These are things I’ve learned about writing. They might not be true for everyone. Accept at will.
1. Writers Write to be Read.
I don’t know why, but they do. Most writers don’t write manuscripts and then hide them under their beds or only let their relatives and friends read the book. Writers want to give their words exposure. I’m no exhibitionist…er, actually, let me rephrase…I’m pretty shy and introverted and would never want to be a celebrity or anything, but I want my words read. I want to share my characters and my worlds with others. That’s a strong motivator for me.
2. Write What You Love, Not for Market.
I know it’s a cliche, but it’s true. It’s always one of those things that women writers are told, (along with a condescending pat on the head), more than male writers are told. I do think to some extent a writer should be looking at the market, but within that parameter they should write something they love. I’ve watched writers trudge away at a book in a genre they don’t enjoy, just because they think it will sell. The problem is that their lack of enthusiasm comes out in the writing. That’s going to be a No Go no matter what, eventually.
3. Being Able to
Butcher Your Baby Look at Your Writing Objectively is a Good Thing.
I have developed the ability to stand back (well, okay, mostly) and look at my book when it’s done and then say, “Oh! Lookee! That book should begin on page 50! That thar is a false beginning!” and then cut the first 50 pages out with a nary a blink of my eye. (Okay, I might blink, and I definitely wouldn’t use so many exclamation points.) It’s easy to get so attached to your work that you can’t cut text, or delete unnecessary subplots or characters. Eventually you have to learn to do it because sometimes cutting out some of your precious words makes the work stronger.
4. Crit and Be Critted.
Join a crit group or find a good crit partner. Although, caveat…it may take you a few times to find one you fit with. I learned so much by critting and being critted. Not only does it allow you to glean and share crafty-type knowledge and learn from the writerly travesties and triumphs of others, it toughens up your skin. You need to have a few callouses built up before you try and publish, and you *really* need them after you’ve published.
5. Make Friends With Other Writers.
So important. Only another writers know and understand common writerly angst. There is SO MUCH writerly angst. Plus, the sharing of knowledge is good — which houses and editors are acquiring, ect. Joining RWA as an unpubbed writer was one of the best moves I ever made.
6. Develop a Writing Habit.
Set aside time to write no matter what. If the muse isn’t working with you, if the words aren’t flowing, write anyway. Shite can be revised. You can’t wait for inspiration all the time. Sometimes that’s a long wait for a train don’t come, (2 pts for anyone who can name the movie I took that from). Sometimes you have put your ass in the chair and just write. “BICHOK” say the category romance authors — Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard.
7. You Can Always “Deepen” Your Character(s).
I have found I can always go back to a manuscript and find new ways to bring depth to my characters, whether it’s in the characterization or in their overall development. There’s always somehow I can make my characters more “real,” or show the changes they’ve undergone a little better. Always.
8. The Publishing Industry is about Money and Marketability, Not About “Art”.
The publishing industry is not an industry filled with fluffy bunnies. Editors are looking at the bottom line. They’re looking at marketability. That’s how badly written books make the bestseller list and some well written books never see print. It’s just a fact.
9. You Must Put Yourself Out There.
Over and over and over. Initially it’s sending your stuff out to be critted. Then it’s sending your stuff out to be assessed by editors and agents. Finally, it’s with the readers. Every day I throw myself out there, whether it’s socializing on my loop, posting excerpts, or arranging chats. I throw myself out there knowing that sometimes I won’t get responses, my excerpts will be ignored, ect… It’s just something a writer has to do. Throw ourselves out there and know we might be rejected. Over and over and over, and in many different ways.
10. I’m never happy with the finished product.
I’m never happy with my finished work. I can always go back and find flaws and things I’d like to change. I actually try very hard to never read my work after it’s been published because of this. If I must, I do it through my fingers (you know, like how some people watch a horror movie?). I’m extremely critical of my work. I’m probably my own worst critic, in fact.