I haven’t written in large volume, consistently, for a very long time. I’m just starting out, actually. I’m writing my very first novel. But like with some new adventures, there are things you learn right off the bat; things that become glaringly obvious in the first few steps. Don’t stick your arm out of the shark cage. Fasten your seat belt on a roller coaster. (Seriously). Make sure the car is in reverse if you want to go in reverse. (Don’t ask.)
I’ve turned a new chapter in my life, and I’m pursuing a writing career. Whether I make it or not is still up in the hair, but with a lot of hard work, I think I’ll get there. I’ve only been at this for a short while, but I’ve already learned some key things.
Take it with a grain of salt, as this is just my personal experience, but here’s 6 things I’ve learned as a new writer:
- Outlines change. – Even if you don’t outline, things change. Even if your plot is ironed out in your head, it’ll probably still change. That cool plot you thought you had? It will totally shift and change and become practically unrecognizable toward the end. New ideas will sprout as you write, and it’s okay to change stuff. Keep a record, and/or write down your ideas. Play mix and match. Find out what you like and what you don’t. Everything can be changed. (Well, most things can be changed… the important stuff kinda has to stick.) I can’t tell you how many times I’ve changed chapter 7. If you’ve spoken with me in the last week or so, you know how much I hate chapter 7.
- Listen to your characters – They, at some point, WILL speak to you. It may sound a little creepy, but they will – you’re basically playing god with people you’ve created. You know their inner most thoughts and motivations, and you hold their destiny in your hands. Listen to them! If someone or something seems off, re-write it. Get in their heads, and theirs shoes, and let them write themselves. Do some character exploration if you have to.
- There will be days you’ll hate writing – I call these ‘burn out days’. It’s okay to take a break once in a while, but be careful that a break doesn’t become infinite. Clear your mind if you’re getting frustrated, but always come back and write some more. Some days that’ll be really hard. Some days it won’t. Keep going, no matter what.
- If you’re doing this as a potential career, treat it as such – Set a schedule; you have no idea how much they’ve helped me. Go ‘to work’ at no later than x time, and schedule breaks and a lunch. Decide when you want to be done for the day. If you don’t get a whole day off very often, give yourself ‘split shifts’. Basically, carve out a set time to write, and stick to it. If you don’t ‘show up for work’, your book will ‘fire you’. For me, I usually get up sometime between when my fiance leaves for work (6:30am) and when it’s too late for me and I feel guilty about sleeping in (9am). It’s not a concrete wake up time, but I ‘get into work’ no later than 9:30 no matter what. I write until noon, and then break for lunch. Then I write until 4pm when my fiance comes home. Sometimes I write into the evening, but I like to spend time with my loved ones, so I don’t feel quite that guilty. Just do whatever works best for you, but again, keep going, no matter what.
- Having a writing buddy is INVALUABLE – This is just my opinion, and it may not work for everyone, but I absolutely ADORE having someone to pick at ideas with. My best friend Maegan is also writing her book, and we spend more time than we probably should on Skype, tossing ideas back and forth, and helping each other when we get stuck. My fiance Kevin is also a valuable ally as I tackle the monster named ‘Novelzilla’. He’s my muse. Find your muse! Find someone who’s creative brain inspires you. Check out the author’s section of Kindleboards. Maybe a professor? If you’re stuck on something pitch some ideas to them as a reader; see how they react. One or two extra brains are nifty.
- Never, EVER even THINK about giving up – At some point, and I can attest to this, you’ll have the ‘big moment of self doubt’. You might have more than one. You’re entire process might be riddled with them. You might even go straight to publishing with one. These moments of doubt are basically just moments when you beat yourself up. You think your writing isn’t good enough, or your idea is stupid and no one would ever want to read it. You think, well, if I suck so bad, maybe I should just quit. DON’T. DON’T. NO. STOP IT. DON’T MAKE ME SMACK YOU. If you love writing, even on the worst days, and it’s all you want to do, persue that bitch! Write like there’s no tomorrow! Write like you mean it! Write because it’s inside you and you want to get it out! Don’t stop writing, if it’s something you genuinely enjoy. You have the next big thing in there somewhere. You won’t know until you try.
This might change in the future. I’m still at the beginning of things. I’m still new! This is just what I’ve taken away from my experiences so far. This is whats working for me. I’m not claiming to have all the answers and suddenly be some writing guru, but this is just what I know so far.
Take with a grain of salt. Hopefully, that grain of salt is on a margarita glass sitting on a coaster next to your laptop as you clickity clack away on your book. That’s where mine was, anyway.