December 4th, 2019

My Best Writing Advice for the Next Decade

Fae Rowen

I've been writing for twenty-five years. I started when an English-teacher friend suggested I write down the story that I thought about every night before I fell asleep. As a math teacher, I had no intention of writing a book, but I'd finished my first one, a medieval kind-of-fantasy-for-sure romance in only nine months, while working two jobs.

After that I started taking classes, joined writers' groups, reading writing craft books, attending conferences, found a couple of good critique groups…you know the drill.

As I (finally) finish the edits on my second book, I've been thinking a lot about my writing in the new decade—how it will change, what I can do to make it better. Here are my thoughts.

1. Learn more about and practice until I've got Deep POV in my Tool Box.

Lisa Hall-Wilson is a great resource for all things Deep POV. So is Margie Lawson. Here's what Deep POV is: The writer is in the head of the character, but is not writing in first person. Deep POV is for writers who prefer third person, but want to expose more of their characters' thoughts and emotions without distancing the reader.

Example from PRISM 2: Rebellion:

Before Deep POV revision: "Jericho lifted the cover off his plate. A portrait-perfect salad with artfully cut and placed vegetables. Too bad eating across from Gatfield ruined his appetite."

After revision: "Jericho skewered the salad with his fork. What he wanted to do with that fork would have landed him in jail for homicide."

Many people think Deep POV is about specific details. It can be, but remember that writing in Deep POV gives the reader information she can't otherwise see.

2. Pay more attention to what I've written immediately after I write it.

Laura Drake uses an Excel Worksheet for writing scene details after-the-fact. We're both pantsers. Outlining my book would take all the fun out of writing it, but I've spent way too long editing, and I see the value of being able to find at a glance where things happen, when characters are introduced, and look for the balance between plots and subplots and character time on the page.

I've spent hours searching for the name of a not-even-secondary character that ended up being more important and I couldn't remember his name seventy pages after his introduction.

3. Give myself enough time to edit...

Without cramping my time and potentially comprising the quality of my work.

As an eternal optimist, I always think I can finish whatever the task in less tie that it ultimately tasks me. Positive thinking only works so far. I have to put in the chair time, which I think I've finally figured out with this last revision.

4. Learn more about "layering in"...

Emotions, Deep POV, "inner life," backstory, character insights through multi-passes. (I'll need a class or a good book for this.)

5. Take at least one class a year...

That will challenge my ability and "level up" my writing.

In 2020 I'm planning on attending the Kauai Writers' 4-Day Masters Intensive. I'm sure there will be at least on new writing trend taught there.

6. Set small daily, or at least weekly, goals...

To keep my writing on track and my WIP progressing.

I'm not a goal-setter; I don't make New Year's Resolutions. But I have found that when I do strive for a reasonable word- or page-count, I'm more productive.

I know some writers have large wall poster with production calendars. I'm not to that point, but I need to hold myself accountable for showing up and writing on a schedule that works with my week's activities.

7. Write "tighter" in my first draft.

So far, my track record with word counts and finishing books, then revising them is, well, a failure. After three or four rounds of edits per book, I end up with a file of cut words which equals the size of the finished book. Yipes! How much more productive can I be if I don't spend that writing and cutting time?

That means sticking tightly to my characters' goals motivation, and conflict. No adding scenes that" enrich" what we know about the character, their backstory, their life. Only scenes that move the plot of the book forward belong on the page.

8. Figure out the hidden, sometimes from themselves, things that make my characters tick before I finish the book...

And have to edit in those very important details and cut the unimportant, though perhaps "quaint" beliefs that make them unique in their world.

(It happened again in this book. I was sure I knew what fired my female protagonist. Turns out, I discovered a deeply-held belief I hadn't known about before I got halfway through the final edit. Really? How could I not have known?)

9. Enjoy writing.

My process, sitting in the chair, listening to critique feedback and re-working—all of it, as I work. I do this because I love writing my stories and hope they will mean something to my readers. Why can't I enjoy myself?

How do you plan on growing your writing skill into the next decade?

About Fae

Fae Rowen discovered the romance genre after years as a science fiction freak. Writing futuristics and medieval paranormals, she jokes that she can live anywhere but the present. As a mathematician, she knows life’s a lot more fun when you get to define your world and its rules.

P.R.I.S.M., Fae's debut book, a young adult science fiction romance story of survival, betrayal, resolve, deceit, and love is now available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Fae's second book in the series will be available for pre-order on Christmas, 2019.

25 responses to “My Best Writing Advice for the Next Decade”

  1. Martha says:

    These are some really thoughtful and good tips. Thanks for sharing them

  2. Terry Odellt says:

    I've become way too lax in dealing with #2. I need to get back to immediate tracking. I'm close to the wrap-up of the WIP and I'm spending more time checking for "did I already say that? When?" and other details than I am in moving forward. I used to keep a wonderful tracking board covered in different-colored post-its after I wrote each scene, but now I tell myself the biggest lie there is. "I don't need to write that down. I'll remember it."
    Heck, where I am in life, I reach for the tablet and pen and then forget what I was going to write down.

