Today, I wanted to take a little detour off our beaten track and look at some lessons I’ve learned as a wandering writer through this big, bad field of publishing. Hopefully, something here can help you, too!
Right, let’s have at it – the top ten lessons I’ve learned so far:
1. Developing your writing craft means learning something new every day. There will always be something you don’t know. Always. Invest in your book and your career by going and squirreling it out. The best resource? Your fellow writers…and I have to say, Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel is one of my favorites!
2. It’s okay to be jealous, envious and downhearted…however, it is not okay to stamp on someone’s parade, to wallow in these feelings, or let them make you bitter. We’re human. Be kind to yourself and don’t feel guilty if someone gets a book deal/agent/etc and you’ve been working 2 years longer than them and haven’t gotten there yet. Feel your feelings, and then cheer the other writer on. We all have our own path (as grueling as it can sometimes be). And that turmoil can be funneled into your book, too!
3. Trust your gut. When you’re writing, editing, talking to other writers, dealing with an agent or editor…if something tells you “no” in your gut, trust it. You’ll rarely be wrong.
4. You are not inadequate. Seriously. You’re not. Sure, you might have something more you have to learn. But you do not suck. You are amazing. You are writing a book. Do you know, like really, really know, how many people can’t do that? Haven’t even tried? Be kind to yourself. Recognize your focus, determination and inspiration for what it is.
5. Adjectives are from the devil…but some are worth a whole honey pot full of gold. Pick them very, very carefully. But you don’t have to avoid every last one on the planet.
6. It’s in the details. Think about your book and the real emotion – it’s not all shaking hands and beating hearts. It’s in the things unsaid, the looks avoided, the stutter of a word, the loss of something sentimental, it’s the replaying of an encounter… So when you’re writing emotion, don’t just think of physical reactions. Think of the details.
7. Voice is not impossible. Everyone hears it, no one knows how to do it. But it’s not true. You have voice. What stops it coming through in your writing? Two things: lack of confidence, and lack of intention. Look at your writing and ask yourself: why am I using that particular word? What does it say about my character? Why am I using this style? Why this sentence construction?
8. Don’t be afraid to not write. Writing is often “butt in chair” on the writing ethic. And while I agree with that and do apply it myself, I also allow myself some wiggle room. Even on deadline, I let myself have a little breather and I don’t feel guilty about it!!! Yup. You need a break, you need to play on Twitter, you need to watch youtube videos until your eyes bleed…do it and let it be fun, not a guilty pleasure. And then get back to writing with a positive, relaxed mind frame.
9. Write with intention. Decide why you want to write a chapter, a scene, a character, a particular setting, a theme. Now, you don’t have to do this on the first draft if you don’t want to. You can do it in your edit if that’s your thing (that’s my thing!).
10. Be KIND to yourself. I know, I know, you hear it all the time. But if you’re not kind, you get anxious, lose your confidence, second guess yourself…and guess what? You end up not loving writing. Writing can be grueling at times if you’re aiming to be published, and you being down on yourself is only going to make it worse. I want you all to truly recognize how amazing you are and how much of a massive difference people like you, writers, make to the world.
Now, all that said, if you ever have a question, just drop me a message in any of the comments on any of the posts, and I’ll find it.
Remember, this isn’t a competition against one another. This is a community and we all want to get great books out there!