Advice For Writers From Writers #1
Last month, author Cristina Garcia spoke at the Comadres and Compadres Writers Conference in New York City. Here are some bits of wisdom.
- When you are writing, ask yourself--What am I going to give the reader with these details in this specific sequence?
- Writing is an act of seduction--there is room for no typos, only high quality work. You are seducing one person at a time. Your book is stopping everything else that takes up the reader's time. You're saying--I'm promising you an adventure you won't get anywhere else. You better deliver.
- Writing in first-person present is the hottest right now. It's more intimate.
- Don't worry about what audience to write for. Instead, focus on making your work sing.
- Specificity is important in everything, especially characters.
- Read poetry every day. It's like a sacred transition into a new space. It prepares us to write for the day.
- Poetry finds what you really need to write about. Write about what you don't know and about what you know.
- Buy an anthology of poetry. Flip it open. The right poem will find you at the right time.
- We're not wasting our day if we're reading a great book. It feeds us.
- Kafka had one word of advice: Wait.
- Read your work aloud. Ask yourself: Is it essential? Serving the story? Necessary? Read backwards. Or randomly.
- Consider the pleasure and obsession principle. If it doesn't give you either, don't write about it.
- We don't waste time even if what we wrote is not used. Write everything even if it leads to a dead end.
- Be a ferocious reader. Aspire to write like your favorite writer.
- Remember to be patient. It took Junot Diaz 10 years to write "Oscar Wao."
- There are the big publishing houses: Scholastic. Simon & Schuster. Penguin Random House. Harper Collins. Macmillan. Hachette. But try smaller houses first.
- Ask yourself--What's the point of the story? And boil this down to 30 seconds. Compare it to other works to think about how it can be marketed.
- Have a strong Twitter presence. Follow other writers and publishing houses.
- Frequent your local book store and library. Speak to book clubs; set up Skype chats. Set up Google alerts. Contact schools to give presentations. Volunteer to read your work to the elderly and blind.
- Befriend other authors. Blog or Tweet about each other to show your support.
- Remember, building an author platform takes time. Show your publisher or agent how you can reach an audience/platform through social media to take some of the burden off them.
Cristina García is the author of six novels, including: "Dreaming in Cuban," "The Agüero Sisters," "Monkey Hunting," "A Handbook to Luck," and "The Lady Matador’s Hotel." García has edited two anthologies, "Cubanísimo: The Vintage Book of Contemporary Cuban Literature" and "Bordering Fires: The Vintage Book of Contemporary Mexican and Chicano/a Literature." Two works for young readers, "The Dog Who Loved the Moon," and "I Wanna Be Your Shoebox" were published in 2008. A collection of poetry, "The Lesser Tragedy of Death," was published in 2010. Her recent young adult novel, "Dreams of Significant Girls," is set in a Swiss boarding school in the 1970s. García’s work has been nominated for a National Book Award and translated into 14 languages. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writers’ Award, a Hodder Fellowship at Princeton University, and an NEA grant, among others. Recently, she completed her tenure as University Chair in Creative Writing at Texas State University-San Marcos and as Visiting Professor at the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas-Austin. (From author's website.)
More information can be found on her website.