The material from this post has been collated and expanded on in the title Stripped bare – a light-hearted guide to getting the most out of writers’ critique groups.
The Writers’ Creed
1. Write what you like to read. Never mind fashion
You can’t try to write for a market. Chances are if you do, the trend in publishing will have passed by the time you finish your work. Exceptions can probably be made for the anthology markets, where it’s sometimes hard not to write for a market.
2. Write what you like as best as you can and research it as best as you can
Get into your subject. Read about it. Find out about the background. Find out how people like your characters talk. For example, I find it extremely annoying when authors have chain-smoking and ostentatiously rich scientists. Scientists don’t smoke (very few at least), and they’re not rich. Even the ones who are well-off generally don’t display wealth. Do your research about how these people live, and what type of people do the jobs your characters have.
3. Always be open to improving your craft
If you look back on a work you’ve written some time ago, and you can’t see a way to improve it, you haven’t grown as a writer. You must never stop growing.
4. Back up your files at the end of every day
I could cry every time I see a writer post a desperate message about having lost everything. Just back up. Another computer, a USB drive. Is that so hard?
5. Don’t snipe at people giving you polite, considered opinions, even if you don’t agree with them
These people have taken the time to read your work and comment on it. Critical beta-readers are worth their weight in gold. The more inconsistencies, mistakes and illogical twists they unearth, the better. You don’t want to hear that particular comment for the first time when you send a manuscript out, do you?
6. Don’t worry about methods and/or daily wordcounts. All writers are different
Daily wordcounts may work for some, but in the end, it’s the quality of the words that matters, how they are achieved much less. Some writers write only few drafts, others think via the keyboard. OK, why do you think my 6yo computer has a hole worn in the space bar?
7. Submit your material and keep it in circulation for as long as you still believe in it (or until sold)
Simple. If you don’t submit, you won’t sell. Yes, it will be rejected. Get over it. Submit elsewhere.
There are those fabulous stories about writer so-and-so who never read a book in his entire career. Yeah – right. Notice how this sentence is in past tense. Not anymore, not in today’s market. If you don’t read, I can pick your submission. Your plotline will be cliche. It will involve an orphan of the same gender as the writer. It will involve a magical stone. It will involve a king who has lost a child who, surprise, surprise, will turn out to be the main character who, surprise, surprise, will have magical abilities. What’s published today has moved on from those tropes. Seriously. Grab a few books and get with it, or you’re wasting everyone’s time. And read the books while keeping an eye open for what’s good about them, and witout griping about how bad it is, and why did this rubbish get published, and certainly your book is much better. I think you’re missing the point, big-time. Read, and find the good in recent popular books in your genre. If you don’t enjoy this exercise, you are also wasting everybody’s time, since your taste is obviously too far out of line with that of the reading ‘masses’. And yeah, you need masses to get published.
9. Start again from 1
Now you’ve learned about writing, about the process, and about the market, write more material and do all the same things over again.