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Some advice to writers Some advice to writers
by Joseph Gatt
2020-07-07 08:43:00
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Answering frequently asked (or meditated) questions to wannabe authors.

I want to write the story of my life. What should I do? There's absolutely nothing wrong about writing your autobiography. It's actually a great idea in some cases!

You don't have to be famous for anything to write an autobiography. Maybe you just did something unconventional that was not picked up by the media and did not go viral, but the story is worth being told.

Either way, your autobiography will either focus on one aspect of your life, one part of your life, on event in your life, or your entire life.

wrter001_400BUT, it's always a good idea to do your research on society, social aspects of life, psychology and so on. Maybe some of the things in the story you want to tell need some contextualizing.

ALWAYS connect your life to your reader. Your reader is about your age, maybe a little younger or a little older or way younger or way older. You want your reader to go like “Oh! When the writer was going to school, I was working at that bank! Or, Oh! When the writer had his big break, I was in high school dating the girl with the braces!”

So you want to provide that familiar environment to your reader. If the environment is not familiar (you grew up in Sudan or Argentina or Laos or a small town in Montana or whatever) you want to provide as much background information about the unfamiliar surroundings as you can.

Finally, you want your book to be useful to the general audience. Are you trying to settle accounts with your abusive parents or abusive ex-boyfriend? Don't write that book. Were you homeschooled, then made a fortune in business, then lost it all, then worked hard and made another fortune, and want to help people avoid mistakes when trying to make a fortune? Or were you on board a famous flight that was highjacked or something? Go for it!

I want to write a novel -or- I want to write a play. There's a French saying that “in the kingdom of the blind, the king wears an eye patch.”

That is in college, at work, at the pub, in places where no one really writes books or no one really reads books, “being a writer” is super impressive. That could get you a few one-night-stands, could make you a few friends, could get you some respect.

But if you are serious about writing, and want your big break in writing, you don't want to hang out with people who never touched a book, and brag to them about being a writer.

In fiction, the rule is: the more realistic the work of fiction, the more likely it will sell very well. If your novel or play is confusing, full of stereotypes, full of exaggerations, full of hyperbole, or just full of details no one cares about, it can't work.

So if you're writing a detective story, you want to spend a couple of years researching what detectives do. Read books about detectives, meet a few (honest and humble) detectives and ask them about the work they do, gather as many real (and fictional) detective stories as you can.

If it's a thriller, same rule applies. Read thriller stories, read about psychology and psychiatry, gather stories on people who went through scary moments in their lives.

Point is, the more realistic, the better. The more time you spend writing, the better. And when you go to the pub, ask people to tell you about what they do, and if possible, avoid saying that you're a “writer.”

I've published 9 novels but sales were a disaster. What should I do? So many factors involve good sales and bad sales of novels, or non-fiction works.

Maybe you write too much and don't research enough. Maybe you don't have that level of expertise and are too “shabby” in your writing. Maybe your books are really stating the obvious, or maybe they are confusing.

Maybe – this is important but I don't want to give you false hope – maybe, your publisher knows your potential, knows that you are an excellent writer, brilliant, an expert at what you do, and is “saving” your novels for your future novel which will be your big break. And when your big break novel sells like hot potatoes, your readers will become fans, and your first 9 novels will sell retroactively.

Or maybe – maybe – your publisher knows that you will probably become a public figure, and is saving your novels for when you get elected/appointed to that big position, and suddenly your novels/books will become of interest.

Finally, I suffer from writer's block and freeze when I start writing sometimes. What should I do?

Unfortunately, I don't think I have the perfect answer.

I can tell you what I do. I am horribly messy. I know some writers just sit straight for twelve hours and type away, in clean fashion.

I am a lot messier than that. I tend to improvise. Improvisation is how I beat writer's block. That is I do have (a rather huge) repertoire of ideas that keeps growing every day. But I could never sit and write for 12 hours straight.

My “weapon” against writer's block is I imagine myself talking or lecturing to an audience. That audience is “blank” and it's usually “a random college and grad school classroom with students of different ages, nationalities, colors, creeds, and a couple of professors who dropped by to listen to me lecture.” So I imagine myself talking to that crowd, they ask me questions, I answer them.

This “picture” usually prevents me from discussing things that could be “boring” or that “only I could understand” or to “get my audience to lose focus.”

My other “weapon” is what I call “demand meets supply.” If there's a clear demand from my “imaginary” audience for a paper, I supply it. In the future, God willing, if there's a clear “demand” for a book, I'll supply it.

What I try to avoid is supplying a paper when there's no clear demand. I do supply papers with no clear demand for the topic, sometimes, rarely, but over the years I've realized it's always better the wait for the demand before supplying the paper/book.

Good luck writing! Hope to read you soon!

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