What Should I Tell Them?

img_2467[1].jpgA few weeks ago, I was contacted by a teacher at a local high school and asked if I would give a presentation to a group of students who love writing. I jumped at the opportunity because I strongly believe in encouraging young writers.

After the initial invitation, it turns out that I will now be giving four workshops for an entire day, which is evening more thrilling. As I prepare my notes, though, I find myself asking a key question. What should I tell them?

With over 35 years of writing and publishing experience, plenty of ups and downs, and a pretty good grasp of the challenges facing new writers, it would be far too easy to lapse into the disappointments and horror stories that many writers have endured. On the other hand, I don’t want to mislead the students into thinking that it’s all wonderful and profitable. Somehow, I’ve got to find the middle ground. The obvious strategy is to be candid and as positive as I can, but also realistic.

For the most part, I’ll be focusing on the nuts and bolts of writing and editing. Two groups will be spent discussing character development. The other two will concentrate on plotting, point of view, dialogue, themes, tense, and so forth.

At my request, I was sent a list of questions that the students have compiled, which includes getting published and making money, as well as dealing with writers’ block, making time to write, inspiration, and career choices. I hope I can give a well-rounded viewpoint in what is often a crazy frustrating business. But really, the day is all about writing and learning to express ourselves in the most meaningful way possible for each individual. Maybe I should lead with that.

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Organizing All Those Blogs, Tips, and Notes

OrganizingWriting colleagues think of me as a disciplined writer, but there’s an area where I’m a huge procrastinator, which is in organizing the how-to writing articles, blogs, and notes I’ve accumulated for over thirty years.

I have oodles of them, including a thick accordion folder crammed with old Writers Digest articles about writing in general. There’s another folder filled with notes on mystery writing, as well as files on setting, characters, etc. Now that I’m working on my first full-length fantasy novel, I’m also collecting lots of great how-to tips about that genre.

The way I’ve collected material has changed over the years. Rather than read paper magazines on writing like I used to, I read blogs and visit useful sites. I now have a growing collection of bookmarked folders containing all sorts of things about writing, research, marketing, and so forth.

A couple of years back, I purged my accordion files while looking for a specific article, which I eventually found, but I still kept quite a few pieces because the information might still be useful. Who knows what type of writing I’ll gravitate to ten years from now?

The thing is, while writing and editing new novels, I often forget about the great editing tips and articles I’ve collected. I even have a green file folder on top of my fantasy manuscript with the most relevant info. After the second draft was completed, I realized that I’d barely looked at that folder, and that’s a mistake.

I need to come up with a useful way to make all this information more accessible. The task will probably start with paring down the folders again (admittedly several cover the same topic and give similar advice).

Second, I’ll need to create a binder or something with tabs that focus on specific topics and editing tips. I don’t always edit at my computer, so having a cheat sheet of key editing points might prove useful. It also means that I’ll probably need to print out the most useful of those many bookmarked pieces.

But all this will take a lot of time and effort, as I have a lot of sorting to do. Thus the procrastination. Maybe I’ll set aside a couple of hours per week and see how it goes, but if you have any tips on organizing all those great articles and tips you come across I’d love to hear how you manage them.