds of books: fiction as well as non fiction, helps improve our own writing.

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    1. Best wishes to you with finding the time to write everyday. It does make a huge difference.

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  61. This is great! And I think not being accosted by a mob while you're walking down the street is definitely a good thing! =D

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    1. See, that's why I chose writing instead of acting ;)

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  62. Writing down ideas is very good advice. Another good piece of advice is to put those ideas to work. I have tons of ideas waiting to be used.

    Lee
    What is the best short story ever written?
    Tossing It Out

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    1. Great point. Developing the ideas is a skill in itself which also needs to be practiced.

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  63. Yes, I can definitely agree with you on the importance of writing regularly as opposed to doing so in irregular spurts -- if only because, at least in my experience, it keeps me conscious of how easy writing actually can be, and how much material I can churn out in a brief period of time. If I take too long between writing sessions, it starts to seem like a daunting task.

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