Ah, the holidays. That wonderful time of year when we chase excessive meals with seltzer tablets, spend money we don’t have, push our stress levels to the limit and love every (well, almost every) minute of it. More importantly, it’s the season of giving. Of gifts. To me. Yippee! Which thought brings me to the point of this holiday post: What are the best gifts you can you give the part-time writer in your life? (You know, that misanthrope in the basement who’s always hunched over the keyboard or staring at the ceiling? Yeah, take a minute to go check. I’ll bet they’re still there. I’ll wait.)
You found your writer, I trust? And wiped the drool from his or her chin? Great. So, back to the point. Here are some things you can give your pet writer.
And Now a Moment of Editorial Clarity
Hey, you writers! This post is addressed to the non-writers in your house, but they probably aren’t ever going to see it. If you want to receive any of these gifts for Christmas, or for [insert your holiday here], you probably need to ask for it. You are worthy. Your craft is worthy. Put this stuff on your wish list. Now, back to our regularly scheduled babbling.
With everything else he has going on, the part-time fiction writer is always wishing for more time. Tell your writer you’ll do the cooking this week, or the yard work, or that you’ll just forego whatever time-consumer it is for a period of time, and that the time saved is for writing.
Because she has chosen to be a family person (or, if younger, is forced to be a family person), the part-time fiction writer’s life is often filled with racket. The simple ongoing noise of a household is often enough to pierce even the most sophisticated of white-noise-and-headphones arrangements, the library isn’t always accessible, and the doghouse is distractingly odiferous. Give your writer some quiet time. Get everybody out of the house. Drive her to the library. Declare an hour in which she be treated as though she were sick and napping.
A writing retreat
If you can swing it, give your writer the gift of a writing retreat. This will be a place where the time and quiet are already built in. It will be a place away from home so your writer won’t be tempted or guilted by domestic responsibilities. He will be so grateful you might even talk him into coming home afterward.
Face time and critique by an agent
If you look around, you can find writer’s conferences where (for a fee) your writer can the first part of her manuscript evaluated by real, live literary agent. This is more for folks set on the traditional publishing route, of course, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Even if your writer is going the self-pub route, a professional evaluation could yield some valuable insights. (I highly recommend you do this through a reputable writer’s conference; don’t just pick some “agent” off the internet or something.)
Editing and/or proofing
If your writer’s manuscript is ready for it, get him a package of editing services. The manuscript might need a developmental edit, in which a “book doctor” addresses fundamental issues of story structure, character development and the like, or a copy-editing job, or something in between. Giving this gift might save a book.
Is that manuscript all ready for prime time? If it is, and your writer is going the e-book route, one of the best gifts is a professional formatting job. A bunch of layout errors can make a book look bad, even if it’s great. Help your writer avoid that problem.
A book cover
Everywhere I look, the pros are saying “get a pro to do your book cover!” What with the prevalence of image editing software, your writer might be tempted to do this critical piece of work herself. That is how lousy covers are born. Buy her a nice one.
Okay, this one’s not really a gift. It’s more a lifestyle choice. Just say “that’s good writing,” “go get ‘em tiger,” “you can do it,” or any such phrases on a regular basis, with sincerity. Writers often carry a lot of self-doubt and some simple support helps a lot. Practice in the mirror if you need to.
Constructive criticism is even more valuable than encouragement. If a story is going wrong, your writer needs to know. Be straightforward without being harsh. This gift is as likely as editing and proofing to save a book.
Books about writing
Books about craft are always welcome. Try Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success, by K.M. Weiland, Story Engineering, by Larry Brooks, Nail Your Novel, by Roz Morris, or Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition, by Renni Browne and Dave King.
A nice bottle of whatever
After an intense session of writing, there’s nothing like a wee dram of your favorite hootch. If your writer isn’t the hootchy type, then bake them a cake. If they don’t do cake, you’re on your own.
Happy holidays! See you next time.