Now that I’ve sold a book, literally no one is knocking down my door, asking me to impart my writing wisdom to the world, but I will anyway. Prepare yourselves, it’s incredibly profound:
If you want to be a writer, write.
See, I thought I was being very clever there, but a quick search proves that Epictetus is credited with basically the same quote and that dude was born in 55 AD. So, for nearly 2,000 years, the advice to writers hasn’t really changed.
I know you may be looking for the shocking #7 on the list of “13 Things Every Successful Writer Does,” but I promise you, the best thing you can do is write. (The second best thing you can do is read. Read in your genre and outside of it. Read everything.)
The hardest part of writing is figuring out what works best for you—and you’re the only one who can do it. Those lists of things writers “must” do are BS (unless the list is one item long and includes only the word write, but that wouldn’t be much of a list).
Maybe you need the structure of writing every day. Maybe the thought writing every day kills every ounce of your creativity. Maybe you plot out the whole story before you write. Maybe you get an idea and just run with it to see where it will take you.
Here’s how I do it, which will likely be completely different than what works for you, and that’s okay.
I write every day during the week and take the weekends off, unless I’m behind on a deadline. I write s-l-o-w. I have a goal of 1,000 words a day. Some days I sail past it easily and some days it’s a slog to get half of that.
I generally know my beginning and something in the middle when I start. Creating an outline is basically a Sisyphean task for me and I could probably write a book in the time it takes me to complete one. I am attempting to get better at this, but it’s slow going.
I read a lot of books. Last year I read more than 80. I tend to read in spurts, where I’ll read five books in a week then nothing for a month. This roughly coincides with my writing speed. If writing sucks, I’ll take time to read more books. This is often called “filling the well” (of creativity) and it absolutely helps me.
Because I don’t plot ahead, I tend to edit more, both as I’m writing and after I’m finished. For my very first completed novel (which has yet to see the light of day), I ended up cutting something like 30k words in edits because I had meandered my way through the story.
I write in Scrivener and have a million little research notes to keep track of my subplots, characters, locations, and everything else. This is the only reason all of my side characters aren’t named Jack.
I could go on and on, but I have a little serial story I should be getting back to, so I’ll end with this: do what works for you. It may take you a little bit to figure it out, but keep at it. It’s worth it. :)