There’s a lot of writing advice out there, from the really useful to the really bad. Tried and true advice, while still not for everyone all the time, tends to resonate with many writers. Usually, these tidbits of wisdom have something of value that we can use to motivate us, improve our habit life, or teach us about good writing craft.
But, not all the advice makes sense in the moment. Sometimes we need experience before the suggestion has meaning. This has been true for me over the years. For example, I had heard the phrase ‘show don’t tell’ many times when I was working on my first manuscript, but until I had some real experience writing and editing, I didn’t understand what it meant, how to do it, or even when it was appropriate to correct it in my narrative. With time and experience, I now use that prompt as a reminder of how to help keep my prose strong and immersive.
However, there are a few things that I simply didn’t know when I was starting out, either about writing craft or the publishing industry, that I do wish I’d internalized from the beginning. Maybe they’ll help you if you are at the start of your writing journey?
We don’t control everything.
You can’t control reader response. Not everyone will love our stories, and that’s okay. We don’t love every story we read. Variety is the spice of life after all! Let this go. We also can’t control book sales. There are many things we can do to impact our book’s visibility and accessibility, but ultimately, we have no direct control over this. We can’t force people to read our book.
We can control our work ethic, professional behavior, and commitment to our craft. We will have more satisfaction and less frustration as artists if we keep our focus on the things we can impact.
This is a long game career.
Whether you dreamed of sitting down at your writing desk and cranking out a finished manuscript by month’s end, or you thought the moment your story went live, thousands of readers would flock to read it, you will come to realize that everything in the writing and publishing world takes time. Like a construction project, your writing project will probably take more time and require more resources than you thought. If you know this up front, you can set more realistic expectations.
Writing and publishing are two different things.
When we enter the writing world, we have to recognize there are two sides to the job – the creative side and the business side. Most writers today have to be involved in both, but they require two different kinds of skills. I wrote a whole article on this topic that might be helpful: The Modern Writer’s Life – Intersection of Art and Industry.
Constructive criticism is a necessary part of the process.
It’s hard to have your work critiqued, whether you’re writing your first novel or your tenth. But by the time we’ve finished drafting our manuscript, we’re too close to see what’s wrong with it. Critiques will help you identify the rough spots in your work. Here’s more on why you really do need constructive feedback on your writing: Feedback – Why We Need It. And another article on how to gather and best use the feedback you get: Get the Most From Beta Readers and Critique Partners.
While it gets easier to have our work critiqued, and we can learn to be discerning about who to ask for a critique and what editing advice to take, it’s still be a sore spot for most of us. With time and experience, we’ll come to recognize the value in the process, but it helps to know, up front, that this part isn’t easy.
As a new writer, I appreciated when someone further ahead on the journey gave me tidbits of wisdom. Now that I’ve been doing this for a while, I’m happy to pass along my favorites!