Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Do You Really Want To Throw That Away?

I don’t like to throw things away, unless I find absolutely no use for them and they’re cluttering up my space in some manner. My environment must be neat, with no extra trash or litter lying around my desk or my workspace (or my kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, or garage.) So, last week, I tackled the dreaded “Folders filled with important articles about writing I might use one day.”

The astounding number of printed/copied articles stared me in the face. I lugged numerous folders—those plastic kind with pockets—to my kitchen island so I could go through each one. My first thought was: “I’ll just empty these, remove paper clips and staples, stack it all up, and carry it to the garage to the recycle container for paper.”

Instead, one caught my eye. “Mmm,” I thought, “I don’t remember this one.” And I sat at the island and read it. Another looked interesting, so I read that. After an hour, I had a new stack of articles to save—once again.

I’d love to tell you about every one of these great re-saved articles. Instead, I chose the top five. Drum roll, please.
#5- The Element’s of Style, by Stanley Bing, FORTUNE, August 20, 2007. Stanley writes: “So anyways, I’m having this discussion with a bunch of folks about how’s it matter whether a person knows the difference between you and me vs. you or I in a sentence and the whole subject of correct use of the English language comes up, and boy, do people get hot.”

(Do you see why I love this article? Celia)

#4-How to Lure Readers to Chapter 2, by Les Edgerton, Writer’s Digest. Les writes: “It’s a well-known fact that a tremendous number of manuscripts never get read by agents and editors. Wait. Amend that to: A tremendous number of possible good and even brilliant novels and short stories and other literary forms never get read beyond the first few paragraphs or pages by agents or editors. Why?”
(Les Edgerton’s book Hooked is one of favorites. Celia)

#3-Blinded by the Light, by Leigh Anne Jasheway-Bryant, Writer’s Digest. Leigh Anne writes: “Don’t let your creativity get in the way of your productivity. Here are nine tips for overcoming Too Many Ideas Syndrome.”
(An excellent article written with humor. Celia.)

#2-Getting Your Act Together, by Ridley Pearson, Writer’s Digest. Ridley writes: “Do as the Greeks did: Use this time-honored method to give form to your fiction.”
(This idea is so simple, it’s brilliant. I’ve re-read it more than once. Celia)

And…#1-Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules of Writing: Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle, from the New York Times, Writers on Writing Series, October 1, 2008 when he turned 83. Elmore writes: “Being a good author is a disappearing act.”
(I’ve worn out this one printed page with the ten rules of writing. I received it from an author who judged one of my RWA contest entries. She gave me a high score and highlighted four of the ten for me to study in detail. I have been forever grateful. Celia)
Notice all these articles are rather old. However, so far, I've not found many articles lately that I'd choose to keep. However, all these are on paper. I do have a file in my computer titled: "Articles Worth Keeping." Maybe I'll clean out that file another day.
On the other hand, they're not clutter like paper is.

 Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas
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  1. I have tons of advice articles, as well as tons of books from Writers Digest Book Club, for just in case I want to actually sit down and read them and learn something.

    Morgan Mandel

  2. I fall into the same situation, Celia. I have mind in binders -- and there are a lot of them. I can't remember ever looking at any of them after I saved them. Too many things and so little time. I HATE to toss anything, but there comes a time when it is necessary.

  3. Hi, Morgan--If I throw any away, I'll surely need it a month from now. Me, too...I keep a lot of stuff.

  4. Paisley--I have looked at mine at times. It has been a while, though. But as I said to Morgan--if I throw it out, I'll want it tomorrow.

  5. Celia, I'm laughing so hard because I've been doing the same since yesterday. I emptied a huge box and I'm looking at folders and folders of articles. Should I throw, keep, give it to a beginner writer? Meanwhile my office is a mess. The cleaning that should have taken two hours is well on its third day.

