C is for Contract -- the oft-sought golden ticket/brass ring and ultimate goal for the first time writer. A contract, no matter the monetary value, is proof that someone thinks your writing is worth investing time, money, and effort.
C is for Characters -- the people who populate your world and allow you to control their every thought, action, and intent. (Though, if you've written more than say... a page... you know this is never the case. Characters, if done well, develop their own quirks and their own will and trying to make them deviate from where they want to go is harder than bending steel.) Key characters should be three dimensional, with flaws and strengths, no matter how subtle. Smaller roles can be filled by the nameless horde, but that doesn't mean they have to be cardboard cut-outs.
C is for Critique -- not fun to give or get. Getting a critique means that someone's about to poke holes in the bubble you've created around your WIP; they're about to scratch off all the gold leaf you've used to camouflage your mistakes and haul the imperfections into broad daylight. Giving a critique means walking the line between honesty and compassion. I am of the opinion that a harsh critique is more compassionate than letting someone go forward with the false assurance that their work is ready to be seen by professional eyes when it's not. (Translation: I'm a mean 'ol meanie pants.)
C is for Connect -- what you need to do with your reader. You need to craft characters that they can relate to. No matter how deplorable your character, there's usually some way to forge a connection and create sympathy with the reader. (Forge as in build, not falsify -- you do not want anything to ring false with your writing.) If you can't create sympathy, then make your character or world or writing so compelling that the reader hangs around to see what happens to the guy they now love to hate.
C is for Clarity -- Say what you mean and mean what you say. Metaphor is fine, and it should be used when appropriate, but the point behind it should be clear. If no one can understand what you're trying to say, then they'll lose interest. (Either that, or they'll label your novel literary and you'll win the Pulitzer :-P )
C is for Copyright -- if you don't know what that means, then educate yourself. In the US, you own the copyright on your work from the moment it's in a fixed form (be it printed or saved). That's not the same as registering your copyright, but you still own your words in the specific configuration you set them. "Poor Man's Copyright" (the practice of mailing yourself a printout in order to get confirmation from the Post Office of when the book was finished) is a myth. It's no more effective than being able to show your writing history and when you saved your work; it's also not enforceable. Save yourself the postage; your publisher will register copyright when the book's ready.
C is for craft, creation, crazy and compulsion -- If you're writing anything other than a hobby piece or diary entry, then you can't ignore the craft involved. This is more than just words on paper or screen - you're creating a puzzle with words as your pieces and only you know where they need to go to create the final product.
Writing is creation. You're taking a blank space and filling it with something that never existed before. If you don't, then no one will. No matter what you write or how proficient your skill level, you've changed the world as we know it by introducing something that wasn't here yesterday. It's the first ripple in the pond and you have no way of knowing how far the effect will go. No one else can do what you do because no one else knows the story you have to tell.
Writing / writers are crazy. We just are. We talk to and for people who don't exist. We believe in things we cannot see (be it our characters or that elusive contract). We toil in solitude for hours with no guarantee of a payoff at the end of our labor. We can give voices to the silent and fill their mouths with the kind of elegant speech that means people will listen whether they want to or not. Writing can be a tool, a comfort or a weapon, and the writer is the person crazy enough to believe it's all three.
Writing is a compulsion - try and stop; I dare you.
Next time on Josin's Junction -- D is for Deal, Dialogue and Diversity