I remember one exciting day in middle school when the teacher informed my class that we would have a guest speaker. Guests were not uncommon for our school but they were usually the parents of a fellow student coming in to talk about fire safety or why the flu shot was important. This new guest was special. He was published author Sigmund Brouwer. Our library had all his books.
We were told that Mr. Brouwer would be coming to speak to us and to run a workshop. No one knew what a workshop was in grade five but you wouldn't have guessed had you walked by our classroom. It was as if the teacher had told us a famous Hollywood actor was coming. We were going to see and meet a real life author. To the kids in my class it was as if a dinosaur or Superman was stopping by. The excitement was palpable.
Thinking back all these years later I can't recall Mr. Brouwer's talk in detail but I do remember bits of the workshop. He printed out a copy of his recent book and allowed us to finish the sentences, thereby creating our own work. He also offered advice to would be future writers without laughing at our naive ideas and questions (thank you sir). Here are a few pearls of wisdom I still remember to this day.
1) Write Because You Love it
Being an author is hard work. Writing itself is hard and that's just the starting point. Then you need to find an agent, find a publishing house, write and submit cover letters, and receive hundreds of rejection e-mails. I wouldn't wish the pains of writing on my worst enemy. So, if you are going to be an author you had better love what you do. It will make the bad days bearable and the good days better.
2) Start With a Bang
Susan screamed in fright. The airplane started to dive. The car barely missed the cliff. Start your writing with a gripping opening. You want to grab the reader by the shirt and drag them kicking and screaming into the text. Well, perhaps not kicking and screaming but you do want to make an impression. Potential readers will pick up your book if you're lucky and turn to the first page. You have 3-4 sentences to grab them before they put your book back on the shelf. Make those sentences count. Do something exciting with your text.
3) Write What You Know
You may desperately want to write about living life in Japan or being an opera singer in 1900s Paris, France but if you know nothing about Japan and have no historical knowledge of Paris or the Palais Garnier you're in trouble. According to Brouwer you should write what you are familiar with and what you know. If you spent the summer on Manitoulin Island set your story there. If you have trained in Karate for the last five years write a short story about a karate tournament. If you have lived it or it is a part of your life, you have the best view coupled with personal experience. Bring that to your writing and use it to your advantage. Write what you know. (If you're still set on Japan, do your research so that you will eventually know enough to write like an expert; however, nothing beats personal experience).
4) Keep trying. You Will Fail But Eventually You Will Succeed
How many tries did it take Edison before he made the lightbulb? Lots. Let's just say lots. (It was 1,000). Being an author is never easy (see tip number one) and there will be a lot of rejection letters, but if you don't try you'll never be published. So, think positive, practice and learn. Listen to your editor and work hard. Also, to write well you need to read well so dust off that Shakespeare, Donne, Austen and Atwood.
5) Be Creative
Write silly things. Don't be afraid of your imagination. What's the worst that could happen? (I know, I know, movies have taught us never to ask that question but I'm going to ask it anyway). The worst is that your idea is odd or it doesn't work. Well then, you simply try again. What's the best that could happen? You could come up with a great novel, poem or short story.
Well, there you go. Five tips from a great author. I would like to extend my heartfelt thank you for Mr. Brouwer for coming to my school all those years ago and instilling hope and encouragement in a young budding author. I hope his tips help you as well. To look into Mr. Brouwer's work check out his website at http://sigmundbrouwer.com/