  6. Hi Celia,

    Like you, I have lots of articles - and books - on writing. Because it took me so long to "break in" I kept assuming I was doing something wrong. Looking back, I see I was at least an A- in all categories except voice. And back then I didn't know what voice was. Now I do. And the only way I found my voice was to keep on writing.

    Every now and again I'll find a plotting form or a characterization guide (I have tons of these!) and I'll look at it with interest, the way you might gaze at an expensive blouse in a store. But then I realize that my way is the way that works for me.

    I suspect the same is true for you.

    Good thought-provoking post!


  7. Mona--this is incredible. I do suppose great minds think alike. Cleaning our files of saved articles is like cleaning out our closets. Just as surely as you give that sweater away to Goodwill, you'll wish you had it.
    Same with articles.
    Probably, most authors are packrats...we save and collect...books, articles, essays...just in case one holds a magical gem to help us with that break-through!
    But for you to be doing this, too, is just so great...very coincidental.
    Thanks for the laugh, too! I wish I could go through your files!

  8. Maggie--my lands, the trait must be inherent to all authors.
    Voice..funny, I was told early on I had a true "voice," and that it was unique to me. The trouble was I had no idea what that was. Now I sort of do, but I don't think about it because...I might jinx it. I just write as I always have.
    For me...the glitch was "POV." You don't know how long I struggled with POV, and wondered why I should.
    One kind friend/author told me, don't day you will get it like a light bulb coming on.
    And, by golly, she was right.
    Some do not believe in POV...they explain that they write in a..what's the word...universal? or maybe omniscient manner. The "see all-know all" kind. Each paragraph can be some other character...and sometimes switch within a paragraph. I'm telling you, it drives me crazy.
    You've definitely found your voice. True Southern, and True Maggie Toussaint.
    And like you...I do it my way.

  9. I used to keep articles (and writing magazines) but when I realised I never looked at them again, I forced myself to be ruthless and ditch them all!
    Regarding POV, when I first started writing the 'rule' was heroine's POV only. It's so ingrained in me that now I find it difficult at times knowing when to switch POV to the hero!

  10. I did exactly the same thing last month only mine was magazines for writers: Writer's Digest and RWR. It took a while to get through all of them, but I did and took out the articles I knew I would reference over and over. I punched holes in them and put them together with a metal clip to form a sort of book. All those magazines were reduced to one book only about a half inch thick. I put them in a filing cabinet beside my desk so they are within easy reach without cluttering up my space.
    I enjoyed your article.

  11. Oh, this one hit home, Celia. I'm a pack rat but also a neatnik, so I keep and file away and never look at them again. I love what Sarah did. It sounds very productive and usable. And these sources you have mentioned all sound worth reading and keeping. I'm sure I'd be a better writer if I read and practiced what they teach.

  12. Celia, I have a similiar pile and no time to go through it! Sounds like you saved important stuff though. Thankfully it hasn't taken over my work space yet. I have Les' book "Hooked," too. I think every author worth their salt has a pile of "tips' like that somewhere. LOL!


  13. Paula--I've heard others say they learned only the heroine's POV was acceptable. That is weird, but it's interesting how all these rules change over just a short period of time. My first book--I had three POVs..hero, heroine, and villian (the mother-in-law.) The editor deleted everthing in her POV, which removed about 1/4 of the book and which gutted the story. I pleaded my case, and the owner said, okay, three POVs because the villian is so good and drives the story. Wow...that was a real learning point for me.

  14. Sarah...I also had a big stack of magazine from RWR, but I dropped my membership. Before throwing out the magazines, I went through each one and tore out good articles. I still have a few.
    It's hard to throw out something that you think...I might need that.

  15. Linda--I'm a kind of pack rat...but since I don't like clutter, I can throw out. But some of these articles are just too good and basic.
    Yeah, and me, too...I wish I could take to heart all that good advice.

  16. Steph--you have "Hooked," too? I love that little book. It really has some extraordinary tips on the first line, first paragraph, first page, or first chapter. Excellent book.