Today on The Australian Bookshelf we have author Mysti Parker on tour with Bewitching Book Tours. She is promoting her fantasy romance novel, A Ranger’s Tale. Welcome Mysti!
Things I’m Learning, Sometimes The Hard Way
First of all, thank you so much for having me, and I am so happy to be in the Land Down Under, even if only in virtual form! I hope you all will enjoy my post today.
Since the writing bug bit in and carried me off in 2009, I’ve learned several important things about the business of writing. As with most advice, remember that these things can also be carried over into other aspects of life, so I’ll start with:
1. Learn to self-edit. You can’t depend on other people for this. Read your stories out loud to catch things you can’t catch while silently reading. Don’t do this on a bus or in a waiting room or checkout line. Unless you’re Stephen King or Nora Roberts, people really don’t want to hear it yet.
2. Find a critique group. This works best with like-minded writers that share a style similar to yours. Not necessarily the same genre, but people who understand your propensity to use the word “utterly”. Find people who will be honest with you. This isn’t your mother, who’s kept every story you’ve written since you were six and thinks you’re the next J.K. Rowling. Other writers work best for this.
3. Don’t waste money on expensive writing classes. Try some out—both free and paid, and stick to what works. The best learning experience is from writing, reading, and critiquing regularly. Writers helping writers. You don’t need to spend hundreds to do that.
4. Don’t respond badly to negative reviews. I’ve seen a few bad examples of this recently. Yes, it stings when someone points out a flaw in our writing (or any other matter), and the first reaction is to bite back. Resist! When it comes to writing, I live by the mantra, “At least they took the time to read what I wrote.” That’s huge. They could have easily passed over it, but they didn’t. So, respond with a simple, “Thank you.” Give it a day or two, and if you’re still really steamed, message that person privately and ask them what they didn’t like and how they think it could have been improved. Learn and grow from experience!
5. Don’t give up. Writing can be really hard. So can most things we really want to succeed in, but if you want it bad enough, you’ll find a way to make it work. You may never be the next J.K. Rowling (despite what your mom says), but you might actually get a short story or article published, and if you keep going, lo and behold, you’ve written a novel. You’ll get a few fans, sign a few copies, and be quite proud of yourself. You might still have a day job, but very few of us are J.K. Rowling rich.
Now let me show you how my impetuous heroine of A Ranger’s Tale experienced some challenges in her own learning. She failed at being a wizard and a ranger at first and wanted to give up. Let me show you some examples:
Here, Caliphany is practicing her dissertation that will prepare her to take her father’s place in the Mage Academy someday. She’s not quite there yet with her fire magic, as her tutor, Sir Malchior can attest:
[From A Ranger’s Tale, Chapter 3] The blue flame jumped from my hand to the bench, flared and projected itself directly toward Sir Malchior, who raised his head just in time to notice. His eyes flew wide open; he screamed and ducked. The flame hit the stone wall behind him and shook the room. The others flickered and faded until they were gone.
My jaw dropped. “I-I’m sorry. I don’t know what happened. Are you all…?”
Sir Malchior shot from his seat and removed his hand from the top of his head. Smoke rose from the patch of bare scalp and the ring of singed brown hair around it.
“You…are…hopeless!” He stormed out just as my father entered the room. Sir Malchior wagged a finger at him.”Your daughter. Your daughter!”
Father blinked, and then turned his disappointed gaze on me. He winced when the front door slammed. I tried not to cringe. Hands behind his back, he stepped toward me. I swallowed, wishing my mouth wasn’t so dry. I willed my eyes to meet his, framed in the stone of his unsmiling face.
And then here, during her ranger training with Galadin, she’s feeling pretty bad about herself. Luckily, Galadin doesn’t let her give up so easily.
[From A Ranger’s Tale, Chapter 7] I kicked at the dirt. I felt like an idiot. Eight days of training, and what did I have to show for it? Bloody fingers and sore arms.
”…I guess I didn’t expect all this to be so hard.”
Galadin stirred the fire, jamming the iron poker into the flames until sparks flew around us. “Life is hard, but you probably wouldn’t know about that.”
I sat my plate on my knee and stared pointedly at him. “I know very well how hard life is. I’ve lived like a slave for years, toiling over tomes and spell scrolls until I can’t see straight. All for magic that is useless.”
Galadin laughed. “A slave? Let me tell you about being a slave. It’s spending months at sea, at the mercy of the winds and waves. It’s losing everyone you love and having to survive day after day, not knowing where your next meal is coming from. You know nothing of hardship.”
I slammed my plate down on the log bench. “Don’t presume to tell me what I know and what I don’t. I’ve done nothing but disappoint my father since birth. He expects me to be a great wizard, but only within the gilded cage of the city. They monitor my speech, my clothing, my whereabouts, and they want me to marry a man I don’t even like. Maybe your definition of hardship is different than mine, but it makes mine no less real.”
Remorse settled in his green eyes. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be so harsh. I falsely assumed that someone of your station would have had a…well, a somewhat easier life.”
For a moment, I lost myself in his gaze. “It-it could have been an easy life, had I contented myself with that path. Perhaps I was wrong to come here. I’m sorry to have wasted your time.”
“No.” He put a gentle hand on my shoulder. His touch reassured me. “You’re doing well. And you’re not wasting my time. Don’t give up—not yet anyway. I won’t if you won’t.”
I sighed and tried to smile. “All right. I won’t give up.”
See? Even fantasy women have a hard time succeeding, but it’s worth it in the end. What are you striving to succeed in? Are there times you want to throw in the towel? How do you pick yourself up and start again? Feel free to answer in the comments below!
Thank you Mysti for being a guest on The Australian Bookshelf. If you have any questions for Mysti please leave a comment below. Click on the link to read my review of Mysti’s novel, A Ranger’s Tale.