Many of you have mentioned, on more than one occasion that I’m not on here enough and for that there are a few reasons: full time job has been digging its heels in, I’ve recently accepted three contracts and so editing is a busy time, annnnnnd, I’ve been writing like crazy. ;)
That being said, I’ve also had a few questions come through on what it takes to be a writer and while I’m still pretty new in the industry myself, I went over to a good friend of mine and asked him to answer a few questions. Take a look below and as always, I’d love to hear what you think. Stop on by and drop a line, or a simple reply.
Charles King has been in workshops, classes, and intensives taught by Chuck Palahniuk, Craig Clevenger and Craig Lesley. In his ten years of writing and studying, Charles has been engaged in conversations with editors, award winning authors, and publishers. He currently has more accepted pieces than rejection letters.
For new authors, what is the best piece of advice, short of write, write, write, that you could give them?
Besides that? Find an author you want to 'be like.' Then emulate his/her style to the best of your ability. Read their stories again and again as you see fit, to gain understanding of how they structure stuff. Words they use, words they don't use, how they do simile and metaphor, etc. Chuck Palahniuk says (and I'm paraphrasing) that Aping [emulation] is how writers learn, how they eventually find their own voice.
You've been known to be the "Adverb Police." Could you explain why you are so against adverbs and just how it affects a writer's story when overused?
I have? Who called me that?
Adverbs don't bring anything to the party. You and I both do things 'lazily,' and we all 'fidget nervously' too. This stuff isn't up for debate. What makes that way of describing things questionable is this:
How I do that is different than the way you do that, and if you use the blanket word for it, say “Bob fidgeted nervously” the issue is two-fold. You're TELLING the reader Bob is nervous, and that he has some nervous tick, but not what it is. The reader will then insert THEIR nervous ticks, and the way THEY look when they are nervous. You don't really want that. Or, worse still, they will just skip over that, somewhat. OK Bob is nervous. None of this is to say that stories that do this won't get printed. A lot do, every year. BUT these adverb moments (Bob fidgeted nervously) are great opportunities to build your characters. If you establish that Bob fidgets, or the way Bob lights a smoke as what we'll call baseline behavior, then when he is nervous, you can then alter those mannerisms accordingly, and SHOW the reader Bob is nervous, from the way he's fidgeting.
When reviewing a story from an author, what catches your eye?
I've been playing the workshop game a long time. The first thing I probably notice, without knowing I notice it, is how many character/narrator pronouns are in the first few paragraphs. Then probably info-dumping. These are things that are easy to overdo early in a piece. The writer is establishing their authority; this is a good indicator to me, usually if these will be problems throughout.
As a freelance editor, what kind of services can you offer to an author?
Personally? The usual grammar and spelling stuff you would expect. These are things I think all editors will do, even the shitty ones out there on places like craigslist. I also read for things like voice, consistency (of voice, as well as consistency of the story) which is something that probably not everyone is equipped to do.
And there you have it folks. Straight from the “editor’s” mouth. Charles has it straight though, the only way and the best way you will become a writer is by writing. And you know what? Once you start writing, published or not, you have officially become a writer. Dig in, get your “feet” wet and have fun!