Any writer will tell you that it’s not an easy thing to do. Ideas come often enough (although frequently not when you’re actually anywhere near a keyboard where you can make a note of them!). The challenges come in other aspects of writing, like making the time to finish that novel, or working your way out of a plot mess. And then, what do you do once your novel’s finished?
I’m hardly a world-famous author, but I have learned a few things about writing that aren’t always covered in creative writing classes and degree programs. If they help you, too, or give you some insight into what it’s like to be a writer, then I’m happy to have been helpful/informative.
Here, then, are….
Some Things I’ve Learned About Writing
Find Your Own Writing Pattern
I have a pattern that works for me. I write early in the morning. Ridiculously early. I’m the one whose home office light is on well before the earliest dog-walkers on the street get started.
When I plan a story (and yes, I’m a planner), I start with the characters. Since I write crime fiction, that means the victim. Then I go on from there.
I go straight to keyboard as I write. Trust me, if you saw my handwriting, you’d have no trouble understanding why. Even I can’t always read it.
Those are just a few examples of the patterns I’ve developed for myself. The important thing to remember is that they won’t work for everyone. We’re all different, and in my case that’s a very good thing. One of me is much more than enough.
You can’t get the deep satisfaction that comes from writing if you’re fighting your own patterns. So I think one important thing to do is work out when you’re most able to focus, and which steps are best for you. Sometimes that means not doing what you read about in a blog post or a book. It means trusting yourself to learn your rhythms and your ways of going about the writing process.
That said, though, it’s also important to….
Learn From Others
One of the great things about writing is that it’s not a zero-sum game. So there’s a wealth of resources available. One of the ones I like best is the Writer’s Knowledge Base. It’s a searchable treasure trove of all sorts of articles and blog posts on all aspects of the writing process. There’s also Writer’s Remorse, which includes articles, interviews, and much more. There are also dozens of online writers’ groups, seminars and classes where members share advice, information and so on. Most of them are either free or cost very little. Just perfect for a writer’s budget…
There are plenty of face-to-face opportunities for learning from others, too. Critique groups, writing retreats and writing conferences are just a few of the many ways to find out what other writers are doing. Again, most of them aren’t expensive. And they’re great reminders that you’re not the only one whose characters won’t cooperate, and whose plot threads closely resemble the Gordian Knot.
The best way to learn what other writers do, though, is to read. A lot. The more I’ve read, the better I think my writing has gotten. I may even do something pretty good one of these times…
See Writing as the Profession it is.
Writers (well, most writers I know, anyway) aren’t in it to get rich. Which is a good thing, since trust me, you don’t earn a Ferrari income if you’re a writer. And therein, as you might say, is the challenge. Writers do what they do because they love it. They are passionate about telling stories. That’s what makes the best stories so good. But writers aren’t always as well-versed in the business side of writing, at least not at first.
The thing is, though, that today’s writers have to be aware of themselves as businesspeople. Writing is a business in which the product you promote is…your work. If you want people to know about you, to buy your books and enjoy them, and want more, you have to be able to manage that business.
One way to do that is to take some business and marketing seminars or workshops. You can also get business and marketing ideas from library books, journals and other reading. It’s also worth the investment of time (at least it has been for me) to get a clear understanding of business software and the information that’s available from author management sites such as Amazon Central. The more comfortable you are with handling business details, the better informed your business decisions will be.
There’s also the matter of making wise decisions about publishers, agents and publicity professionals. Part of it is deciding whether you’ll self-publish, go with an independent publisher, or choose a more traditional publisher. One difficult lesson I learned the hard way is that it’s important to do the ‘homework’ involved in sifting through the many publishing options and choosing the best one.
And then there’s the marketing and promotion part of writing. I’ve found a few things to be very helpful in doing that marketing without (I truly hope!) being (too) obnoxious about it:
- My blog – I think a blog is a really valuable way to reach people, learn from others and keep everyone updated on your writing. The blog has a page all about my writing, and it also has links to other sites where I have…
- A Social Media Presence – Twitter, Amazon Author Central, Google Plus, and so on are all effective tools for reaching out. I think a consistent social media presence is essential for communicating with readers, publishers, agents, and other writers. Don’t have a lot of technological savvy? There are lots of professionals who can help you set up your presence.
- Business Cards – It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, and the humble business card can go a long way when you’re visiting bookshops, libraries and other places where you want your books to be positioned. They’re also convenient when you travel. Of course it’s important not to be annoying and tiresome. It really is. But you never know whom you’ll meet. A business card is still a handy little tool…
Streamline Your Life
The most important part of being a writer is, well, writing. This means setting aside time to do just that, and putting energy and focus into the task. But a lot of writers also have ‘day jobs,’ and it’s not always as easy as you’d think to just write. That’s especially true if you have family and other personal obligations. But there are things I’ve found that help to streamline things.
- Take advantage of tools such as automatic blog feeds. Mine, for instance, feeds automatically into my Twitter, Amazon, Linked In, Facebook and Goodreads accounts. No need for me to take the time to do it manually.
- Streamline your home life. The crock pot is a very good friend to writers. So are recipes that you can make and freeze. I’ve found a few dishes that require minimal prep time and can be ignored during cooking. This frees up a lot of time. Of course, it also means I have to be sure to set the kitchen alarm to go off when the food is ready. Otherwise, I could very well be so stuck in my fictional world that I don’t pay attention to the time. That tends to have a charring effect on whatever I’m cooking…
- Say, ‘no.’ You can’t accept all invitations and projects that come your way. You can’t be on every social media site, either. Well, I can’t, anyway. So it’s important to choose your invitations, projects, and so on very carefully. Remember: writing time is precious. It’s what writers do.
And the most important thing I’ve learned?
Write every day. Even if it’s just one sentence. Even if it’s just ending punctuation. Write. The more you write, the better you get.
There are other things, too, that I’ve learned about writing. But this post has already gone on long enough…
If you’re a writer, do you have any lessons to add?
*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Rick Nelson’s Garden Party.