My advice to new/aspiring writers

Enough people have asked me for advice about how to write, that I created this blog entry to share random thoughts about what I have learned. Regarding my advice: Your Mileage May Vary, so take the advice you like and ignore the rest.

Some very common advice given to writers is 'write what you know' and that is total BS. I have never been on a starship or met a wizard, so I don't know anything about those subjects, yet I have written many books about starships or wizards. Instead, write the kind of book YOU would like to read. If you are excited about your book, other people out there will be excited to read it.

Do not try to imitate your favorite authors, write in your own style (this is called a writer's "voice'). If you try to copy someone else's style, it won't work, and your book will come across as forced and fake. Developing your "voice" takes time and a LOT of writing.

Joining a writer's circle can be good because you can get support and feedback from other writers, but there are some drawbacks. A person who writes romance novels will not likely give useful feedback on your military sci fi space-marine-desperate-battle-to-save-humanity novel. Also, if you revise your writing to meet the approval of your fellow writers, you can lose your "voice". It is YOUR novel so write it in your style. A novel written by a committee can only be mediocre and bland. The same applies to revising a story on your own; if you scrub your manuscript too many times, you can lose what makes it special and unique. There are a lot of mediocre and bland books out there; don't make yours one of them.

Reviews: ignore the bad reviews. This is VERY hard to do but you MUST do it. The human mind gives more attention to bad news than to good news, which sort of makes sense. If our ancestors ignored good news, they missed eating an extra banana, which is no big deal. If they ignored bad news, they got eaten by a leopard. So, we are programmed to focus on bad news. Do not read bad reviews and if you read them anyway, do NOT reply. People are entitled to their opinions and if they don't like your book, you will never hear from them again and that is one less negative person in your life. Instead, focus on the positive reviews, because these are the people who will read your next book and will tell their friends about your awesome book. Pay attention to what they like about your book, and keep that in mind as you write your next book.

Ok, here it is, the NUMBER ONE piece of advice I can offer: write. Keep writing. It took me several years and several discarded half-finished novels before I wrote 'Aces', 'Ascendant' and 'Columbus Day'.

Good luck to you, and keep writing.

Craig Alanson