Things have been a little quiet around here for the past week or two, while your regular contributors and I take a breather and gear up for all that 2013 has in store for us.
As 2012 comes to a close, I’d like to take a moment to look back at the best-of-the-best articles that have run on Write It Sideways. I’m talking about the most helpful and most discussed posts of the year—the ones you’re going to want to read a second (or maybe even third) time.
In no particular order, here are what I consider to be our top 10 posts of 2012:
1. Embracing the (Whole) Writing Process
Like third graders writing a report, beginning writers tend to believe that completing a first draft means their work is done.
Writing is a process, not a product. If you’re lucky, you will produce some finished products along the way, but the process is ongoing. And each step offers an opportunity to hone different writing skills.
2. Think Backward to Write Meaningful Metaphors
“Ugh, Mrs. B.!” my student groaned, rolling his eyes. “Why can’t this author just say what he actually means?!”
We were reading Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, and my student wasn’t the only one in the class who seemed weary of reading about pythons that were really hoses, symphony conductors that were really firemen, an island that was really a face. They wanted clarity, not guesswork.
3. April Eberhardt: Literary Agent for Change
Five years ago, April Eberhardt became a literary agent. I asked her what led such a savvy businesswoman to take a leap of faith onto the foundering ship of publishing.
“I’m an risk-taker,” she said. “I was a corporate strategist for 25 years, so I’m looking at this business as a strategist. I had a vision. I’ve had my eyes fixed on high-quality self-publishing from the outset. I jumped in knowing that it was coming and that I could help lead the way.”
4. 3 Steps to Overcoming ‘Almost Done’ Syndrome
We often think of procrastination as being something that keeps us from getting started. But, what about when procrastination doesn’t keep up from starting, but from finishing?
Getting to the point where you’re ‘almost done’ can be both thrilling and dangerous. Yes, you’re nearly there. You’ve come a long way. Now, all you have to do is put the final touches on that piece of writing (or whatever other project you’re working on). The thing is, you’re so close to being done, you just can’t get motivated to take the final steps.
5. Writing the Right Story vs Writing the Story Right
You know how, in the acting world, they say there are no such things as small parts, only small actors? That means even the smallest of roles can be memorable, and played with depth and enthusiasm, given a talented actor.
My theory is that the same truth holds for writers and their stories. There is no such thing as a small story, only small writers (that is, writers who think small in terms of the story—those who cannot do it full justice).
6. How to Balance Dialogue and Description
I often read about the importance of spicing up writing with dialogue or description: a little show-don’t-tell language, a heated argument relayed with fast-paced exclamation points, a vivid image, an exchange whose subtext reveals more than the words themselves.
“Absolutely!” I always say. “I need to include more of that in my writing.” The only question is—when? How can I gauge when to give way to rich description, and when to let my characters speak for themselves?
7. 3 Steps to Creating Your Own Writing Luck
Remember that friend-of-a-friend who wrote her first novel and got picked up by a literary agent right away? Or that self-published guy who scored a book deal with one of The Big Six?
Some writers have all the luck, right?
With the ever-increasing number of wannabe authors out there, we can’t be blamed for feeling the odds are against us.
8. Self-Publishing by Design: Real-Life Lessons
The biggest changes over the last five years have taken place in the realm of self-publishing. Back then, it was barely distinguishable from vanity publishing and now it has moved into the mainstream.
Sure, there are holdouts, balkers, traditionalists and snobs, but it’s getting to the point where readers—the people we writers want to reach—don’t know and, more importantly, don’t care how a book they love is published.
9. Working Past Wordiness for Fresher Writing
When it comes to wordiness, small choices add up. Though it’s easy to struggle with cutting into–and out of–our work, writing benefits from the spare, carefully crafted brilliance of a few well-chosen words.
I’ll give you twenty seconds to skim the following paragraphs and tell me which one exhibits stronger, more engaging writing…
10. Learning to See the Good in Bad Writing
Have you ever written a story, or an essay, or the first draft of a novel, and then let it sit in a drawer for years on end?
Have you had those writing days when you’ve thought, Surely, all that effort was a waste of time?
I have, on both counts, and I dread hearing the committee in my head that confirms any failed project is a waste. Recently, though, when I overheard an instructor at a university talking with her dance students, I was reminded that nothing creative is ever done in vain.
Which of these articles are your favourite of the year? Do you have others you’d like to recommend?
See you in the new year!