Welcome back to The Five, the blog series in which writers/authors share five lessons they learned from writing and publishing. These gifted writers come from different walks of life and write in various genres. I'm grateful to them for so graciously sharing their knowledge, wisdom, and craft. It's intended for aspiring and/or seasoned writers.
Today's author is my good friend, Mark Miller.
M. Mark Miller grew up on a ranch in Southwest Montana where the rugged Tobacco Root Mountains carve a jagged skyline in the Jefferson River Valley. As a boy, he played with farm machinery like tractors, grain combines and hay rakes, and farm animals like horses, cows, and chickens. When he was 10 his father gave him a heifer calf. He worked on the ranch for the right to keep the calf and her offspring there, and he eventually accumulated a beef herd that helped him pay for college. His earliest memories are of his grandmother telling about her trip to the park in 1909 and her father and grandfather’s trip there in 1882. Miller has capitalized on his life-long interest in Yellowstone history to assemble anthologies and write fiction and literary non-fiction. Miller is working on a memoir about his years as an undergraduate at the University of Montana, 1963-68. Those were turbulent times when students first organized to protest racism and the Vietnam War, as well as, curfews and dress codes for women.
Without further ado, here is Mark's five tips for writers:
1. Thinking about writing is not writing. You have to put your fingers on the keyboard and make words—lots of words.
2. Never try to write a book. Just aim for a manageable chunk: chapter, section or scene—something with a beginning, middle and end so you know when you’ve finished it. When you’ve finished a chunk take a break. If it’s short like a scene, just a few minutes; if it’s medium like a section, an hour or so, and if it’s long like a chapter, take a day or so. Then repeat. It’ll add up to a book soon enough.
3. You don’t have to write every day, but you do have to write regularly while you’re on a project. If you take too much time off you'll waste time remembering where you are in the story.
4. Pace yourself. If you push for too many words in a day for too many days in a row, you’ll drain your wellspring of creativity. If you run that well dry it will take a long time to recharge.
5. When the muses speak to you take dictation. When the muses don’t speak write anyway. That’s how you summon them.
Bonus: Do as I say, not as I do.
I'm an author of commercial women's fiction and a writing instructor. My claim to fame: I can say the alphabet backwards.