You’ve read all these writing tips before. Maybe you’ve even dismissed them as complete and utter crap. Well, here’s 10 writing tips and explanations of those writing tips that are almost guaranteed to make you crap your pants.
1. In Order to Write Well, You Have to Read Everything
I hear this all the time, and many million-dollar earning mainstream fiction writers and even indie authors have said this. If you don’t read, you can’t write. There’s some truth to this, but the connotation is that you should have a fiction book in your hand and be reading it every moment you are awake. If you’re not reading then you are an epic loser and will never write a good book.
That’s absurd. In order to write a fiction novel, you have to had read one or five or 10 or 100 books. Let’s be honest, you probably read 100 books while you were in school. That qualifies. If you write in a specific genre, it would do you some good to read books in that genre. However, you do not need to have a fiction book in your hand at all times. You don’t even currently have to be reading a book, but you better have read some books at some point in your life, and if you want to keep up on the industry, it’s a good idea to read one to two books a year in your given genre or that were just released. With that being said, your primary goal as an author and a writer is to write. You can’t write a great book if you never sit down and write it.
2. Don’t Fear Your Junk Draft
The junk draft is your first draft, and it’s often called a first draft. I like to call them junk drafts because more times than not, they are complete and utter crap, and that’s okay. The primary goal with a first or junk draft is to get it written. It doesn’t have to look pretty. All the parts of it do not have to make sense, but you do have to get your story down before you can make it make sense. Once you have your first draft, you can work on improving it through revising and editing.
3. Don’t Go Through Your Work with a Thesaurus
Do your readers a favor and don’t go through your fiction with a thesaurus, unless you happen to be writing it for an academic audience. Most individuals read between a sixth and eighth-grade level. Going over their heads with huge words that no one’s ever heard of doesn’t make you a clever author. It makes your work appear hoity-toity and not relatable.
She walked to the store. (This is what I would write. This is perfectly understandable. Everyone knows what this female character is doing.)
The gentlewoman promenaded her avoirdupois tenement to the grocery emporium. (This is tedious. If I didn’t just look this up, I’d have to look up a lot of these words.)
Instead of trying to enhance your writing with a dictionary or thesaurus, your working vocabulary is just fine. There’s a good chance that your vocabulary is already so advanced, that your readers will learn new words simply by you using the words you already know.
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Pick Up a Few Good Writing Books
I’ve mentioned writing books to those in “authority” positions for writing and been told: You don’t need that. That’s crap. Well, a person’s opinion is just that, and if writing books were all crap, no one would buy them. Not to mention, there’s only so far you can go on your own. At some point, you will want some professional advice. Whether that comes from taking a community writing course at your local college (I did this.) or purchasing a few good writing books, like Self-Editing for Fiction Writers and The First Five Drafts, (I also did this.) depends on you. You can even opt to go to one or more writing conferences if you have the cash to attend. (My wallet says no to writing conferences.)
The bottom line is this. You need to be able to objectively determine what help you need, and you shouldn’t fear purchasing writing books just because someone told you they are all crap. After all, you can’t buck the advice until you know what it is.
5. Do Mark Your Territory
Being a writer means giving yourself the space you need to write. If this means you’re building an outbuilding that will serve as your writing sanctuary, claiming that unused bedroom as your office or declaring one wall of your home as yours, you need to do it. You also need to let everyone in your household know that your writing space is yours, and entering the writing space by any other members of the family is forbidden. By marking your territory, you are giving yourself a place to write and permission to write and ignore everything and everyone else while you are in your space. I wouldn’t advise marking your territory by pissing around the perimeter, but I do have a crazy aunt that’s not above putting Limburger cheese and rotting milk in her personal spaces.
6. You Didn’t Choose to Be a Writer. It Chose You
Writing is one of those careers that is a calling, much like being a doctor, a nurse, a social worker, artist, police officer and fireman. You are compelled to write by some unseen force, and that’s okay. In fact, it’s preferred. Writing is so hard that unless you are compelled to do it, you will give up the minute you hit some adversarial force, and trust me, there are plenty of people, platforms and entities that are ready and willing to tear you down.
7. Don’t Love It
It’s okay to like your writing and be satisfied with it, but don’t love it to the point where you think changing it will affect the story, sentences or perfection of prose. If you love your writing so much that you fear changing even a single word would be blasphemous, you can’t edit, and editing is how you make a junk draft into a great novel.
8. Perfect Prose is Crappy Fiction
I hate to say it, but if you absolutely love the sentence you spent six hours crafting, it’s probably bad for your book. I can’t tell you how many sentences I’ve seen in fiction that were beautifully written and skillfully crafted and had nothing to do with the story. The problem is that those wonderful, super insightful sentences often don’t help develop your characters or move your plot forward. They end up being the equivalent of author vomit on the pages. Readers read these sentences and they just KNOW this is the author spouting off at the mouth about how great and fantastic their written prose is.
9. Don’t Try to Be the Next X Major Mainstream Author
At no point should you ever strive to BE the next X mainstream author. There’s only one of them, and you don’t need to imitate them. You do, however, need to be you. Your author voice is what makes your story unique. The way you think is what makes your story unique. If you are trying to be another author or imitate another author, you are doing yourself a disservice.
10. Writing a Book Is Like Running Up a Cliff Covered in Jagged Rocks Barefoot While Carrying 100 Pounds of Weights While Having Someone Yelling in Your Ear the Entire Time that You’re Never Going to Make It
Writing a book is a nasty, grueling, challenging, lonely process. It is both the best thing in the worst and the most frustrating thing you will ever do. It is full of crappy sentences, crappy plots, underdeveloped characters and self-doubt. To make matters worse, many authors have individuals in their lives that are constantly telling them they are not good enough. They will never finish their book. Why don’t you get a real job or a real hobby? Get your head out of the clouds and back into reality and do what everyone else does (so you can be miserable too). Just get a bigger sledgehammer and some full-body plate armor. There will be challenges and naysayers for the entirety of your writing career. The best thing you can do is grow some thick skin and let their words bounce off or roll into the mud where they belong. After all, you have a job to do, and that’s finishing your story and getting it out there to the world.