-Original post published May of 2015-
Advice for Writers
One of my readers on Wattpad recently asked if I had any advice for writers, and while I feel unqualified to give advice on many aspects of writing, I can certainly relay advice I’ve taken to heart and add my two cents. So here goes…
1. You’re a writer starting right now. Own it.
I have tried writing before and could never get into it until a couple of years ago when I decided that I would share my journey as a writer with the world via social media. You don’t have to go crazy with it, you can begin slowly so as to ease yourself into the world of writing like I did with a few mild tweets, but you have to do this. This is step 1.
You have to own your title as a writer. The best piece of advice I got on this matter was to write an affirmation. Post it somewhere where you will see it every day. Mine is on my desk at work, and it says, “I am a writer. Writing is my art.” I look at it when I’m having a rough day or when I am feeling stressed about writing. It’s a kind reminder that I not only CAN write, but I can write beautifully.
2. After you label yourself as a writer and you receive your inevitable first few rejections, don’t beat yourself up.
For a while I wasn’t sure if I could really pull off calling myself a writer, because I hadn’t been published. I felt like I was writing good stories (and I still do), so I wasn’t sure why no one wanted them. I began to wonder if I was really a writer, and started asking myself, “Can I really call myself a writer if I don’t have any readers?”
The answer is YES. You can. One day you will have readers, but you won’t ever get there if you stop writing. And maybe not every story you write will be published, and that’s okay. It doesn’t make you any less of a writer, in fact, it’s more like a rite of passage.
I read once, and I really wish I remembered which author this was, that a famous author kept all of his (or her) rejection letters on a wall in his (or her) apartment. At first I thought, “Well, that’s depressing,” but then I got to thinking about it… If you have rejection letters, that means you’re trying. You’re writing and you’re putting your writing out there, which I think is incredibly courageous.
So don’t lose hope. Rejection happens to everyone. Keep writing.
3. All first drafts are crap.
One of the most freeing things I ever learned as a writer was that all first drafts are crap. Once I learned this, I felt free to just write and write and write. I wasn’t caught up in my own head, and I wasn’t getting down on myself for not being the most amazing writer in my first drafts.
My readers on Wattpad always ask me how I can be such an amazing writer, to which I tell them, “I’m not. I write my books and then I edit the crap out of them.” Literally.
I am currently writing the 3rd book of The Deathless Trilogy, and my readers are dying to read it. But there is still no way they are looking at my first draft. It’s a mess! But I allow it to be a mess. I allow myself to work through the story. Your first draft is never going to be the draft that’s published (nor should it be), and that’s okay.
4. Just write.
Stop waiting for the right time or the right idea. There’s no such thing. Just do it, and it will come to you, even if you’re just writing short stories in a journal each day. Writing is a muscle, and if you don’t work it, you lose it.
Don’t worry about what others will say or whether or not it’s good. Start writing just for you, and once you start to feel a little more confident, start considering your audience. But at first, write for yourself first.
Try keeping a diary. You can remember situations and feelings you can use later for characters WHILE you write for only yourself. I kept a diary all through middle and high school, and you know where I go to for inspiration now? You got it–my diary.
5. When writing any story, have an ending in mind.
Having an ending in mind allows you to insert some of those deeper, richer layers into your writing, like foreshadowing. It also helps you develop your character arc, and plot. An ending is a finish line, a goal, and having it in mind–even if you have nothing else planned–will be like an anchor, pulling you deeper into your story as you write it.
For my first book in The Deathless Trilogy, all I began writing with was a first scene image and a final scene image. With those in mind, I filled in the rest, but having my final scene in mind helped me figure out everything along the way.
6. Speaking of endings, finish your writing.
You have no idea how many unfinished manuscripts are posted on Wattpad right now, and many of them have fantastic concepts that were never carried through to an end. Think of all the potential!
Endings are hard, I get that, and writing takes some serious stamina, but you have to do it! You can’t start to understand storytelling without writing endings. Besides, once you type the period of that last sentence of your manuscript, you can sit back and marvel at what you just accomplished.
So seriously, finish your writing.
7. Protect your writing time from others and yourself.
Obviously you need to go to work or school, you need to have some sort of social life, and you need to have some time for yourself. But if you want to be a writer, you also need to carve out a time for yourself every day just for writing.
I remember hearing this piece of advice when I first started writing, and I thought, “Oh my goodness, every day? I’m not sure if I can do that.” Fast forward two years, and I can’t imagine a day without writing.
I go to work Monday through Friday, and come home and write after chores. Saturdays are my writing day. I fiercely protect my Saturdays and my time after work. I go away from everyone (sometimes this even includes my cat, because she is nonsense), and I write for all of that time.
You have to have that time for yourself to write, otherwise you’re not going to get anything done. And after a while, it will get to the point that not writing will make you feel anxious. When I can’t write for a while, I start to actually stress and just start jotting down notes in my phone or on scrap papers. It’s a little ridiculous, but it’s because I love writing so much. Even when it kills me, I love it. I have to do it otherwise I shut down. Force yourself to write every day until you feel like that (or perhaps until you feel something a little less melodramatic after a day of not writing).
8. Believe in your writing.
The piece you’re working on right now could be the piece that changes everything for you. Writing The Blast and The Deathless Trilogy has honestly changed my life. My characters have helped me understand myself better, as well as others in my life. I have learned what is most important in life, and I have come to find strength in myself.
If I didn’t believe in my writing and share it confidently, I wouldn’t have ever discovered those things. Believing in yourself and your books is key. You don’t have to be self-promoting or arrogant, in fact, please don’t do that. But you do have to love what you do, and love yourself for doing it.