Saturday, August 30, 2014

12 Things I've Learned as a Writer I Wish Someone Told Me Sooner

I've been in this whole trying-to-be-a-published-author game for ten years now, five years seriously. That makes me sounds old. I was eleven when I started! Okay? Moving on ... When I was eleven I dreamed I'd be the youngest author published ever. Yeah that didn't happen because of the many things I've encountered in my writing journey.

All my experiences have had their purpose, but some things I wish someone told me earlier. Perhaps it would've spared me some hardship and helped things move along faster. I'm hoping sharing what I've learned will help someone. Here we go.

1.) You Are Not Alone - You are not the only writer on the planet. They all aren't dead already. If you only read Tolkien, Lewis, and Dickens then it's easy to think this. There are so many people out there just like you that want to write stories.

That shouldn't be intimidating, that should be encouraging. You're not the only one out there and there are other people that share your dream. This also should caution you that writing is very competitive. There are so many people that want to get published and only the ones with determination will succeed.

2.) Write As Much As You Can - If you want to be a writer, you need to actually write a book. It's not going to be easy, but it's not impossible. Other authors have done it somehow ...

Make goals for yourself even if it's just a hundred words a day. Over time your writer stamina will build up and one thousand and two thousand words or more will be no problem. Keep yourself accountable or ask a friend to help you. The point is if you don't ever practice your skill, it's not going to get better. Practice writing like you practice baseball or the piano or karate.

3.) Read All The Time - A few years back I was stupid enough to take a hiatus from reading while going through a rough time. Don't do this. It's a dumb idea. If you're going to write a book take the time to read other books, study their craft, see what they do that works. They got published, didn't they?

Read books in the genre you write. Study their styles. Perhaps there's something you like that you can add to yours. Don't copy them exactly, but you can find elements. For example: I really like em-dashes. I learned that from an author. I like to vary my sentences a lot to create mood. I learned that from another author. I would've never learned these things if I hadn't been reading.

Read books about writing. There is so much knowledge to be found in craft books about writing techniques. A few I can recommend are: Go Teen Writers: How to Turn Your First Draft Into A Published Novel by Stephanie Morrill and Jill Williamson, Plot Versus Character: A Balanced Approach to Writing Great Fiction by Jeff Gerke, Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King, and The Art & Craft of Writing Christian Fiction by Jeff Gerke.

4.) Writing is Way More Complicated Than They Taught Us In School - School didn't teach us about interior monologue, pacing, character development, dumping, exterior and interior goals and on and on. The first time I went to a writers conference I was in shock with all the stuff I didn't know.

Who knew your character had to have a goal throughout the story? Who knew that too many "was" and "were" in a sentence weren't good? Nobody told me this stuff. Though this sounds a bit overwhelming, it makes writing more of an art. Every sentence and word and punctuation is important. But it gets easier. The more you study about the craft of writing the easier and more instinctive it gets.

5.) Read Blogs - Perhaps you don't have the money for craft books right now so read blogs. They're a free resource to a wealth of writer knowledge. You're already reading mine. Posts are usually short and only take a few minutes to read each, and there are blog posts for just about any question you have about writing. If you find a good blog, type into the search bar or check in the labels (big list of words with links to one side of the blog) for what you're looking for.

There are so many good blogs, but here are a few I can recommend: Go Teen Writers (good blog for teens and college students specifically), Chip's Blog, Get it Write Tonight, Mythcreants, and Helping Writers Become Authors.

6.) Go to Writing Conferences - This is a big investment since they usually cost a few hundred bucks not including travel costs, but if you seriously want to take writing all the way and get published I highly recommend go to writers conferences. They are all over the country. The information you learn there directly from professionals in a live setting is immeasurably helpful for your writing.

Networking is another important thing at conferences. You can meet other writers in person. I met two of my best friends at a writers conference. You also have the opportunity to meet literary agents and editors for publishing companies. You even have a chance to pitch your book there. Many authors have been published because they attended writers conferences (two instances are Bryan Davis and Stephanie Morrill).

