To all the baby writers out there, I was you once. Here are five writing tips no one told me, all of which I learned the hard way.
1. Write what you know.
This is such a cliché but I just heard an up-and-coming writer mention this same concept, so I think it’s worth noting. This writer knew she wanted to write, but she couldn’t identify with any successful writers who were like herself–gay, Latinx, and female. She felt as if she had nothing to offer. Then she read a book that changed everything for her, the book spoke to her own life and she realized that, yes, she could write about her own experiences, and so she did.
You out there reading this, you are the only you. There’s only one person like you. Channel that into your writing. All your quirks, your heritage, your desires, your failures–all these tidbits make you an interesting and unique individual. That’s a goldmine if you can properly tap into it.
2. Develop your voice.
As you navigate the writing world, there’s one thing no one can teach you–voice. You can’t Google it. No one can properly explain it. Voice just exists. It took me a long time to distinguish an actual voice in writing. Taking note of how your favorite authors have become your favorites will help you parcel out this tricky concept. When an author is good, their prose feels like effortless breathing. It’s not choppy, it doesn’t annoy you, it flows.
However, voice takes time to develop and you have to make a whole bunch of crappy writing mistakes before you nail it down. That’s another tip no one told me, writing, like anything else, means a lot of failures before you succeed. Speaking of success …
3. Writing and publishing are not the same.
If you are reading this, it means you love writing. Please, promise me you’ll always put that first. If you’re writing to get famous, let that go. If you’re writing to sustain yourself, I hope you have a side hustle. Sadly, the odds of superstardom success are staggeringly not in your favor. This is why you should write from a place of love. Publishing is a game of chance and it’s a business. Writing is art.
When I first started writing, I didn’t write with the intentions of becoming the next bestselling author. I wrote because a story clawed its way out of my soul. Stories still whisper in my ear all day long. I can’t stop them. Do I think they’ll be movies someday? A girl can dream, but that’s not my goal. I just want them out of my head, and, fortunately I love playing with words. Every time I write something, I learn something new, about myself and about the craft.
Keep your fire alive and don’t confuse that fire with the harrowing experience of publishing. It really is a jungle out there.
4. Learn the ins and outs of the writing craft.
Ex: Outlining 101
Here’s a craft-related writing tip. Outline. This is one of the writing tips I probably needed the most. Learn how to make a decent outline and everything else will fall into place. I didn’t outline my first novel. That was a disaster. I didn’t outline my first series. Another disaster. I painted myself into corners. Save yourself the frustration and figure out what works for you.
Use a writing program like Scrivener. I swear by it. When the voices start whispering in your head, make copious notes. Carry a Moleskin notebook around with you. Make pages for characters, scenes, plots, and interesting dialogue. When you’re ready, put these items on index cards and shuffle them into some sort of organized chaos.
Trust me, being a pantser is not what it’s cracked up to be.
5. You will find the time to write.
And, finally, stop making excuses. I wrote at five in the morning, in parking lots, at my desk at lunch, on long car rides, and while waiting at the dentist’s office. A friend of mine told me she wrote a short story on her phone, while in line at Disney. If this writing thing really is your jam, you’ll carve out the time to write. All the words add up, even if you only write 50 a day.
Hope these writing tips are useful. Just remember this, stop making excuses. Write the damn thing.