I’m writing this blog post because I’m asked on a daily basis for any advice I have for aspiring authors. Because I’m asked EVERY DAY, I decided it would just save a lot of time to write my answer here, for everyone to see.
I’ll start by saying that I’m no writing teacher or guru. I don’t have all of the answers. I’ve been blessed with a successful career. A career that is still in its infancy, and I hope that it only continues to build. So anything that I say here is strictly my opinion, stated from my own experiences.
First thing’s first: if you want to be a writer, you have to WRITE. A lot. Like anything else, writing is a craft that you have to work at. It’s not going to be great in the beginning. You have to LEARN, and the only way to do that is to write. Every day. Write when you don’t feel like it. When it doesn’t feel good and when it does. Because there will honestly be days when it feels like every word that comes out of you is being torn from your chest. And there will be days when the words flow like magic.
Write on both of those days.
Write every day.
Now, I will say this: if you write with the sole intention of publishing and becoming rich, you should really quit now. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh, but it’s the truth. Writing is an art, and just like any other art form, painting, music, dance, it lives within you. Story telling isn’t easy. Finding the words to string together to make the story worth reading is even harder. I write because I don’t have a choice. I am a writer. Let me say that again. I. Am. A. Writer. It’s part of my DNA. I’ve written since before I knew how to spell all of the words.
So, while becoming a published author was a goal, it’s never been what has driven my need to write. I write because there simply is no other choice. It lives in me.
To become an accomplished writer, you have to write a lot of really bad stuff before you start producing the good. I have numerous novels tucked away that will never be read. There are even more that are half-finished and are so horrendous I couldn’t continue them.
But I learned from each one of them.
That’s the key. You write through the bad and learn how to improve. There are many ways to do that. Here are a few that I’ve done over the years:
Classes. I’ve taken dozens of classes from writers and editors. And I’ve soaked in what they had to say like a sponge. I didn’t always agree with them, but I took what they had to say and applied it to my own writing.
Critique groups/Writing partners. I suggest finding a couple writers that you can brainstorm with and read each other’s work to help each other grow. This has been beyond helpful through the years for me. I do recommend, however, that you choose partners who won’t blow smoke up your ass. Telling you that everything you write is the best thing they’ve ever read is not going to help you.
Take the constructive criticism in the spirit in which it’s intended. In other words, when your critique partner says, “I think you can make it so much stronger if you…” don’t immediately become defensive and argue about why the way you wrote it is so much better. Listen.
It’s not easy as an artist to be told that someone doesn’t like your work. Scratch that. It can feel like someone tore open your chest, ripped your still beating heart from your ribcage and shredded it. It sucks. No one likes bad reviews. But, if it’s constructive feedback, if the person giving the opinion is specific about what they didn’t like, and what would have made the story stronger for them, you can learn from it for future projects.
Then again, sometimes people are just assholes. I trust that you’re smart enough to tell the difference.
When you feel confident that you’ve honed your craft and you’ve bled and cried onto the page and you’re ready to share it with the world, sit down and do a ton of research. There are no short cuts.
THERE ARE NO SHORT CUTS.
You will begin to network with other authors and bloggers and readers, and you will BEG someone to read your masterpiece. I did. I asked bloggers, readers and fellow authors to give my book a chance. I sent it to anyone who said yes, and I got a TON of feedback.
And I learned.
I edited and worked some more and the end result is COME AWAY WITH ME. This book never hit a best sellers list. It did sit in the top 100 on Amazon for a few days and when it broke that 100 mark, I sat and cried like a baby.
You see, my goal was just for 100 people that I didn’t know to buy the book. That was it. It’s since been downloaded more than a quarter of a million times. (Piracy sites don’t count, people.)
All of the years and years of writing bad story after bad story had paid off. But I wasn’t done learning. I’m still not done. The knowledge I’ve gained in the eighteen months in this industry is staggering. There’s no way that I could write it all here for you because like I said before, there are no short cuts, and the path is different for every writer.
But you know what? If only ten people had bought and read COME AWAY WITH ME, and it ended up being a stand-alone, I’d still be writing. Because the one constant for every writer is simply that: writing.
Write. Every. Day.