The best advice I have for aspiring writers is to be careful about accepting advice from other writers! There are lots of opinions out there about the various “rules” for writing. In my opinion, the only “rule” should be to do what works for you and your writing style.
Outline or don’t. Write every day or don’t. Read a ton of craft books or none at all. Try a few different methods, figure out what works for you and keep doing it, no matter what anyone else is doing, or telling you to do.
Here are some things that worked for me:
- Writing in the early mornings, before the rest of the house woke up, and before I was due at my day job. But that only worked for my first novel. It didn’t work for my next two novels, so I altered my strategy and wrote those in the afternoons, after work. Eventually, I went part-time at work to free up time in the mornings and early afternoons, which is when I seem to be most creative and energetic. Whenever one method isn’t working, switch it up!
- Outlining (in great detail) so I never had to wonder what was coming next in the novel. I still do this, but have many writer friends who don’t outline at all.
- Staying off writing websites until after I had hit my word count for the day–those rabbit holes can suck up your entire day if you let them!
- Reading (after I had hit my word count!) books and online resources on the process and craft of novel writing, including discussion boards where fellow aspiring writers could talk about the high and low points of writing a first novel, drafting a query, getting a first rejection. And speaking of rejection, here’s something I wrote about the many, many rejections I received before I finally landed a literary agent.
- Reading “How I Got My Agent” stories written by other writers. I found those to be very motivating. In case that sort of thing motivates you, too, here’s my story.
- Taking days off. I am not a “write every day” writer. When I’m working on a novel, I write almost every day, but when I’m between projects, I allow myself a break from the keyboard, and read as much as I can–other novels, research for a future novel, literary magazines, poetry, whatever seems interesting in the moment.
- Not waiting for The Muse or Inspiration to strike. When it’s time to write, I sit down and write. If it’s a struggle to get the words out, or the dialogue feels clunky, I keep going. Sometimes, writing is easy and flowing and sometimes it feels like a battle. Both are okay. What doesn’t work for me is feeling that I have to be inspired before I sit down. If I waited for The Muse, she might never come. I’m not willing to put my writing in her control. I wrote more about this notion here.
Before I get to the list of books and articles I found most helpful, let me say to you, aspiring writer: Keep going! Keep writing! Best of luck to you!
Books on Writing
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott (Anchor Books 1995)
The Modern Library Writer’s Workshop: A Guide to the Craft of Fiction, by Stephen Koch (The Modern Library 2003)
On Writing, by Stephen King (Scribner 2000)
On Research/Using Experts for Novels
I do a TON of research for each of my novels, and I contact experts to get their input. When I was writing my first novel, I didn’t find a great deal of information online about how to go about contacting experts and compiling research, so I’m adding links to two articles I wrote (one article, one interview) on the topic.