Monday, September 27, 2010

Under Advisement

As a writer who just publicly acknowledged that I am an "aspiring author," I am thirsty for knowledge and hungry for the advice of those who've taken this journey before me. I read blogs, and articles, and Twitter links to more blogs and more articles. I download free guides. I study the work of other authors. I ask naive questions and insert myself into conversations best left to the pros. I take classes, attend book signings, and carry a notebook wherever I go. But I am an aspiring author; what else should I do?

There are no right or wrong approaches to chasing a dream. You choose what you're most comfortable with and move forward. It's simple. For me, I seek advice from multiple sources. Some of it is useful, while some of it I forget with the flick of keystroke.

My disposition allows me to accept advice easily, but not without discernment. I make my own choices and live or perish by them. For example: I've decided to write picture books for children and have two finished MSS under revision.  But I'm also studying early readers to bring to life a new character who haunts me, and am committing to writing a middle grade novel in a month with NaNoWriMo and a BIAM guide. Why not commit to one at a time? Why risk sinking when I could easily swim with one?This is my time for discovery! The sky is my limit, the clouds my fall back plan. I am in control of my destiny and am throwing caution to the wind.

I will probably always be under advisement on this journey, which is ok. You're never too old to learn or too good to accept sound advice. Below are a few golden nuggets that I've come to rely on. This list will continue to grow as I grow. And a little advice from me: start your own list and let others speak knowledge and wisdom into your craft. What have you got to lose?

Always, Athena

“Don’t stop, no matter what. Even the best writers wrote ugly when they first started.” --Virginia Burns

"Your voice is something that is inherently you. It’s rather like a literary fingerprint. No one of us, no matter how similar our personalities or geographical or social upbringing, will ever put words on paper in exactly the same order." --K.M. Weiland

"The practice of outlining a book before trying to write it is especially beneficial to beginning writers. First, it requires thinking the story through while eliminating a lot of wasted time chasing unworkable ideas. Second, it provides a blueprint to which the writer can refer while working on a story over the course of months or even years." --Rekha Ambardar

"Picture books are short! Read them at the bookstore, and look at very current ones at the library. Over the last several decades, the word count has dropped tremendously. Most publishers are looking for picture books under 1,000 words, and 500 words is even better. Remember that a lot of description can be left out – that’s the illustrator’s job. Then cut and cut some more until what’s left sounds like poetry." --Jennifer Jensen

"Remember that a picture book is 32 pages. Half of those pages are pictures, so try keep the word-count under 500. When you’re drafting a picture book it’s useful to make your own mock-book, copying from a real book all the features like endpapers, the title page, dedication and publishing information page and so on. It also helps to put the text on each page to see how is pans out." --Mem Fox

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