Linda Seed, author: Ten Tips from Darynda Jones

Ten Tips from Darynda Jones

Last week I attended a meeting of the San Diego Chapter of the Romance Writers of America, where I met some warm and welcoming women (and one man) who I’m sure will be a wealth of information for me as I learn more about the craft, and the business, of romance writing.

The speaker was Darynda Jones, the New York Times bestselling author of the paranormal mystery series that began with First Grave on the Right and has progressed to The Curse of Tenth Grave. Darynda had some interesting things to say, including her list of Ten Keys to Success for a novelist.

The Ten Keys:

Steal everything. I don’t think she meant that we should literally plagiarize our peers’ work; rather, her point was that everything can and should be a source of inspiration for a writer. Other people’s work can spark ideas for our own, and seeing how other writers handle matters of story and craft can instruct us on how to approach them ourselves.

Learn from rejection and do better. But that doesn’t mean taking to heart every bad review or snarky comment. As writers, we need to accept whatever genuinely useful criticism we receive and use it to improve.

Don’t rest on your laurels. By this, she meant that we need to keep moving and producing. As soon as one thing is finished, start something new.

Never stop learning. I certainly agree with this. Even the best among us (and I’m certainly not the best) have things to learn from other writers, from books on the craft of writing, from classes, and, of course, from reading.

Learn the rules, and then break them. “Make the rules your bitches,” she said. I think this is an important point. How many times are new writers told what they can’t do? You can’t use adverbs. You can’t use omniscient point of view. You can’t have an ambiguous ending. The can’ts go on and on. Well, you can. Of course you can. You’d just better know what the hell you’re doing.

Own it. (“You’re a writer; it’s not just a hobby.”) Now, there’s a bit of advice I can take to heart. When I was in the process of publishing my first novel, I don’t know how many times I told my husband or my kids, “It’s not like I'm a real writer.” I am, though. I wrote a lot of words, and now they’re in book form. That makes me a writer.

Don’t compare yourself to others. (See above.)

Don’t take it personally. Hoo, boy. My novel Moonstone Beach has a review right now on Amazon titled, SETTING THE ONLY THING I LIKED REALLY. And it didn’t get any more positive from there. If I took it personally, I’d probably hide under my comforter with a carton of Ben & Jerry’s. Which isn’t a bad idea now that I think of it.

Get good critique partners and beta readers.

And finally:

Learn how others do it, then do it your way. Look at the books you love, and analyze what went right. Then try to incorporate that into your own work.

I’m looking forward to learning more from the San Diego RWA. And when I do, I’ll report back here.