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What It Takes to be A Writer….

What It Takes to be A Writer….

Have you ever thought of writing that great novel?   Maybe this is on your bucket list. I am happy to share some great tips and her own journey, Atlanta Author, Julia McDermott.

Article Written by: Julia McDermott

Over a dozen years ago, I wrote my first novel, a young adult romance set in France. A year later, I finished the first (rough) draft. I’m a constant editor of my work, revising as I go (not the case for everyone). Before long, though, I realized I needed help to polish my novel before it could be published.

I found a writers’ critique group, began attending it regularly and listened to members’ feedback over the next several months. Later, that novel, MAKE THAT DEUX, was published, along with my first suspense, UNDERWATER. Then I wrote a memoir called ALL THE ABOVE: MY SON’S BATTLE WITH BRAIN CANCER, and another suspense novel, DADDY’S GIRL. Each time I took my work (in sections) to my group and took the advice I found useful, making changes to my work in progress to improve it.

I also attended workshops and classes in an effort to make my work shine and be the best it can be. My short story, “The Riverfest,” is included in anthology DOWN TO THE RIVER, published in April 2019 by Down & Out Books. I’ve also been busy ghostwriting a book for an Atlanta media personality and writing the screenplay adaptation of my nonfiction book. I’m currently working on my next suspense novel, an offshoot of my short story.

I couldn’t have progressed without the help of the authors in my critique group. Below are 12 things I learned from them:

  1. How to construct a story arc, and where elements like plot twists belong (thank you, screenplay writers!)
  2. How to tighten my writing (wordy = bad)
  3. How to write believable (and good) dialogue, and that if you don’t need a tag (“he said”), remove it
  4. What to do when I am stuck (write something – anything!)
  5. How to take suggestions and criticism, and use it to improve my story (thick skin = good)
  6. How to dig deep when writing about my own emotions (see ALL THE ABOVE: My Son’s Battle With Brain Cancer)
  7. That others can see the problems and issues in my writing (everything from typos to story and character inconsistencies) when I can’t
  8. What genre I am writing in, in a particular work (sounds weird, I know, but when I was working on my novel UNDERWATER–originally titled THE PROJECT–and wondered aloud, “What the heck kind of story is this?”, another member immediately responded, “Suspense, of course!”)
  9. That I can learn something from writers of other genres, even if writing in that genre is not something I could ever do
  10. To take out anything that doesn’t move the story forward, and write only what does (“if you don’t need it, take it out”)
  11. That’s it’s okay to write what you know, and use elements from your own experiences in your work
  12. How to “show, don’t tell” (paraphrasing Mark Twain: “Don’t tell me that the fat lady sings–bring her out, and let her sing!”

Julia McDermott

Finalist, Georgia Author of the Year

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