10 Tips for Writers

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?

Literary Community: You’re Not Alone

There’s a community to be found whether online, in person, or just through the simple knowledge that there are others out there going through the same kind of struggles.

When most people think of writers, they picture solitary creatures hiding away and typing to a computer screen’s glow. Alright, so I suppose that’s not too far from the truth–I’m doing that right now–but what many don’t understand is that writers aren’t alone. There’s a community to be found whether online, in person, or just through the simple knowledge that there are others out there going through the same kind of struggles.

While I was growing up, I didn’t have a writing community to call my own. I felt like the weird one who spent more time scribbling in a Lisa Frank folder than playing outside with her friends. But when I hit high school, I was introduced to a writing community based on the Redwall books by Brian Jacques. Imagine my shock when I could create characters and write about them, and people would actually respond back. This was the first time I didn’t feel alone as a writer.

This kind of online networking still exists today in roleplaying sites or even on places like Wattpad. Here, writers and readers come together to share stories, comment, vote, write/read, and message one another. I’ve already made some online and IRL friends through the platform. And best of all, it’s helped me get my writing off the ground again. I can ask people in my genre questions about world building or story structure. And at the same time, I can offer advice to newer writers who don’t know where to start.

Twitter and Instagram are both great places for building a writing community as well. Between things like #pitchwars and #pitchmad (events that allow you to mentor with other writers or pitch your stories to agents) you get to meet a lot of people. There are also particular hashtags people can follow to talk about their experiences, like #writerlywipchat. One of my favorite events is the #chance2connect meetup led by Kim Chance (@_KimChance). Once a month, she posts questions that writers can answer that encourage the community to interact and get people to meet one another. I’ve stayed up late having great conversations with some fantastic writers.

But what if you don’t want to meet people online? Well, there are writing conventions like the Pikes Peak Writing Conference that you can attend. I spent about four days in Denver, Colorado sitting in on literary lectures and meeting both new and published authors, agents, editors, etc. We had meals together, learned from one another, and created friendships that still last today. I would love to go back! I felt so inspired and encouraged. It helped me realize that writing is honestly what I want to do with my life.

Of course, not all of us can travel or pay for conferences. So how do you find your community in town? One way is to check Meetup. You might find writing events that are hosted in your local area. There’s National Novel Writing Month where you write 50,000 words in the month of November. Many cities have leaders who set up writing get-togethers. Check the NaNo site to find your area! If you look in library calendars, or maybe a local literary paper, you might find a group of writers. Or, if you’re in the Iowa area, you’re always welcome to join me at The Writers’ Rooms, a non-profit corporation focused on providing a free, safe environment to writers of all incomes, genders, skillsets, etc. If you’re looking for workshop, then there’s the brilliant Iowa Writers’ House which also hosts an astounding airBnB.

You’re not alone. There are writers out there looking for companionship and the chance to just sit and brainstorm story ideas. Some of my best work comes out when I’m with other writers because I’m happy. I know that I’m not the only one struggling or going through this big process of creating a book. Most of all, I love to meet people and learn about their journeys. I believe that it’s important that we, as writers, learn to support each other in our personal quests. This world is hard enough as it is. I’d rather spend my day encouraging an author than trying to rise above them. As my friend Author Brian K. Morris says, we’re all part of a Rising Tide, and when we help one another, we all rise together as a community.

Just as a reminder, I post author interviews every Friday. Last Friday I showcased Leona Bushman, and this Friday will be Shakyra Dunn! Please stop by and show your support!

Author Interviews

I think everyone can agree that trying to market yourself and gain followers is rough, especially for an author. Too often we compete against one another to showcase our books, when really, we should be utilizing each other’s experiences. The best way to learn about the industry is to talk with peers.

Therefore, I would like to start author interviews both on my blog and my website. I want to help authors introduce themselves to the writing community and really showcase what they do. In turn, I’d like them to provide information to the readers so that other authors can learn from them.

But I need help getting started.

First of all, as readers, what do you like to know about authors? What questions do you wish you could ask them? What would you like to learn about the publishing industry?

As authors, what questions do you love to answer? What are the harder ones you prefer to avoid? What wealth of knowledge can you share with your readers?

Once I have a list of questions available, I’ll open up my author website to accept author interviews. These will be posted 2-4 times a month (depending on interest), and all I ask in return is that you share my interview with you around to help support us both, as well as the readers and writers of the community.

I’m looking forward to meeting you!

Have writing questions or topics you’d like me to write about? Post down below!

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Watch out for my first urban fantasy book, The Purple Door District, which will be published on December 15th.