I’ve been writing since I was 8 years old, so in that VERY long time, here’s some of the things I’ve learnt.
01 Writing takes practice
Of course it takes practice. It’s like anything, you can bring all the talent you have to a creative endeavour, but if you are going to progress you need to practice.
Skill is developed and it needs space and time to grow. I am actually saddened when I see new writers who say “I’ve started writing a novel,” and then a month later they are publishing it.
I am sure there are the odd savants out there who can churn out a novel and edit it brilliantly within a month, leaving them with a masterpiece. Let me just say, I haven’t come across any yet. Writing needs patient, time and a helluva lot of blood, sweat and tears.
If you are letting your work out without several edits, including at least one (from someone other than yourself, preferably a professional) then you might be doing your writing (and your readers) a disservice.
02 Take it seriously
Because believe me there are enough people around you who won’t. They will steal your writing time with unnecessary interruptions, consider it a “phase” and laugh if you tell them you plan on being a full time writer one day.
And just to be clear, if you do manage to be a full time writer – their attitude may still not change. There are plenty of authors who write full time and are still considered “just playing” at the writing game, by their family and friends.
So you need to take it seriously. You need to decide if you want to just write as a hobby or as a passionate career. If the latter, then start defending those writing days.
03 Writing is a business
Following on from point 2, if you are looking at making writing your career then you need to start accepting that, with all the art there needs to be some splashes of business.
Nope, that doesn’t mean printing up a 100 business cards and passing them out to everyone who ever smiles at you.
It means understanding how to market yourself and your work, looking at the financial side and learning to budget. Writing is not just about making money when you turn it into a career.
It’s a business and like almost all businesses, you need a little capital. You might need to pay for an advert, pay for a book cover artist (please do! Most “home-made” covers are really not good), hire an editor, buy your domain name etc.
As someone who runs their own business I can tell you it’s best to learn about this stuff early and have systems in place before you need them. How you keep records of your sales, your invoices, your expenses – these are things you can be learning now.
Check out these two videos by authors who self published compared to traditionally published. Because there are costs for both.
04 There is never enough time
Writing takes a lot of time. There is plotting and planning, writing, building worlds, editing, weedling out errors and consistency issues, searching for beta readers, networking, brand creation….
Seriously it goes on and on. Add to that the rest of your life and things can get ugly. After all, we’d rather write than do ironing or run errands or argue with the boiler repair man… but all these “non-writing” things keep stealing fragments of our time.
In order to let creative juices flow (wow does that sound dirty), I like to make a list in my diary of things I need to get done. I like to keep my diary evenly spaced throughout the week so it roughly gives me equal amounts of writing time each day.
A good method is to write down the writing you want to get done. Was there a specific scene you wanted to complete? Or how about 2 hours research on medieval weaponry?
If you know what needs to get done you can plan for it, schedule it in and it can help to avoid Creative Constipation. Then you can happily leap to your desk/bed/couch/flying carpet (wherever it is you write) and know exactly what you need to do, to have a successful day.
05 You’re going to f#ck up / fail
That’s okay, we all do. We all fail at things and make glaringly embarrassing errors. It’s part of the learning process. The trick is to understand that success is not a single street you walk down.
It’s a messy maze that can take several dead ends and obstacles in the way before you achieve what you want.
The failure is when you find the dead end or the obstacle, sit down before it and says “I’ve failed.”
Every f#ck up is a chance to learn. I’m big on learning. If you don’t learn from the mistake you are never going to develop.
06 You need a thick skin
Someone out there in the “real world” (horrid place, I really try to avoid it!) hates your book. Yep, the book you may not have even written yet, is going to be hated by someone, perhaps a lot of someones.
Suck it up, Buttercup because that’s life. If everyone loved your work, you’d have your own religion or at least your own network cable show.
You’re going to get bad reviews, someone might even reach out to you to tell you personally how much they hate the drivel you wrote.
But that’s okay, because you didn’t write it for them. There will be people who love your book, who will fall in love with your characters and your book will be their favourite place to be.
Not going to lie, my skin isn’t that thick. But I’m working on it and will continue to do so. Usually under the watchful eye of my partner who knows when I’m about to go nuclear.
07 The muse will hit you at the worst moments
Mine likes to do some kind of sneak attack ninja-style when I’m driving. In rush hour. Early morning. Yeah, she’s a bitch like that.
So whether you get hijacked on your morning commute or get woken up with ideas in the dead of night, you better be ready to get those ideas down.
Because the last thing you want is to be left without any means of giving that idea life before the muse slips away to pass it to another writer. And your left clutching at the echo of an idea that you just… can’t remember.
08 Sometimes the best has to go
I’ve cried about this. One of my manuscripts had an awesome scene that I loved. Characters were great, idea was solid, dialogue and description just flowed.
Problem was it totally ruined the flow of the rest of the novel. It was a new set of characters that I had hoped to weave within the story in the first novel. But it was like the Ugly stepsister trying on the glass slipper.
So it got cut (to hopefully appear in the second book, but I’m not even sure it will work there)
You can ruin a plot by forcing something that shouldn’t be. Be ruthless with yourself, really see if what you have included – be it a scene, subplot, character, pet cricket, really works for the story.
09 Writing can be lonely
We are mostly solitary creatures, we hide away in our burrows, shunning the real world in order to play in the fake ones we’ve created. Our minds are littered with imaginary friends (characters) who we can relate to more so than some real people.
Now while the life of a hermit can be quite attractive to the creative types, it’s not always healthy. The problem is, making connections isn’t easy.
This is why writing groups can be useful, or forums or even just finding another blog and reaching out to the author. Terrifying I know, but if I can manage it, with my severe anxiety, then you can to. Trust me.
So strive to make friends, make connections and help each other. I’ve said it a lot but it always needs saying – we are not in competition with each other. Only ourselves.
10 Writing is awesome
Seriously, for those of us who have been drawn to this life, who have ink in our blood and a need for home-made reality, it is a necessity. It is so important, that to miss days of writing can leave us feeling moody and forlorn.
We are writers and it was what we were born to be. *starts epic theme music*
Over to you my awesome readers, what wisdom have you learnt from being a writer? Answers on a postcard. Just kidding! Drop ’em in the comments 🙂
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