Friday, August 2, 2013

Recognising your strengths as a writer: Guest Post

Today's guest post is from Kat Ellis

So many times, I’ve scrolled through twitter and groaned inwardly as some prolific writer announces their “10k words today – WOOHOO!” Or even “Only 10k words today L” (at which I may or may not quietly set aside my phone and my laptop lest I destroy them, and stare at the ceiling while I count to 10.) It’s easy to see what other writers do well—extremely well, in some cases—and feel a little lame by comparison.

I’m not a fast drafter. I have a habit of self-editing as I’m writing, so can come away from a ‘writing’ session with fewer words than I started with.

But this doesn’t matter.

Because where I may be seen as a snail-paced writer by some, I edit like greased lightning. (I know, it’s not often one gets to actually use that phrase in real life.) And I think it’s partly to do with my slow writing pace (because I write more carefully) and my frowned-upon editing as I go along (because I’m cleaning up a lot of mess right there), so it tends to balance out.

The last MS I completed took around 5 months to draft (not counting a few gaps). At the end of that, I spent maybe 3 days editing before I sent it off to my betas, then another 2 days editing before it went off to my agent. I was on a bit of a deadline, otherwise I wouldn’t have done this so quickly, but shiz got DONE.

I know that self-editing is one of my strengths as a writer. There are lots of other things I’m not good at – if you ever meet me in person, you will either have to a) carry most of the conversation, or b) get me drunk. I’m not shy, but I spend more time inside my head than is strictly sociable. On the other hand, I am a somewhat prolific tweeter – I chat to more people on there than I do in real life. LOTS more. And both these things can be useful if you plan on having a writing career.

There are lots of other things in the writerly list of checks and balances where I suck or am genius (ha!) – things like grammar, pacing, world-building, characterisation, taking criticism, giving critiques, and on and on and ON…and if I sat down and tallied up those checks and balances, I’d have my Writer Score. (Don’t do this.)

Fact is, I write novels at a rate of 2 or 3 a year, and I think they’re pretty nifty when I’m finished with them. It doesn’t matter what I’ve struggled with in the writing process or where I want to show off, because a reader who (hopefully) picks up that book and reads it cover to cover won’t be thinking about my writing process, or the editing, or me as a person AT ALL.

And if I can write something that makes the reader forget that the story they’re reading isn’t real—but is in fact just made-up words and ideas out of a crazy woman’s brain—then I’d say that’s my biggest strength as a writer. 

Kat Ellis is a young adult writer from North Wales. Her debut novel, BLACKFIN SKY, is forthcoming from Firefly Press (May 2014, UK), and Running Press Kids (Fall 2014, USA). You'll usually find Kat up to no good on Twitter, playing badminton like a ninja, or watching scary films with her husband and feral cat. She speaks Welsh fluently and French badly. 

Want to know more about Kat? She lurks around on her blog, website and Twitter

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  1. Very interesting and insightful. I was wondering, in terms of writing a manuscript and querying it to agents, how do you know when the ms is presentable?

    1. Hi, and thanks!

      This answer will probably vary from writer to writer, but I know my MS is ready to send to my agent once my critique partners and beta readers have gone through it, I've fixed any issues they highlighted, and I've then gone through it one last time to check for readability (clearing any clunky phrasing, typos, etc.) I don't send anything to her if I'm not certain I've done all the fine editing I can do - which doesn't mean I won't have more edits to do after she's read it!

      So, short version: if you believe your MS is in the best possible shape you can make it, without cutting corners or thinking 'that'll be fixed by an editor later...', then you're probably ready to query.