Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Secret of Writing Success

"80% of success is showing up." ~Woody Allen

What about success in writing? I think the Woody Allen quote holds up here, too, although I’m not sure it’s wise to trust a guy who married his stepdaughter (or was it his granddaughter? Either way, creepy).

Making time for writing, showing up with some type of consistency at a time and place conducive to putting words on paper (or on screen) helps. For me it’s Mondays and Saturday mornings and whatever other spare time I can fit in. Some days it’s an hour before bed or an hour when I first rise. Occasionally I write over lunch. How about for you?

Another important factor for success in writing, I think, is to surround yourself with supportive people, especially people who love reading and writing.

I’ve decided to dedicate this blog post to those people who encourage and support my writing fix in one way or another. If you’re one of them, this blog is for you. If you are a writer—who are those people in your writing corner, helping you succeed?

Thanks first to my spouse (and my sometimes writing widow) Brenda. If showing up gives you an 80% success rate, I have also heard in more than one place that 90% of happiness in marriage is marrying the right person. I’m thankful I did. My wife is a great spouse in many ways, but I’m extra lucky in that she supports my desire to write and also is happy to look over my writing from time to time and give me feedback. Fortunately she’s also a pretty good editor and catches some of the little things I miss in my own work. Single writers: If you are dating someone and they are willing to critique your work (and hopefully in a kind, or at least honest, way) you may have yourself a keeper.

Thanks next to the folks at my day job who allow me the flexibility to work a shorter work week so that I can pursue my dream. There are many work places that would look down on someone who has a pursuit they love outside their job—my workplace is not one of them. Sure, I’m the office IT guy, but I appreciate it when my coworkers ask about my book in progress or ask me questions about writing. I’m lucky to be where I’m at.

Thank you also to my friends and family, both volunteer readers and writers alike (you know who you are). There is nothing that bonds a friendship like sharing writing back and forth across the years and miles. I’m glad we have this in common. (Special shout-out to Peter who says he has some writing feedback in the mail for me this week!)

And of course where would I be without my fellow writing critique group? Yes, you Scribblerati or Sparkle Death Rabbit, or whatever we call ourselves these days. To have a group of brutally honest writers (and I do mean brutal ☺) at your disposal to discuss writing and get feedback from is invaluable. I know over the past year+ I’ve grown a lot thanks to the critiquing process and being surrounded by some other up-and-coming great writers who offer unique perspectives. Thank you!

I’ll mention just one more writer “support group” that I’d highly recommend:
The Loft.
This Twin Cities-based writing academy has been an invaluable resource for me as a developing writer. We are lucky to have such a resource in Minneapolis, let alone in our state. I’ve taken close to twenty writing classes and workshops over the past many years and know it has helped me grow many ways as a writer. The critique group I’m in all met thanks to The Loft. The first few appearances of my book’s protagonist, Blackheart, appeared to me in writing exercises during various classes. The Loft has their Fall calendar up now if you are interested:
I highly recommend you check them out, whether or not you are a beginning or advanced writer (I’ll be taking a couple more classes there myself come September).

Some instructors (novel) I’ve really enjoyed are: Mary Gardener (, and Mary Carol Moore (

BLACKHEART Progress: Editing, editing, editing
I took a “vacation day” today from work, and most of it (about six hours) was spent at my writing desk, hashing away at BLACKHEART Chapter 10, one of the more troublesome chapters in my manuscript. I’m pleased to report that when this chapter is completed (I’m hoping it’ll be done Saturday) I’ll be almost to the halfway mark in this revision.

The interesting thing to me is how much of revising is cutting. I keep a “parking lot” of cut and pasted pieces that I’ve removed from my manuscript (so far) as I edit. This certainly doesn’t include everything, especially not little changes, but right now it contains a word count of almost 16,000 words (!) that have been removed from my book in the name of making it better (out of my now 110,000 word manuscript). This also doesn’t include a couple scenes that I really love that no longer fit in the story. Sigh.

Oh well. If you are looking for me I’ll probably be at my desk, revising. Until next time!


“There are no great writers, only great re-writers.” ~Hemingway


briggslib said...

It takes a writing village. And thank God. Writing, for all its solace and catharsis qualities, is lonely work. We all need the support of those around us.

Jon said...

Nice post, Mark! It's been great working together on our stuff... three years now? I feel like I've improved because of it and I can see that you have. I can't wait to read more.