Three good conferences I know are the Florida Christian Writers Conference (I've been attending this one for years), The American Christian Fiction Writers conference and One Year Adventure Novel.

7.) First Drafts Always Suck - No matter how great of an author you are, your first drafts will be bad. When you write fresh, it's usually raw story. There's plot holes, bland characters, grammatical errors, and typos galore, but that's completely normal. That's why we have rewrites and editing.

So don't kick yourself too hard if your writing isn't that good in your first draft. When you're a new writer, you'll be constantly learning and improving. Something you wrote a month ago may seem bad, but that's a good thing because you're learning the difference between good and bad writing.

8.) Get Another Set of Eyes - When you get your work to a point where you're confident in it, let other people read it, both non-writers and writers. Get their opinions of your work. They may not all say that your writing is wonderful. Get used to that. Critique is what makes your writing better.

Other people will spot things in your writing that you didn't notice because you're too close to it. Sometimes what someone says is completely untrue because they want to be mean or they alone didn't understand, but if three or more people seem to have the same opinion you'll want to look into it.

I was critiqued at a writers conference for the first time. Putting my work out for other people besides my best friend (who was the one person I've ever let read my books) was terrifying but in the end I improved more and more with the more critique I got. Be fearless and get second opinions.

9.) Be Someone Else's Set of Eyes - Critiquing others isn't just a courtesy but it also helps your writing. When you recognize mistakes in other people's writing, you'll find it easier to find them in your own. Remember to be kind, but honest while critiquing. All praise won't help someone, but putting down their writing is just going to discourage them. Find a happy medium. It's also fulfilling to help another writer out.

10.) Join a Writer Group - Becoming an active part of a group of writers has helped me immensely. In writers groups, you can find critique partners, brainstorm buddies and just have other people who sympathize with your issues, praise you when you hit goals and help you when you get stuck. You can often find good friends. There are online and physical groups. Go Teen Writers has a Facebook group, American Christian Fiction Writers, and Word Weavers are some others I recommend.

11.) Publishing is Hard - It takes a lot of time and persistence and endurance to get published and even keeping your career going after that. To get published you have to submit query letters, cover letters, proposals, and manuscripts that will catch the publisher and/or agent's attention. Getting query letters, cover letters and proposals written take a lot of work on their own. Researching agents and publishers that are interested in your work is another chore, but it's what must be done.

Then after submitting your queries, you have to wait to hear back from them. This will take months for your queries to be reviewed. If you do get accepted there's more waiting to go while your book is readied for publishing, plus marketing your book before, and after it's released to get the sales up. This isn't said to dissuade but to let you know: it's a lot of work, but that's how the business goes. I know a lot of published authors. It is indeed possible to finally be published.

12.) Patience - One of the key virtues of a writer must be patience. It takes months to write a book, then more time for rewrites and editing. It takes months to hear back from agents, publishers and even critique partners. It takes months for platform outlets such as Facebook pages, blogs and twitter accounts to gain following. Patience is paramount for a writer.

Just replace swimming with writing.
In summary, becoming an author is a long, complicated process, but that doesn't mean it's without it's benefits even along the way. I'm not published yet, but I've already received numerous emails and comments from people inspired by my writing I've displayed on my blog. And that's an amazing feeling alone.

I'm hoping one day I can make an update on this post that says I did actually get published, but until then I'll keep writing even if it only inspires a few people. That's enough for me. So to all you writers, keep going. Even if you get picked on or feel discouraged or intimidated just keep writing. If you've got the persistence, you'll get there. :)

What are some things you've learned in your writing journey?


  1. Great post! All of it was so true, too! :)
    I also wanted to be published really young. Still hoping for it, but I know patience is a virtue.

    Alexa S. Winters

    1. Thank you. ^ ^ I hope you get published soon. We're in the same spot lol. Thank you for commenting!

    2. Yeah, I hope so, too. lol. And I hope you get published soon, too :)