Writing Advice for Newbies By Vincent Zandri
Lately, a lot of interviewers have been asking me to lend some advice to newbie writers, especially young people just starting out. So for better or worse, here it is:
1. Stay in school. No writer who has to work three jobs as a dishwasher just to pay his rent ever managed to write the great American novel. Course I could be wrong here.
2. Read everything you can, starting with the classics, the Hemingways, the Faulkners, the Fitzgeralds, the Mailers, the Conrads, the Tolstoys…Skip the Dickens except for Tale of Two Cities. Especially read novels in your favorite genre. If you love noir, read all the Parker, Hammett, Spillane, Huston, and Zandri you can get your hands on. Then read some more.
3. Write like crazy, even if its just character sketches. Learn to pack the biggest punch using the least amount of words possible. And always keep a notebook with you at all times.
4. Be a newspaper reporter first. Write for an editor who demands timely, terse, 100-300 words pieces twice a day. Pieces that require a beginning, a middle and a resolution in the smallest amount of space possible. The job should be extremely low paying, and extremely high pressure. But do it anyway. Not only will you build up clips, but you will learn to work under pressure, when you don’t feel like it, when you’re hung over, when you’ve just found out your girlfriend is sleeping with your best friend behind your back, when an asteroid is approaching planet earth… Trust me, even Hemingway will tell you there is no better training for a would-be novelist.
5. Don’t be a newspaper reporter for too long. 3 to 5 years max. Then become a freelance writer and split your creative time between articles for magazines and newspapers, both online and paper (by 2020 it will be all online), and writing fiction. Write some short stories and try and get them published. Then start your novel. Don’t stop writing the novel until you have a complete draft, even if it’s crap. You can always edit or start another one.
6. Don’t get married or have children. You won’t be able to afford it. Also, for ten years or so, your writing will be both spouse and mistress. You're legal sig other won't be able to compete. have a boyfriend/girlfriend instead.
7. Share an apartment with friends if you can and don’t buy a new car. By a beater.
8. Get a passport and travel to as many destinations as you can. Never stay home for more than a couple of months at a time.
9. Live in Europe for a year. Europeans are different from Americans. They don’t place as a high value on making money the way we do.
10. Persevere, even when the dream seems impossible. Never give up!
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Vincent Zandri is an award-winning novelist, essayist and freelance photojournalist. His novel As Catch Can (Delacorte) was touted in two pre-publication articles by Publishers Weekly and was called “Brilliant” upon its publication by The New York Post. The Boston Herald attributed it as “The most arresting first crime novel to break into print this season.” Other novels include the bestselling, Moonlight Falls,Godchild (Bantam/Dell) and Permanence (NPI). Translated into several languages including Japanese and the Dutch, Zandri’s novels have also been sought out by numerous major movie producers, including Heyday Productions and DreamWorks. Presently he is the author of the blogs, Dangerous Dispatches and Embedded in Africa for Russia Today TV (RT). He also writes for other global publications, including Culture 11, Globalia and Globalspec. Zandri’s nonfiction has appeared in New York Newsday, Hudson Valley Magazine, Game and Fish Magazine and others, while his essays and short fiction have been featured in many journals including Fugue, Maryland Review and Orange Coast Magazine. He holds an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College and is a 2010 International Thriller Writer’s Awards panel judge. Zandri currently divides his time between New York and Europe. He is the drummer for the Albany-based punk band to Blisterz.
His latest book is the bestselling thriller novel, The Remains.
You can visit his website at www.vincentzandri.com or his blog at www.vincentzandri.blogspot.com.