NEW YORK, November 6, 2012 – Writers and editors periodically ask me if I have any advice about writing and I usually, actually always, say hell no. Writers, speaking mostly of fiction writers, don’t like to be told.
We don’t like rules and we don’t like tips. We are all different and respect must be paid for the uniqueness in all of us.
That said, as a public service and free of charge, here are some tips and rules gathered from my years in the trade.Jack Engelhard’s Tips and Rules to become a Published Writer
GET TO THE POINT: Get that hook going right at the top. This is how it works in journalism. We want to grab the reader’s attention immediately if not sooner.
TAKE YOUR TIME: When writing a work of fiction (or fact) remember, you’ve got all the time in the world to win the reader’s attention. There is no need to get it all said right at the start. You’ve got plenty of pages to go. Don’t get fooled by people who tell you that the hook is how it works in journalism. You are writing a book.
WRITE SHORT: Short, tough sentences always succeed. Think Bukowsky, Fante, James M. Cain, but most of all, Hemingway. He learned how to condense from Scriptures and from Gertrude Stein. Fitzgerald’s dreamy type of writing is old hat and it is Hemingway who is now regarded as our greatest writer.
WRITE LONG: Every writer has his or her particular style, so it makes no sense to heed advice from anyone who tells you that writing short, clipped sentences is the way to go. Ridiculous. Today, it’s Fitzgerald who is regarded as our greatest writer. Hemingway is old hat.
KEEP YOUR READERS IN MIND: You want to reach a wide public. People are waiting for your first or next book. So unless you are writing a diary or a laundry list, you want your work out there, to be appreciated by all. You want to cover all the bases so that you can please as many people as possible.
WRITE FOR YOURSELF ONLY: If you write with your readers in mind you are cheating both yourself and the reader. You will never make everyone happy, and you shouldn’t even try. Remember, people are not waiting for your first or next book. Nobody cares. It’s a jungle out there, believe me.
GO TO SCHOOL: Learn from the experts, first high school, then college. Let the professors tell you how it’s done.
FORGET SCHOOL: Professors will scuttle every original thought that runs from your mind to the page. They are killers. It’s all about grammar and punctuation with those people. Our best writers never went beyond high school and this includes Hemingway, Faulkner and Salinger. Fitzgerald stayed at Princeton for maybe a cup of coffee. If they had gone to college you never would have heard from them again.
DO NOT WORRY ABOUT POLITICAL CORRECTNESS: Say it all. Don’t be afraid!
BE AFRAID: Editors will accept only so much boldness and controversy. If you really write what you think you have no shot. If it’s politics, think Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as your editor. (Say it all anyway. This is still America…until the United Nations lords it over your Internet.)
GET AN AGENT: Traditional publishers will accept your work only if it is submitted to them through an agent. Agents are easy to find online.
NEVER MIND AN AGENT: Literary agents are impossible. They can not be found and when they are found, they never respond. If they do respond they do so after you have aged by some three to four months. After this, they will tell you that your work is quite wonderful – but not quite right for them. Then they will wish you “good luck” but they don’t really mean it.
GO DIRECTLY TO A MAINSTREAM PUBLISHER: Fat chance. There are only seven publishers left in the United States of America and each time I check the list, I find that the number has been reduced – so that by the time you read this there may be only three or two left, or maybe one. Meanwhile, there are a thousand opportunities by going Independent – and this, small press and e-book publishing, like Kindle, this is the future. Truly great writers like Mark Twain and Walt Whitman self-published.
SO FORGET MAINSTREAM PUBLISHERS: Period.
GO MARKETING: If you get published, you are sure to land on TV and get big sales.
FORGET MARKETING: Sure you ought to try. But chances are you won’t get on TV unless you are a TV personality and have your own show.
LET YOUR SPOUSE OR MOTHER REVIEW YOUR BOOK: Good idea.
LET YOUR EX-SPOUSE OR MOTHER-IN-LAW REVIEW YOUR BOOK: Not a good idea.
TAKE ALL THE ADVICE YOU CAN GET: Learn from other writers, especially those who have succeeded.
NONSENSE: Go it alone…and besides, all writers have mostly failed…but never give up!
Jack Engelhard can be friended at Facebook
Jack Engelhard is a novelist for such moral dilemma bestsellers as The Bathsheba Deadline, The Girls of Cincinnati, and the classic Indecent Proposal, his memoir Escape From Mount Moriah, and Slot Attendant – A Novel About A Novelist is Engelhard’s partly autobiographical expose about the trials of making it as a writer, bring his words to the Communities page covering all topics, with special focus on the absurdity of human behavior, and reaches around the globe.
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