I’ve only been writing for ten years, which is a short amount of time in the grand scheme of most writer’s lives. A lot of days, it still feels like the beginning, like I don’t quite have my sealegs and I’m still stumbling to catch up with everyone else. While I doubt this feeling will ever completely go away, there are definitely things I would go back and tell myself about writing and the writing world in general. So here’s my advice to my past self.
- What you write won’t be good, but it’ll get better. It doesn’t matter how good you think you are, those first couple years of writing will not be mind-blowingly awesome prose, at least not without work. There are the few first-time writers who get published, but I think most of those are either flukes or went through an extensive editing process. Probably both.
- Find honest reviewers. If you post your work online, as many people do these days, especially younger writers, it’s easy to be built up by the comments about how great it was, but those people won’t help you. Find someone who will be honest and offer suggestions if you really want to improve.
- Don’t stop writing. For some people, this is easy. Some people never want to stop writing, but others get discouraged and it is incredibly easy to put aside the pen and stop writing. Don’t do that. Keep going even if whatever you’re writing is bad. Come up with a new plot, a new story, anything. Abandoning one story isn’t the end of the world. It will be there when you get back.
- Don’t force yourself to finish something you don’t like. On the same note as number three, there’s no rule that says you can’t give up on something and start something else. If you don’t like it, don’t force yourself to keep going. Don’t let a feeling of obligation take over what you want to do.
- Write for yourself. It’s an age-old saying, but it’s still true. If you write what you think will make you famous or sell a million copies, odds are, you won’t end up liking what you write. Write fantasy or science fiction, or historical fiction, or plain old romance. Don’t let other people tell you that what you want to write won’t sell or that no one will read it. You’ll read it and you’ll be happy, and I guarantee there is someone else out there who will read it too. After all, someone made thousands on a book about dinosaur porn.
I realize most of these things, most people know already, but it always bears reminding when you’re feeling annoyed that the publishing industry is stuck on vampires and dystopian novels and you want to write sci-fi historical romance steampunk books. If all else fails, take a break and start over. Novels will always be there.