Is there a secret formula to become a best seller? Actually, there kind of is. It isn’t magic, or science, or anything especially inspiring. It’s insight from actual best sellers and acclaimed writers who know what they’re doing. These are the most important lessons you’ll probably ever learn as a writer.
Read, Read Some More, Read a Little Longer
We all know that great writers are supposed to be great readers, right? This goes beyond joining the local book club and browsing through the latest best seller once a month, though. Good reading requires frequency and variety. How much non-fiction do you read? How many literary works have you read in the last year? Get outside your niche and explore. Discover how other celebrated writers see and illustrate the world around them. Artists study art history. Writers should study literature.
Try Literary Scholarship
Your reading habits bring us to the next point: how you read. Reading is always a pleasure, but it needs to be an intellectual exercise sometimes, too. If you’ve never performed heavy literary analysis of a specific author or book, you really, really should. This painfully close scrutiny reveals the bones and sinew that make the work dance. It’s like an anatomy course for writers.
Edit Way More than You Want To
First of all, no one likes to edit. Great writers need great editing, though. Remember that revisions change more than just typos and grammatical errors. Editing lets you explore the nuances of your creation so you can pull lose ends together. Writing generates words. Editing refines the story. You need to polish your work, and you should push yourself to continue redrafting until you’re ready to scream.
Focus on the Work, Not the Drama
Writers have these melodramatic, aesthetic icons of themselves. They set these icons in the shrines of their imaginations, and soon the process of creating fiction is just as beautiful and emotional as the (so far unfinished) work itself. Maybe the process is even more important than the final product. This is a lie. While it’s true that the journey is more than the destination, if you sit down to write a book and spend the next five hours gathering wool, you are a day-dreamer, not a writer. Focus on your work. Suffer through the editing, and kill your darlings. When you’re dead and famous fifty years from now someone else can wax poetic about your existential angst.
Never let inspiration or writer’s block dictate your pace. You may struggle more, but it’s possible to actually write through a block. It may not be good. It may not make it through the first round of editing, but it will keep you moving forward. Foster habits that combat block, like walking or jogging, and remind yourself that you are your own muse. You haven’t lost your voice. You can still carry on a conversation. Writing is conversing on paper. You have the power. You can do it.
All of this sounds like awfully hard work, doesn’t it? Well, these tips may not appeal to your inner romantic, but they will help you accomplish your goals. Holding a finished project is the ultimate magic in a writer’s life, though, and all the sacrifices are worth it.