    • Fae Rowen says:

      Oh, Terry! It's too earlier to be laughing like I am! Thanks, Terry. I, too, think, "How could I forget that I finally got a friend's name in as the Captain of the cargo ship?" Duh. Two weeks later: Did I name that guy?

  3. I love this post, Fae. It's so valuable to look not just at our work, but our processes. And FWIW, while I totally get your desire to not have huge discard files, no writing is ever wasted--it all helps get you where you're going. You're always the living embodiment of the best writing advice I ever heard: that the soul of this craft is persistence.

    • Fae Rowen says:

      You're too kind, Tiffany. My dad called that "stubborn." My mathematician colleagues call it "perseverance." Sometimes I wonder why I can hang onto my "not helpful" habits so much easier than the good ones that I work so hard (and long) to cultivate.

  4. Such a valuable exercise to think through and articulate my own, specific writing needs. Each of us will have different strengths and weaknesses, desires, ways we'd like to grow as a writer. I love that Fae's advice is not for other people, but for herself! Not a prescriptive "do this, and you will improve" but a thoughtful invitation to do what she has done ... Top of my own list is to get more skillful at integrating backstory! Thanks, Fae!

    • Fae Rowen says:

      Thank you, Barbara. It's important to me to become a better writer. It isn't always easy to see how to make that happen.

  5. barbdelong says:

    Fae, you and I have been writing for about the same length of time and taken many of the same craft courses over the years. Great list and it would mirror mine. It was confirmed that I write most consistently when given a deadline by completing my personal NaNo goal this past November. I plan on joining in several writing sprints and challenges in the coming months so I can get a first draft done on my WIP in a more timely fashion that 5 or 10 years!

    • Fae Rowen says:

      First, congratulations on completing your personal NANO goal! Second, kudos for recognizing what is best for your own process. Yes, if we're going to write a hundred books, we've got to bring them in faster! Hohoho!

  6. Laura Drake says:

    You know I'm nodding on all of these! You're so self-aware. I need to do a list like this for me!

  7. littlemissw says:

    This is great. The last one resonates with me. Lately the joy has gone out of my writing and I'm hoping that I find it again in the coming year.

    • Fae Rowen says:

      I'm sorry to hear that you've lost "the juice" temporarily, littlemissw. When this happens to me—and I think it happens to everyone from time to time—I go someplace new, do something new, or make something I haven't made before. The curiosity and attention necessary usually unblock whatever was stealing my joy. Best of luck to you!

  8. I know very little about POV. A few years ago a good friend (Published writer now) read some of the WIP I was working on and told me "I head hopped and needed to work on POV. I bought several craft books from writers I had gotten good advice from. Making sure the info on the fly leaf and back of the book talked about POV. I still don't know anything about POV. I'm just now getting back to my writing. Life took about a 10 year slice out of my writing but I am trying to get back to it. This time no full time job or offices in business organizations. Kids grown and away from living home and my husband passed away 31/2 yrs ago then it has taken me that long to regain my health and working on getting strength and stamina back. I really think I'm going to make it this time. In your article I found some things I need to try using and a lot I am using but not in the right way or right point in time. I also am revising my work too many times. I need to decide where I need to stop and let a professional editor or an agent. Fix what they find and submit. I have so many versions of my work I lose which one is the good one. One out of sometime 10 or 12 versions. This will help me so much. Thanks Fae (one of my middle names is Faye).

    • Fae Rowen says:

      It's so good to hear from you, Jo! You'll be able to master POV as soon as you find the right teacher or book. Here's a secret: I wrote my first book without knowing anything about POV! In four lines I was in four characters' heads! As the author, I wasn't confused, but it is confusing for a reader. Here are the basic two things to remember about POV: 1) Point of View refers to whose eyes you are seeing the scene through. The general rule of thumb is to only use one POV per scene. BONUS tip: Choose which character you think has the more to gain or lose in the scene and write from their POV. You've got this!

  9. Reading is the engine of writing. People often ask can I write a book without reading. The simple answer is yes, but not a book worth reading.

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Ha! That is a true statement.

    • Fae Rowen says:

      I would love to have a book of sayings for people who want to write a book, but without learning "how to" and without reading. To me that's like saying I want to be a chef, but I don't eat anything but frozen dinners and I don't want to go to cooking classes or look at recipes! Thanks for the head shake this morning, odonnelljack52!

  10. dholcomb1 says:

    wonderful ideas for improvement

    my goal is to take my writing to the next level

    denise

  11. wendyleslie says:

    Thank you Fae.
    Eternally editing multiple drafts... 🙁 But starting to see all the tips, making a difference.
    At this point for me, 2, 4, 7, and 8 are the go. Thanks again. W ☕

    • Fae Rowen says:

      I'm chasing you around that ring of the editing underworld, Wendy! #2,4,7, and 8 are on the list partly because I've been writing and editing the same book for two years. I love the book, it has great "bones" and can go far, so I want to do it justice. Just taking more time than I thought it would—but I'm not crazy yet. (Climbing back into my cage now...)

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