Last 29th September, MSV invited a few aspirants for a short one-day session on writing romance. This is the second, I believe, that Bookware has conducted a workshop (at least, in the span of time that I have been a writer for them) for aspiring writers. I wasn’t in Manila when the first one was conducted. This time, fortunately (or unfortunately), I was in town so I got to peek in.
As in just peek. I came when they were about to finish the day-long session and I was asked to share a few insights from which our young aspirants (young relative to the world of Bookware, let me make that clear) might learn a thing or two about being a published romance writer.
These are some of the things I pointed out that Saturday afternoon.
1. Best advise in writing, also according to our young editor Apple Masallo, is to READ. Read endlessly. If not to pick up great ideas, or to get inspired, reading also teaches you what not to do. Every now and then you will come across a story that will make you wince and wonder why the hell you spent money on that piece of crap. But well, at least you know what’s crap, what’s not. As a reader, you know what you like to read. Don’t write what you yourself won’t ever enjoy reading.
2. Don’t ask for advise on what technique you can employ to be a good writer, there is none. Technique varies from writer to writer. You have to find one that works for you. If you think you can work better with an outline or a draft, make an outline or draft. If you think of an opening scene and later on you find that it’s better to make scenes prior to that one such that it becomes a scene in the middle of the story, then fine. If you want to work backward, from ending to beginning, go. No one’s going to tell you it’s wrong. Just remember, never leave an issue unresolved. Never introduce a thought which you will not nor have no intention to unravel.
3. Be humble. Yes, we all don’t want to end up as copycats of some famed writer. But that can’t be helped when you’re just starting out. It’s alright to emulate. For as long as one doesn’t plagiarize, then go. Keep at it. Style and voice and identity all come with practice. They come with experience. And when we say be humble, that also comes in the form of accepting rejection. We’re not perfect. We’re not geniuses. We’re all trying out our ideas. There’s nothing embarrassing about getting a no-go.
4. DO NOT WRITE TRASH. I read a quote on a friend’s wall. The quote pertains to writing children’s stories but I feel this applies also to any kind of writing, any kind of art.
“When you write a story for children, you are asking them to give up running around, climbing trees, stroking cats, or eating mangoes in exchange for reading time. There is a real world out there with so much to see, hear, smell, taste, touch. Behind every object are tears or laughter. If they sit down to read, it should not be because they are tired but because they are curious. Children are busy people. They have a world to discover and they must do it before they turn cynical and enslaved like us. Do not waste their time.” – Ramon C. Sunico
People take time to take you in. Do not make them regret that they went out of their way, they disrupted their routine, just to read/see/listen to your art.
5. Be constantly on the quest to becoming better. Learn languages. Learn about places and things and people. You’re a writer. You’re supposed to be creative. Go. Experience the world. Experience people. Experience life. But these are the things that will enrich your idea bank. These will be useless if you don’t give importance to the basic as well. Basic meaning grammar and vocabulary and spelling. Learn the correct syntax. Some words may have the same meaning, but have different usage. Get it right.
6. An aspiring writer once asked me, or consulted with me, that she wants to write so and so, and would it be alright to make a series out of it. I said, “I don’t know. You’re the writer for the plots you mentioned, why are you asking me?”
If you think you can hold it together, if you believe you can achieve your goal, what’s to stop you? Nike has told us time and again, Just Do It.
7. Do not get boxed in. There are certain things that we’ve gotten used to, parameters that have defined what our predecessors have done and how they did things. These are modern times we are in. What was true then may not all be true now. Learn to experiment. Grow with the trend. Don’t think or fret too much about what ifs – what if it doesn’t work, what if it doesn’t get approved. Well, at least you know it won’t work and you know what to do next time. Again, be humble. Accept criticism. You won’t be any less of a person or a writer if you get revisions notes, or even rejections. It’s how you learn.
There are more but these were what we talked about. And I guess, it’s enough to work with. For now. For you.
I’m looking forward to seeing your manuscripts turn into books soon.