The internet is full of advice for writers. We’ve all read blogs, websites, and books about what to do and what not to do. The cardinal sins of writing, tips and tricks to make you a better writer, surefire marketing techniques to get people to read your book. It seems as if everyone has a magic box of tricks that will make you the best writer in the world. After a while this box full of advice becomes too heavy and a writer can get bogged down with all the information that’s out there. I’m sure we’ve all felt that way.
I’m not here to give you more advice about writing. You’ve heard enough from every possible person under the sun who claims to be an expert on the topic. But what I will do is give you some insights to help you clean out the clutter and focus on what matters.
1. You cannot go into the writing business expecting to make a ton of money or become famous. That is the wrong frame of mind to have. Unless you are John Grisham, J.K. Rowling, or Danielle Steele, that prospect is pretty unlikely. But even those authors had to navigate through landmines to get where they are today. Writers write because it’s what they love to do. You have to love to write, first and foremost.
2. When you write, write for yourself. No matter how famous a writer is or how many New York Times best sellers they’ve written, not everyone is going to like their writing. I admit, there are authors out there who are considered world class that I don’t particularly like. Not because they’re bad writers, simply because I can’t get into their books. Then there are other writers no one has ever heard of that I love. It’s all a matter of personal taste. People like what they like, and your novel isn’t going to change their opinion if they don’t like that type of book. You will never please the masses, so stop trying. Ultimately the only person who has to be pleased with your work is you. Stay true to yourself.
3. Take advice from people who matter. With all the advice and tricks out there, I will be more likely to read Stephen King’s book about writing than a college English major’s two cents worth. Take advice from people who know what they’re talking about. They’ve been down the road you’re on. They’ve walked in your shoes. Might be a good idea to at least hear what they have to say.
4. Take all negative feedback with a grain of salt. Everyone has an opinion about something, and the reality of life is that some people are never happy unless they have something to complain about. Seriously? You have nothing better to do with your time than go on Amazon and write a bad review for a set of dishes because they were hot when you took them out of the microwave? Did you think about using a pot holder? Anyway, off my tangent now. Negative feedback is going to happen. Again, you won’t please everyone. But you can turn the negative into a positive and use it to improve your craft. Some people are quick to judge, but have they ever come up with a story idea, sat down and poured sweat and bled ink over a manuscript for months or years on end, then exposed themselves to the world by throwing their story out for the public to read? Most can’t stake claim to that herculean task. I’m not saying to ignore negative feedback, just don’t let it consume you or deter you from doing what you love. Turn that negative into a positive and keep writing.
5. Which brings me to my next point. Keep writing, and don’t let anyone stop you. Writers improve by writing. No one said your debut novel was going to be the most fabulous piece of literary work in the history of the world. In fact, very few debut novels fall into that category. Your debut novel is your way of telling your story to people who choose to read it. Your first novel is a learning experience. Use it to work the kinks out. You can only get better with time.
6. Relax and live life. Being a writer is awesome. We see the world differently because we experience things through writer’s eyes. We analyze body language, notice small details in facial expressions, watch people’s actions (which is fascinating, by the way), and listen intently to conversations. We take in every scent and sound of our surroundings and discover a story from ordinary things. The funny thing about this is most people don’t realize we do this, yet we do it on a daily basis. Do yourself a favor, clean out the clutter and get away from the keyboard for a while. Go out and do stuff. Spend time with your family. Listen to music. Tour a museum. Play Frisbee at the park. Walk the dog. Take photographs of nature. See a movie or a Broadway musical. Most importantly, have fun doing it. You never know, an experience you have could be your main character’s the next big adventure.