How many posts can we read on writing advice? I’ve read hundreds, yet I always come back for more. Why is that? Besides being passionate about improving my craft, for me, it’s about inspiration. I’m always hoping to find a little nugget to light a fire under my feet or change my view of something I’ve been wrestling with in my WIP. So without much ado, I’m going to share a few of my own tips.
1. Work your ass off. No really, WORK YOUR ASS OFF. Writing is hard, but don’t make excuses. People who make excuses don’t run the world. They don’t even accomplish minor tasks. If you want to write, then make like Nike and JUST DO IT, and do it well.
Be humble. If you think you’re a special snowflake then your writing life will be an arduous one—both on the page because of internal expectations, and with others in publishing. No one likes to be around an ego-maniac or a drama queen. They aren’t fun to play with.
Surround yourself with people who inspire you. Life is hard enough as it is. Dump the dead weight, the nags, the negative nellies, and the poor-mes. They add nothing to your life, weigh you down, and they sure as hell don’t help you feel good about yourself in a difficult business.
Read every single day. Don’t tell me you don’t have time. Everyone can read for ten minutes before bed. Lose sleep. Reading matters. There are dozens of studies that show its direct correlation to writing skills. Not only that, but it’s a terrific way to study the craft while enjoying yourself. I’ve learned more from reading fiction than all other methods combined.
Consistency matters more than quantity. Some days you write 500 words, some days, three sentences, others, 3,000. Don’t judge your quantity; judge your routine, your dedication, and your consistency. The turtle wins the race.
Don’t compare your journey to others. For one thing, it doesn’t help you write any better or sell more books. For another it only makes you feel like a loser. It’s easy to be eaten up with envy in a creative business. Transform that envy to fuel, to once again, WORK YOUR ASS OFF. And always be proud of what you’ve accomplished.
Give yourself time to “refill the well”. If you’re writing well or “correctly”, it takes a monumental amount of intellectual and emotional, never mind creative input. Though exhilarating, it’s also exhausting. Strike out on adventures, dabble in other hobbies or creative pursuits you love. Fill your well with richness and replenish yourself so you have more to bring to the table on that next writing day.
Be flexible about your vision. Each book we write changes us. The direction you thought you wanted may not be the place where you end up. Be open to change. It could very well send you to the moon.
Don’t forget to live in the present, not just in your fictional worlds. It’s easy for us to get lost in other worlds. That’s one of the biggest draws to writing. But if we don’t have life experiences and interests and knowledge and skills, we would have no creative well to dip into. Be present. Absorb. Engage. It can only make your books stronger.
Conversely, for all the great advice out there, there’s a bunch of BAD ADVICE as well. A few of my favorites are:
Start your own blog, especially to talk about writing. If this is something you enjoy, go for it. But the fact of the matter is, there are hundreds of writing blogs. When you blog about writing, you’re growing your publishing community (definitely a good thing), but it’s NOT a way to reach readers. How many novels have you bought of authors who run their own writing blog?
Write what you know. If we did this, there would be A LOT of books about writers in yoga pants with huge piles of laundry to wade through. Snoozzzze fest. Obviously I flout this rule completely as a historical writer. You should, too. Part of what is so exciting about this passion of ours is branching out and learning, stretching and growing. So wade into uncharted waters and see what happens.
Rock social media like it’s going out of style. I enjoy social media as an extrovert. Connecting with people is fun for me, since I’m typically alone all day in my fictional world. That being said, the longer I’m in this business, the more I realize how much social media detracts from a writer’s psyche. Also? If you haven’t figured out a way to reach readers online, once again, you aren’t selling books. Choose which platforms you develop wisely. Doing them ALL isn’t effective or practical.
Write every day. This industry is too full of “shoulds” and doesn’t have enough “coulds”. Sometimes you just need a break, (which takes us back to refilling our creative wells). As I said before, WRITING IS HARD. If you don’t rest once in awhile, you may find yourself in burn-out mode.
P.S. If you want to write good books every time, it never gets easier, so LOVE what you do or don’t do it.
What is the BEST or WORST piece of writing advice you’ve ever received? Bonus points for funnies.
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Heather Webb writes historical novels for Penguin and HarperCollins,which have been translated to three languages and have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Cosmopolitan magazine, France magazine, and Reuters News Book Talk. BECOMING JOSEPHINE follows the life and times of Josephine Bonaparte set to the backdrop of the French Revolution, and RODIN’S LOVERreleased Jan 27th, chronicles the passionate and tragic story of Camille Claudel, sculptor, collaborator, and lover to the famed Auguste Rodin. A FALL OF POPPIES releases in 2016.
Heather is also a freelance editor and contributor to award-winning writing sites WriterUnboxed.com and RomanceUniversity.org. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association.