Weekday Wisdom, Episode 104
Are you paying attention to the craft of your writing? That goes for you even if you don’t consider yourself a writer. If you are writing blog posts, opt-in reports, social media posts, you should be paying attention to the craft of writing and working to improve your skills in this area.
In today’s episode, we’re picking up where we left off last week with my interview with Joan Gelfand. Today’s topic is the first “C” she mentions in her book: Craft.
CARMA SPENCE: What do you think are the best ways for someone to develop their craft so that they can feel like they are good enough to get started on a long-term project, like a book?
JOAN GELFAND: I think the best way to get good are two ways that are actually bigger roadblocks than you and I might imagine. And one is reading all lot.
That means not just reading other people’s books in your genre, but when you read, really thinking:
- “What is this other trying to say here?”
- “What is the bigger metaphor of this book?”
- “What are the tricks that they use?”
And, not only that. “I don’t understand this word. I better hurry up and look that up.”.
That’s one thing, I have to say, I love about reading on my Kindle. I was just talking to some friends about it recently. When you’re on Kindle if you don’t understand a word, you can look it up immediately. In the old days, we used to keep a dictionary by the bed. I don’t have a dictionary by the bed anymore. On Kindle, all you have to do is press the word and there comes the definition.
You want to keep increasing your vocabulary. That’s one of the most basic things.
And the other thing, which is really sad to me because I know I had to do a lot of personal work to get over this hurdle, is you have to listen to how people respond to your work.
In other words, if they like it, take it in and realize what’s working. If they’re not liking it, then you have to have the presence of mind to say to yourself, “OK. If one person isn’t responding to my book, what about if I show it to 10 people?”
One of the things an agent once said to me is, “How many early readers have you had for your book?” And I had to realize only a few people read my book. We’ll think about it if you want your book to go out to the general public — not your mother, who will love it no matter what you write — you have to be open to objective opinions.
I do know writers that just refuse to have an editor. They refuse to take it to a workshop. They refuse to show it to not only three friends, but 10 friends. And to say to those friends — and colleagues — to say to those people, very clearly, “Don’t be kind. I won’t dislike you if you give me criticism.”.
Really, the key here is to get the harshest criticism. Open yourself up to what’s working and what’s not working.
CS: And I think you also have to take every negative comment with a grain of salt. Why are they disliking it? Are they disliking it because they’re not your reader? There are people who will read science fiction and go, “This is crap.” Well, it may be the best science fiction ever, they just don’t like science fiction.
JG: Absolutely right. I’m a poet. I have people in my world that don’t read poetry. They don’t like it. They don’t understand it. They don’t know what to make of it. You have to find your audience, definitely. But that’s the work of it.
JG: I say in this book, “Does this sound like a lot of work?” Sorry. It is.
This is not a magic bullet, but it is good to have it there as a support. But it’s not a magic bullet. No.
CS: No. Exactly.
I’ve written both fiction and nonfiction. I have not put my fiction out yet because it’s so close to me. I find nonfiction so much easier. And I can write it much more quickly. Except for my last book, which took me six months to write. Because it had so much in-depth research as part of it. It was the most ambitious book I’ve written.
I tell people, “Each book is different. Each book has its own flavor. And sometimes it’s own writing style.” Sometimes they’re quick. Sometimes they take forever. But even if they’re quick, there’s still a lot of work, even if it’s only a lot of work for one day. Because writing is not a natural thing for human beings.
JG: Well, maybe the first draft is, but not writing it over and over and over. And I want to commend you because writing a book in six months that you say was your most ambitious project. I’m in awe of that. Most people labor. And that’s one thing that I talk about in the book under Craft about letting your book brew. And letting it sit. And writing it and feeling good about it, but also going back to it and making sure that it all works.
CS: The writing took six months. I started the project in 2010. So the research and the gestating in my head was eight years.
In next week’s segment, Joan will answer this question: The next “C” is commitment. Now that seems obvious to me, but what’s your take on commitment?
If you enjoyed today’s video, give it a thumbs up on YouTube. And, of course, leave me a comment below. I want the Weekday Wisdom to be something that you value and look forward to. So, let me know if there’s any topic that you would like me to cover in a future episode.
Think outside the box.
Spread your wings and fly.
Because you — yes you — are capable of more than you know.
And that includes the craft of your writing.