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Five Things I Learned About Writing in 2014
Written by
Kamy Wicoff
December 2014
Written by
Kamy Wicoff
December 2014

1) Revision! Revision! (Sing to the tune of "Tradition" from Fiddler on the Roof.) In December of 2013, my dear friend and editor of many years Amy Fox gave me notes on a manuscript I thought only needed polishing. As it turns out, it needed to be cut by 25,000 words. I cried, I denied, and then, over the first two months of 2014, I got it done. The lesson? Revision is not something you do when you are done writing. It IS writing, at its core. 

2) Copyeditors are King. (If they are any good.) I have a confession to make. Until this spring, I didn't really understand the difference between an editor and a copyeditor. Now I do. Karen Sherman, who is the most thorough, smart, writerly-dignity-saving copyeditor ever (I shudder to think what she'd do to this sentence), showed me exactly what copyeditors do at their best. In a nutshell, they save authors from looking like morons. In a full-length novel, it is so easy to miss the one place you forgot to excise mention of a character who didn't make the final cut, or say Monday when you meant Wednesday, or underestimate the time it would take for somebody to get from one part of Manhattan to another when traveling by cab. Karen saved me from errors like these and many more, bringing a careful eye, grammatical rigor, and good old common sense to bear upon every sentence in my book. (In a book about time travel, like mine, this was particularly indispensable.) The lesson? Every author needs a copyeditor, but make sure you get a good one. SWP has a stall of excellent copyeditors, including the aforementioned Karen Sherman.

3) Writing may seem like a solo job, but it takes a village. Because 2014 was, for me, a year focused on finishing a book rather than starting a new one, the number of people--all with distinct expertise and unique perspectives--I needed to get it done was made especially evident to me this year. If you think you can write a book without help, just read (or write) an acknowledgements section. I wrote mine earlier this year, and it was humbling, but also moving, to chronicle just how many talented and generous people I relied on in the process of writing it.

4) What goes around comes around. When it comes blurb-time, the best possible thing you could have done to prepare is to have been generous with other writers yourself. It is much easier to ask someone to read your manuscript (which, make no mistake, is a LOT to ask of anybody) when you've read something of that writer's in the past, or written a review, or even a fan letter. Not when you needed something from that writer, but when that writer needed you. 

5) Writers are like sharks. If they stop writing, they die. Or at least they get really crabby. As I complained in my last post, which I realize was on the whiny side, I am in promotion mode, and when you are promotion mode, it is very hard to find the time you need to write. But find it I must. I am not someone who writes every day, but I am someone who writes most days, and when I'm not writing, I am thinking about it. Not having a quiet, creative world I can dip into when this world gets too chaotic, or too stressful, or just too loud, makes me brittle and restless. It's time to start the next book.

Right after the holidays.

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  • Kamy Wicoff Brainstorming

    Thank you Gwen! I know from our lunch together in New York that you relate to much of this. :) And yes, Brooke, I need to get going. Michele and Lily thank you for sharing your thoughts on this, too.

  • Michele Tracy Berger

    Hi Kamy,

    Great lessons to have learned in 2014. Love #4--generosity in the writing community is absolutely key. It all comes back around. #5 is tweetable and so true!

  • I'm SO glad you wrote about the difficulties we writers face when we're in our promotion mode. And it's also great to hear another writer say she gets crabby when she can't write. My husband is a saint for putting up with my irritability when I can't write. The important thing is finding the balance between promotion and creation. I wish you luck finding it!

  • Gwendolyn Plano

    I relate to everything you've mentioned, Kamy. And, it is easy to lose sight of that which propels us (writing), when we are caught up in the drama of promotion. Thank you for the reminders!

  • Brooke Warner Outlining

    "It's time to start the next book." Yes, awesome! :)

  • Kamy Wicoff Brainstorming

    Susan that makes me feel so good. I literally wept through it and fought till the end, but the book was utterly transformed and SO much better than it would have been if I hadn't swallowed my resistance and done the work. Good luck!

  • Susan Brandt

    I am also bewailing, fighting, and ultimately accepting the 39 pages of notes I received from my fabulous editor. I am reassured to realize I am not the only one to think I was 90% finished only to learn I was facing yet another major revision. Your piece has helped me unclench my jaw and resume the revision process.

  • Kamy Wicoff Brainstorming

    Thanks all, I love to get your take-aways from the year, which gives me hope and inspiration for 2015. And Sikivu, here is the link again, let me know if it works: 

    Karen is one of our copyeditors so you reach out to shewritespress first and then we can connect you...

  • Cynthia M. Dagnal-Myron

    I loved this--as a fellow shark and newcomer to this site. And it made me stop and ponder what I've learned. One thing I learned this year was that "problems" solve themselves if I let go and just keep writing through the tough times. That little voice that has nagged me and nudged me to write almost since I could hold a pen gets lost in the din of self-doubt sometimes. But if I stay with it, and don't get discouraged by the false starts and dead ends, the problems will almost sort themselves out almost magically. The key is not to stop. Never to stop. If that means writing in circles or writing some very bad stuff for a few days, so be it. The good stuff is under all that, waiting for me to "purge" the crazies out!

  • Carole Bumpus

    Having been on the same track and deadlines at the same time, I can completely relate to your thoughts. Don't remember how many words I began with (650 pages) but there was a whole lot of machete usage on my novel before I was finished. Yes, there were tears and more tears but I am so proud of the finished novel.

  • Karen A Szklany Writing

    Yes, it is so important to build into most days the opportunity to write. If I am not writing my blog, or an online article on HubPages, I am researching for a book, or re-reading a dormant manuscript. I have been leading a writer's group at my UU church, around writing as a Spiritual Practice, inspired by Jill Jepson's "Writing a Spirtual Path" web site and weekly inspirations. These keep me honest about myself, and are a path toward getting to know myself on a deeper level. This can only enhance my other writing. 

    So important to write in community and to share my thoughts with others. When I don't have a writer's group to participate in or lead, I feel lost.

    Best of luck with your book promotions!

  • Kathryn Edgecombe

    I find that I write more when I share at least some of my time with other writers.  So most mornings I write a short piece and then call my friend and we share our short pieces and get on with the day.  Once a week I meet up with another writer friend and we workshop pieces of our writing.  Very good to keep me focused and involved.  A bit of a commitment helps.

  • Sikivu Hutchinson

    Can you provide the copyeditor list link again? I clicked onto it and it was broken

  • Lee Lomas

    Writers are like sharks. If they stop writing, they die. Or at least they get really crabby.

    I too get crabby and oftentimes, I am unaware of it, until I am sent to my room (office). 

  • Leslie Johansen Nack

    Thank you for paving the road ahead of me and shining a light on what's to come. I really do appreciate it even if I'm shuddering in my boots right now reading this.  :)  

  • Tracy Krauss

    What an excellent way to end the year. I found this post very encouraging but also no-nonsense. 

  • B. Lynn Goodwin

    Thanks for sharing this, Kamy, and congratulations on bringing your book into the world. Here are two of the many things I learned or relearned this year:

    1. With writing, almost anything is possible--whether you're resolving a problem or writing for publication. In 2014 I was published in 4 anthologies, signed a book contract for my YA, and ran two contests on my e-zine Writer Advice. 

    2. I have the blessing of learning from writers every time we run a contest on Writer Advice,

  • Rebecca Forster

    After 29 books I learned that the craft comes more easily but the inspiration is sometimes fleeting. What I always knew, writing is hard work  and that, if you give it all you have, it is the most satisfying profession in the world.