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We have something a little different this month. A reader sent in a question for Mann Ramblings that we’ll start the feature with. @Mann Ramblings • If you could tell your younger writing-self anything, what would it be? • • • Ok. Here's my answer: You're not an erotic author. You're an author. Write what you want. Let the boys get raunchy, and sometimes beat the hell out of each other. Feel free to kill off the character if it's right for the tale. But temper the sensational aspects. Too much sex or hyper-violence will unbalance a story and they'll never let you forget that one scene. You're going to hate some of your old work. Rewriting an entire novel is a bitch, but you may do it anyways. • • • • • Considering how much I’ve benefitted from his experience when he edits my work, I found both the question and the answer fascinating. So much so, I decided to pose the same one to a few of our Signature Authors. We can all benefit from their experience. • • • • • @Cia • If you could tell your younger writing-self anything, what would it be? • • • Let's see, how about, "Don't stop writing so you forget how to do all this." As a teen I wrote fantasy stories, but then I stopped. Picking it up again as an adult meant relearning a lot of rules I'd let myself forget because, frankly, you don't write dialogue when you are writing purchase orders or grocery lists. Good thing, I guess, since it would take up a lot of room to write "Your daughter's stinky butt needs more diapers because you're running scary low and she exploded three times!" the babysitter said or "Milk, you always forget you need more milk," her husband reminds her. It'd take forever to cross everything off the huge list I'd be dragging along behind me through the store! • • • • • @Valkyrie • If you could tell your younger writing-self anything, what would it be? • • • I would tell my younger self to write more. I dabbled in writing in my youth and never finished a longer story until I joined GA. I wrote more poetry vs prose back then. When I tried writing longer works, I'd get bogged down in trying to make it 'perfect', so the biggest piece of advice I would give my younger self would be to relax and simply write, and not worry about revising as I go • • • • • @Graeme • If you could tell your younger writing-self anything, what would it be? • • • Firstly, listen to your editor. I've been lucky in that I've had a number of experienced editors over my writing time, but when I started I didn't listen as much as I should have. In hindsight, they were correct with their observations, but it took me some time before I accepted what they were saying. Along the same lines, I would tell myself the advice I received later on in my writing, and that's to always keep in mind the end goal. Work out how you want the story to end, and then write in that direction. Don't lose sight of that goal, because that's how you can write yourself into a corner. If you know where you're headed, that will help remind you to leave an escape route to allow you to get to that goal. Meandering on your way to the goal is fine, but don't forget where you want to finish while you wander. Finally, don't be afraid to try new things. Some will work, some won't, but even the failures will teach you something. • • • • • @CassieQ • If you could tell your younger writing-self anything, what would it be? • • • Set realistic goals. I started writing with the idea of completing full novel-length works when I was in high school. I sucked at it. I went for years without being able to complete a full novel length work and I grew incredibly frustrated with myself and thought maybe I just didn't have it in me to be a writer. I think it was around 2004 when I found NaNoWriMo and managed to pull off my first full length work in a reasonable amount of time. I had been setting deadlines, but they were super vague, like “I’m going to finish this novel by the end of the year” or “I’m going to have this done by the end of the summer” but without really laying down a plan or breaking a huge task (finishing a novel) into smaller goals. NaNoWriMo’s daily word count goals were like magic. It taught me how to break down a 50,000-word project into ~1,500 words per day. Right now NaNoWriMo is a bit too ambitious to fit in with my current schedule, but it helped immensely to help develop realistic writing goals when I was working on later works, especially longer pieces like Reach, Not The Sun and Geeks. • • • • • @CarlHoliday • If you could tell your younger writing-self anything, what would it be? • • • Your writing mentor gave you a list of authors to read and those not to read. Now, you need to read all of their works. Plus, go back to school and take all the writing and literature courses you can. Don't force your writing. Let your voice come out naturally through your reading, studying, and practice writing the kinds of stories you read. • • • • • I’ll finish the month off with one of the questions still remaining from a previous feature. • • • • • @Geron Kees • What reform do you most admire? • • • I would have to say that the word reform draws me in two different directions. As mostly used today in the broad sense in our country, the word means very little to me. We live in an age where words have attained new power as manipulative tools, specifically selected and used to make unpopular or unbeneficial things sound more palatable. The word reform is spat out in connection with every change that those behind the change want to sound wonderful - tax reform, health care reform, social reform - but the truth is that it is misused in most instances. The word reform, used as a noun, has a dictionary meaning of: "a change for the better as a result of correcting abuses; a campaign aimed to correct abuses or malpractices; a self-improvement in behavior or morals by abandoning some vice." All definitions point to a change for the better and/or the correction of some level of abuse or evil. In the times we live in, the word is a mask for changes that do not benefit society or the individual that lives within it. Or, shall we say, not the average person that lives within it. Most changes these days touted as reforms benefit a select few. The complete absence of real truth in political and corporate America today is frightening. Here is where reform is needed, but where, historically, it never happens, until the type of upheaval we all dread occurs. On the other hand, personal reform, as in, how can I better myself, is entirely another matter. Here is a use of the word I can actually control. In reference to myself, it really is about positive change, and it requires a change that most people - but especially me - feels betters my life and the lives of those around me. I have always been a person that, once focused on a troubling aspect of my life, takes steps to correct it. So in that area, I embrace reform, both as a word and as an action. I prefer to like myself every day of the week, and not just on Sundays, like so many others seem to do these days. You asked, and I answered. • • • If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? • "You're the last to arrive. Everyone will be delighted to see you again!" • • • • • That’s it for March! Tune in again next month. In the meantime, send me your questions, and I’ll chase the authors down to get a response. Namaste