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Here are some things I wished someone had told me when I was first starting out:
#1 – Nobody is an expert (and that’s okay).
You will hear many fellow authors claim that they have all of the answers to your particular writing problem. For instance, if you follow their precise x, y, and z plan, you will write a bestseller. The truth is, nobody knows everything. We are all learning as we go. Some of us, myself included, like to share what we’ve learned. BUT . . . nothing works for everyone. By all means, read all the advice and try it out, then take on what works for you and your readers and discard what doesn’t.
That being said:
#2 – You will get better at writing.
All it takes is patience, practice, and dedication. Easy, right? J Ha! On a serious note, the more you write, the better you will get. It also helps if you take writing courses and read plenty of craft related books.
Remember this important tip as well:
# 3 – Belief in yourself is a must.
Naysayers will crawl out of their dungeons to sap you of your passion the second you declare your intention to be a writer. It happened to me, it’s happened to many other famous authors, so it will probably happen to you. Ignore them. Then, remind yourself of this: I have 20 books with my name on them, have singed publishing contracts with two of the top “Big Five” publishing companies (Pan Macmillan and Harlequin), and write full-time. Those people who try to crush dreams have zero belief in themselves and, therefore, think everybody else shouldn’t. Hang in there. If you have a dream, believe in yourself, become more discerning in who you share your goals with, and keep going.
It also helps if you:
#4 – Have interests outside of writing.
Not only does this give you a break from your head, but it also adds fuel and experiences to your writing.
Which leads to:
# 5 – Learn from every experience you have, whether good, bad, ugly, or somewhere in the middle.
EVERYTHING can be used in your stories. Draw on the emotions, feelings, and events of your life (past, present, and future) to add rich detail and texture to your plots, characters, and storylines.
Then, tell yourself that:
#6 – There is no time limit on getting your book done, but get it done!
Procrastination is such a common problem amongst writers, mainly, I feel, due to self-doubt and the romantic idea of the “tortured writer”. Every writer suffers from bouts of self-doubt –
yes, even me! But I have learned to harness this into my creativity and writing. The trick is to accept it and keep writing anyway. It’s true that you are not on a deadline (unless, you are!), but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t push yourself to finish as soon as possible. One word at a time is the only way to reach your goal. Set reasonable, achievable daily word or page goals to finally finish your manuscript.
As mentioned above:
#7 – Reading will make you a better writer.
There is no getting out of this one. Research has shown that reading improves your writing faster than anything else (yes, really). If you want to be a writer, you need to read. Aside from the pleasure and knowledge gained from reading, doing so teaches you about style, voice, genre expectations, tropes, structure, characterisation, pacing, plot development, story arcs . . . do I need to go on?!
It’s vital also to:
#8 – Have realistic expectations.
The harsh reality is that 99% of authors earn less than $10,000 AUD per year from writing. This is not something to get upset over, it’s something to keep in mind before quitting your day job and getting your hopes pinned on being a full-time author. Yes, it can be done, but don’t go into this career with a blindfold on.
#9 – Appreciate and celebrate each step of the journey.
You can get so focused on where you want to be that you forget to appreciate where you are and how far you’ve already come. I celebrate every win: from getting a fabulous 5-star review to reaching number 1 on Amazon (for my non-fiction book, The Dreaming Writer. Woo hoo!).
Last, but not least:
#10 – Keep writing!
Writers write. The only way to call yourself a writer, and to get better at it, is to write consistently and continuously. Get into a routine and stick to it.
All the best in your writing journey,
A.K. Leigh xo
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P.S. Do you follow any/all of these tips? Are there any others you could add to the list? Share your positive comments below. :-)