In the words of Richard Bach, “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” Below are five tips to getting past the “I want to write a book” stage to “I’m on draft ____ of my book!”
1. Read, read, read!
Before you become a famous writer, you should read the works of famous writers. Lots of writers with lots of variety. Pay attention to the different and subtle ways they connect with their audience. You might read two fantasy books, but one may be all about world building while the other is all about character building. Even though I love the fantasy genre, I know that I’m much more invested in character-driven plots than world-building plots, or rather I appreciate when authors are clever enough to reveal the world-building through plot movements rather than biblical-style backstory for the first third of the book. It’s important to see these different techniques to understand what you prefer.
2. Read good books on writing.
This is a step lots of writers skip, but I find that whenever I’m a little stuck, the right advice from a veteran expert in writing will have just the push I need to get to where I need to go next. My three favorite books on writing are: The Portable MFA in Creative Writing by the New York Writers Workshop, the classic On Writing Well by William Knowlton Zinsser, and On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King.
3. Take time to understand your audience.
Are you writing for men? Women? Are they in costume at Comic-Con or attending a law-school reunion? How about both? Take time to think specifically who you’re writing for. It will affect how you set up your characters, events, and the language you use. However, the story ultimately has to come from you, so you should factor yourself into the audience as well. What specifics about you, as an example of an audience member, would you apply to your book? I’m not asking you to write your family memoir and to also factor in millions of people. I’m talking about your lifestyle and interests. Let’s say you’re a fantasy reader: in your own world, are you more likely to read a three-part, 600-pages per book epic fantasy OR a collection of Stephen King’s short stories?
Every book has a first, second, third, and sometimes a thirtieth draft. And every first draft is crap. So give yourself time to have plenty of pressure-free practice! Richard North Patterson said it best: “Writing is rewriting. A writer must learn to deepen characters, trim writing, intensify scenes. To fall in love with the first draft to the point where one cannot change it is to greatly enhance the prospects of never publishing.” Accept that your first draft will be a failure and unworthy of you and of publishing–but you won’t know how to revise it for a second draft until you write the first!
5. Do it already!
Writing is a skill that you learn both from a perfect mixture of experiencing good writing through reading and practicing writing that can be continually improved upon! Only through both can we really achieve great writing. So do it already! Just don’t forget to always be reading a good book at the same time…no matter how busy you are! It’s for your continued education!