After a rather bruising journey to the publication of my second novel, my writing mojo has gone temporarily AWOL, so I thought I’d step away from my current project for a while and look back on my writing odyssey instead. This is a rewrite of an old post but the advice is still relevant.
In my experience, writing isn’t a life choice like exercise, or dieting, or what colour your hair should be this week. We don’t decide to become writers any more than we decide to become a man or a woman (well, most of us, anyway). By the time we’re ready to make such a conscious decision, writing has already made the choice for us. It’s a compulsion: innate, instinctive and as inevitable as death and taxes.
Here’s what I’ve learned thus far.
- Virginia Woolf was right; every woman needs a room of her own. A writing place of your own is a good thing, but failing that, even a corner of the kitchen table is better than nothing. But it’s your corner of the kitchen table.
- Don’t give up the day job; you’ll need to support yourself until that bestselling breakthrough.
- Writers need social interaction. It might be a solitary endeavour, but don’t write in total seclusion. You have lives to lead, people to care for and careers to manage. Closeting yourself away in splendid isolation means you’ll miss the stimulation of real life and real people, and this will be reflected in your writing.
- Always carry a notebook; you never know when the muse will strike. Invest in one of those tiny digital recorders for those outdoor moments. Or use the recording facility on your phone so you don’t forget that fascinating conversation you overheard in the café. Tip: wait until you get outside first.
- Watch the news. Eavesdrop. Read newspapers and magazines. Keep your finger on the pulse of modern life; be conversant with current terminology; pay attention to the way different generations speak each other. It’ll help your dialogue.
- Show your commitment; be proud. Don’t expect anyone else to take your writing seriously if you don’t yourself. Ignore those ‘friends’ who say your writing will never amount to anything; they’re wrong. And jealous.
- Organise yourself, so even the small amounts of time you eke out of your busy day will be fruitful. I admit I have the organisational skills of a hearth rug, but when I was working I wrote in my lunch hour. It’s amazing what you can accomplish in a short space of time.
- Turn the television off; you can catch up on the soaps anytime and that’s half an hour you didn’t think you had.
- Set goals and time limits. They can be relatively small, but they are necessary. Deadlines concentrate the mind and procrastination really is the thief of time. Just get on with it; you can’t edit an empty page.
- Immerse yourself in your chosen genre; study similar novels, examine them and decide what makes them appealing to readers. Learn what makes them work and apply this to your own writing.
- Learn from feedback. Even if it’s a negative comment, take it on board but trust your own judgement; everything has its time. Someone will love your work.
- Publication is the icing on the cake; you’ve finished the book. That’s a huge achievement in itself. Give yourself a pat on the back.