How to Be a Writer


Photo credit: Dr Phil on Flickr
Assuming you’re 110%-absolutely-positively sure that you want to be a writer, these are seven things you will need to do:
  1. Write often. This should go without saying, but the only way to really improve your writing is to write. Write blog posts and poems and short stories and novels. Apply new techniques and writing styles and experiment with different voices. Write a terrible book, then rewrite it and rewrite it again and again until it’s the best you can possibly make it. Then start over and write another one.

  2. Read everything. YA, MG, Adult fiction, fantasy, dystopia, non-fiction, humor, literary—read everything you can get your hands on and don’t discriminate based on covers or genre.

  3. While reading, question everything. When you get bored with a book, stop and ask yourself why. What is it about that passage (or chapter or chapters) that isn’t grabbing you? How could you fix it? When you love something ask the same question—why? What is it, exactly, that you love? What makes it so effective?

  4. Learn about the craft. Read books and blog posts about writing—gather tips and tricks and techniques from wherever you can get it. But don’t just read about it—try it out in your writing. Make notes on the tips you like the most—the techniques you need the most. Highlight and bookmark and return to passages about editing while you’re editing and chapters about dialogue when your dialogue doesn’t come out the way you imagined it.

  5. Observe. Listen to people while you’re walking down the street or sitting on the bus or eating in a restaurant. Pay attention to everything—the way the air smells after a thunderstorm, the texture of maple leaves, the crunch of gravel beneath rubber soles. Seek out inspiration everywhere—from the imagination of a kindergartner to a lunar eclipse or a particularly terrible blizzard.

  6. Take your time. Seriously. I can’t stress this enough—writing is not a race. It’s not about who gets published or if you’re 15 or 80 when your debut is released or if you self-publish or go traditional or if you have an agent or if the only person who knows you write is your gerbil Leonard. The point is that you write. You read. You improve. You make your work the best that it can possibly be and then you write some more. Take your time. Write at your own pace.

  7. Keep writing. When you’ve received more rejections than you can count, keep writing. When your well-intentioned aunt asks when you’re going to finally get published, keep writing. When you feel like your manuscript is terrible and no one will ever want to read it, keep writing. When you have five manuscripts in the drawer and another receiving just as many rejections as the first five, keep writing.

    Because as long as you keep writing and improving and writing some more, eventually you will get published. And when you reach that milestone, you’ll surface just long enough to pat yourself on the back, then keep writing some more.

What else would you add to the list? 

18 comments:

J. A. Bennett said...

Well said! It seems like those who aren't writers don't understand the challenge of it. Great post :)

Susan Sipal said...

All true, Ava, and good points.  I'll add one more -- place note-pads and pens everywhere, especially in the car.  Or maybe this just applies to the memory-challenged like me. :-)

Ava Jae said...

I think most of us don't realize just how challenging it is until we've been writing for a while. It's something you just have to learn as you go along. 

Thanks, Jenny! 

Ava Jae said...

That's a good addition, Susan. I have notebooks and digital notepads full of notes, random scribblings and ramblings. Always good to have something to jot an idea down on nearby. :)

Tina Moss said...

Agree. Agree. Agree. I'd add write everywhere. If you have to use a napkin because that's the only available paper around...well, it worked for J.K. Rowling. :) Write when you're inspired AND write when you're not inspired. In short, write.

Ava Jae said...

"Write when you're inspired AND write when you're not inspired."  

That is SO important. Sometimes the writing is easy because we are inspired, but sometimes the inspiration doesn't start until after you've struggled to put a few words (or pages) down. And sometimes it doesn't come until much later. If you wait until you're inspired to write, chances are there will be very little writing actually done. 

Matthew Rowe said...

No. 6 is my big flaw. I'm scared I'll miss the e-book indie revolution. I see people making great progress with their books and I want to get my work out there, quick, quick. I waste writing time worrying about it. I haven't written a blog post in a while because I'm worried that wasting time writing that is sacrificing time to get my next book out there. It doesn't help that my writing time is already so limited! I like your posts because you keep me grounded. Thanks.

Daniel Swensen said...

I think a LOT of writers struggle with that. The desire for instant gratification can go in all directions. It can be hard to resist. 

Ava Jae said...

It's funny, because I've found that the pressure to self-publish can feel even more urgent and pressing than the pressure to traditionally publish, probably because the power to self-publish is entirely in our hands, as opposed to the many outside influence we depend on in traditional publishing. 

The pressure to publish quickly will always be there, because I'm certain that self-publishing is here to stay. Before you let yourself speed through the process, however, ask yourself if you would rather have a hastily written book released sooner, or a polished book released later. I suspect you'd probably prefer the latter, and I think your potential readers would, too. :) 

Try not to get caught up on how long it takes you. Take all the time you need to write the very best book possible. The chance to self-publish will still be there when you're ready. 

Alice said...

Good tips. 

Ava Jae said...

Thank you!

Matthew Rowe said...

Yes, I am often annoyed at artists because they can easily get feedback for their work as a viewer just has to see it. To get feedback on writing takes a lot more time and most people don't want to spend that time.

Thanks Ava!

Alackerm said...

Great tips. I'd add to Embrace Learning.  Writing has a long learning curve and it doesn't end with published. I think to be successful, a person has to open themselves tot he idea that there is always more to learn and absorb, and enjoy the process of that. :)

Ava Jae said...

That's a great addition. You're absolutely right--as writers, we never stop learning and improving. 

Wscalfaro said...

I love this post because it's straight to the point. Thank you for the inspiration and encouragement to keep going.

Ava Jae said...

You're very welcome! So glad you enjoyed the post! 

Callmecassie said...

I'm new to the blogging world and I'm trying to become more inspired to write more to become a better blogger and your blog does just that :)

Ava Jae said...

So sweet of you! Thank you! ^_^

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