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I often get e-mails from new writers asking for tips—something to help them write their book, whether they’ve just started, haven’t started, have tried and failed to finish several times, or are just stuck with a particularly challenging WIP. So I’m going to share with you the advice I repeat most often: finish the book.
IMO, the first book is the hardest to finish. It’s the one where you fight the most doubts about your ability to finish a novel, where you haven’t yet figured out the process that works best for you, where you question whether or not you’re really an actual writer. (Those doubts, struggles and questions never really go away, but they’re often the loudest when writing that first ever book).
Finishing a book isn’t easy. There are going to be days when you seriously doubt your ability to reach the end. There will be days when you think your writing completely sucks, days when you hate your characters or your plot or you think your dialogue is stupid. There will be days when you start to wonder if maybe you should give up and try something else.
Don’t give up. Don’t stop. Don’t look back.
The truth is, your first draft will probably suck. Many published writers will tell you that their first drafts are laughably bad, but here’s the thing to remember: it doesn’t matter. The first draft isn’t about getting it right, it’s about getting it done. That’s it.
Next, you need to be reading. This isn’t optional. Read the popular and obscure, read whatever you can get your hands on, and most importantly, read the genre and category that you’re writing in. You need to know what’s out there in order to be able to write a book that’ll fit on the shelf. Not only that, but you’ll discover so much when reading—for example, I never would have learned how much I love dual-POV novels or Sci-Fi if I hadn’t read Beth Revis’s Across the Universe.
Read read read read read. You won’t regret the time you take to keep aware of what’s on the market (but I promise you, you will regret it if you skip this step).
Now you’re writing and reading. Awesome. The next thing you need to accept is you have to edit. A lot.
One of the best things I’ve done for my career thus far is to learn to love to edit. That’s right—I didn’t always love it, in fact, I kind of skimped on it with my first couple WIPs (learn from my mistakes, writers: do not skimp).
But even if you don’t learn to love to edit, you need to accept that it’s going to be a part of your life if writing is truly what you want to do. And yes, for those of you editing while first drafting, you will still have to edit again. Most likely several times.
Related to this note, you need critique partners that aren’t close friends or relatives. You need feedback from other writers, and not only that, you need the experience of critiquing someone else’s work. Make the effort to find some good critique partners, because they are truly invaluable to the writing process.
The next unfortunate truth is you’re going to get rejected. This doesn’t apply to just new writers—you’ll face rejection throughout your career, regardless of where you’re at. You’ll be rejected by agents, by editors and by negative reviews.You’ll learn the difference between a form rejection and a personalized rejection (and you’ll learn that personalized rejections are a thing to be cherished).
You may hear a lot of no’s for many many years before you hear your first yes (for me, it took eight years to hear the yes that landed me an agent). You may have to trunk manuscripts and write book after book that you then have to put away, but I promise you, this is normal and it’s okay. It’s not a waste of time—you’re learning and growing and beginning to get a feel for the tough part of the writing life.
The good news is this: the writing community is wonderful. I can’t encourage you enough to get involved—start a Twitter and follow other writers, read writing blogs, check out forums, whatever you have to. The writing community is full of people in all stages of their journey, people who understand the rejection and the tough days when you want to give up on this writing dream. People who are there to help you when they can and encourage you when you’re feeling down. People who will dance with you when good things happen and beam when you share good news.
If you don’t listen to anything I’ve written, please please please do this: get involved with the writing community. You’ll learn so much from that alone.
Finally, know that you are, actually, a writer. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have an agent, or a book contract, or a published book. It doesn’t matter if you don’t write every day, or you’re not getting paid, or no one knows your name. If you write and you love to write, you’re a writer. Embrace it. Love it. Live it.
.@Ava_Jae shares an open letter to new writers, with truths, tips and encouragement. (Click to tweet)
Writer @Ava_Jae shares a letter on the hardest aspects of writing & some encouragement for those just starting out. (Click to tweet)