I interview authors every month to learn more about them and their craft. One of the questions I always ask is, “What are common traps for aspiring writers?” The answers have been very enlightening, and I’d recommend checking them out here. But it got me thinking, what tips do I have for fellow authors? Here are a few important ones that came to mind.
1. Writing is Incredible
Writing is amazing. You create your own worlds, characters, plotlines, twists, magic, god systems, creatures, etc. And then you get to see printed on a page. When people ask me why I love to write, it’s all of this of course, but it goes deeper. There’s a moment when I’m writing when the world falls away and it’s just me and my book. I feel a sense of peace I never usually feel and a warmth in my heart that makes me sure that this is what I’m suppose to do. It doesn’t always happen, but when it does, I don’t know a better feeling. Being a writer is just a part of who I am, and I can’t wait to share more stories with people. The best part, though, is when your book has an impact on a person’s life. Whether it encourages them to start writing, or it helps them feel a little less alone, it’s an incredible feat to accomplish.
2. Writing Also Sucks
Yep, you heard me. As wonderful as writing is, it comes with a set of drawbacks: writer’s block, self-doubt, hatred of your writing, fear you’ll never be published, fear that everyone hates your book, etc. Writing is quite the mind game. One day you love your writing, and the next you think it’s the worst piece of crap in the world. That’s what editors are there for. Writer’s blocks can be overwhelming, especially when you have a looming deadline. That’s why it’s good to have backup plans for when you hit a block. Do you have writing topics you can work on to pull you out of the slump? Prompts? What gets your creative juices flowing? As for hatred of your writing, I can promise you that we all go through it, and it’s just something you have to learn to work through. But it’s easier to do that with a support group.
3. Support Groups are Important
During some of my darkest moments, when I’ve hated my writing the most, my literary support group has helped pull me out of my funk. They’re there to support and encourage you, provide advice, and share in both the joys and hardships of writing. You can find many online through facebook, twitter, and instagram, or through National Novel Writing Month. I’ve met some of my best writing friends there! And of course, if you’re in the Iowa area, you can always reach out to The Writers’ Rooms.
4, Take Care of Yourself
With all the mental games that occur with writing, it’s important to remember to take care of yourself. I’ve written several blogs about this, but as a reminder, if you don’t get the proper sleep, food, and rest, you’ll struggle with your writing. Take care of your body and mind so you can be healthy while writing. Also, be kind to yourself. Even if you think your writing is awful, try not to beat yourself down. Think of what you would say to another writer. If you wouldn’t say their work sucks, or is awful, or they’re the worst writer in the world, you shouldn’t say it to yourself either. When you get into this headspace, turn to your support group.
5. Set Goals
Create goals for yourself so you can stay productive. Set a word count you want to meet, or an amount of time you want to write. Aim for a chapter a month, or a book a year, whatever works best for you! Start the goal out small so you don’t overwhelm yourself, then go up from there. You might be surprised how fast you can go from writing 250 words a day to 2,500 if you pace yourself.
6. Save Your Work
Obvious, I know, but you won’t believe the number of writers I’ve met who have lost novels because they didn’t backup their work. My preference is saving everything to Dropbox and then doing an additional back up on an external harddrive or flash drive periodically. Heck, when I spilled tea on my computer, I even saved some of my most important files to my e-mail, just in case. Protect your work!
7. Do Your Research
Whether it’s fantasy, sci-fi, romance, non-fiction, etc, do your research. Readers are notorious for picking out inaccuracies, so if you write about a particular location, you better know a lot about it. Likewise, when you develop a character, you have to stay consistent to it. He shouldn’t have a scar in chapter 1 and no scar in chapter 8. And while Wikipedia is a nice place to get general information, compare it against other sources. Do research on stereotypes too if your book is diverse. The best way to do this is to find a sensitivity reader who can point out any racist undertones.
8. Find a Good Editor
Editors are vital to producing a well-received book, especially when it comes to Indie publishing. You can’t just write the book, edit it yourself a few times, then send it out to publish. You need another pair of eyes on it. No matter who much we read through our books, we always miss something. Editors can help us fix those big mistakes. And make sure you pay the editor what they’re worth. You wouldn’t want to write something for free; they don’t want to edit it for free either.
9. Don’t Compare Your Chapter 1 to Their Chapter 12
This is one of my favorite phrases. Writers have the bad habit of comparing themselves to other writers, often by the amount of books the other author has published. We’re all at different places in our writing journey. I might be just starting out my writing career with chapter 1, while a fellow author is already at chapter 12 and putting out books yearly. All you can do is work to your own pace and do what’s best for your style. Use these people as inspiration if you’d like, but don’t use their successes to beat yourself up. It’s not productive.
10. You’re Not Alone
I try to remind people of this constantly. No matter the hardships you’re going through with your writing, there’s someone out there who has gone, or is going, through the same thing. That’s the best time to reach out to see if you can find advice from people to break through your problems. Writing is a solitary art and may feel lonely at times, but that’s why it’s important to reach out to fellow writers. Authors on twitter and facebook have both helped me through difficult times with my novel. I might have quit if I hadn’t realized that others understood my problem and had ideas how to get out of it.
What about you? What top tips do you have for writers?