Paying Attention to Advice About Writing

Over 30 years, I have written six novels and a memoir. My earliest attempts began when I was attending university. When I look back at these initiations into the world of writing, I see the immature and awkward fumblings of a rookie; the lack of character development; the inaccuracies in plots; the stilted dialogue.

Like other writers before me, I have come to write better, richer stories by writing more. And by reading more. How many times have we heard a professional writer advise developing writers to read as much as they can; especially literature related to the genre they are currently writing?

Randy Over Typewriter

I have tried to attend lectures and readings by professionals. I have tried to network with other readers and writers. The advice received has been endless.

And still I have not been able to publish traditionally. I have self-published but if I had not been financially able to do this, it would never have happened. I think of all those excellent, unpublished writers out there who do not have the money to establish themselves.

Some of the advice I have received has been contradicted. One writer scanned the first page of a novel I had written and suggested I do not put dialogue into the opening sentence. Another writer said this was fine.

I take all critiques of my work seriously and I use them to hone my next novel. When I was much younger, I was so desperate to be recognized that I sent my work out to publishing companies quickly, with no regard to professional advice. Now, I consider it with much thought.

So with my most recent novel, Stay Above the Storm, a YA book, I tried to follow advice from others.

I introduced the central characters, the problem, and terse dialogue in the first three chapters. I attempted to grab the reader in the first page, making him/her wish to read more. I concluded the book with a solution that also raised some questions. But I tried to avoid contrived occurrences in doing so. I tried to leave a sense of hope because not all YA books (e.g., Cormier’s The Chocolate War) have to end depressingly or as if the world always falls apart.

I am trying to get SATS published and have sent it to some publishing companies, all of which have turned it down.

These rejections will not discourage me. I have been told that the rejections are not necessarily a reflection of my writing but that the content is not what they are looking for at the moment. They have been very polite but not exactly what I want to hear.

I suppose these are the reasons that writers get agents.


About randycoates

Randy Coates graduated from the University of Waterloo with a bachelor of arts degree and went on to acquire his teacher’s certificate at the University of Western Ontario. He is currently an elementary teacher in the Toronto District Board of Education.
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