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Ten things I wished I knew about writing before I started

Thursday, December 9, 2021

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#1 The grind of learning craft

I’ve spent ten years improving my craft, and there is still so much left to learn. I’ve written thirty-five books of different genres with different characters and plots. I show my work to a professional editor, who still shred it. Not one word was left unscathed from the big red marker.

I still have a lot to learn. And I’ll never be able to learn it all.

 

#2 The importance of developing a support system

I started an in-person writing group ten years ago. They have been an invaluable source of support and encouragement. I write a lot (see the thirty-five books and counting). I risked burning my support group out. I solved this by actively searching out new writers with whom to collaborate, joining professional associations, and engaging further with the industry. Sure, there are some people I lean on more heavily than others, but I’m mindful not to become a burden to them.

Peer support from other authors is critical. Note, I said authors. You can turn to your friends and family to read and critique your work, but often they will shy away or never get back to you. Focus on developing a network of authors who want to collaborate.

 

#3 The industry is in flux

Ten years ago, many authors viewed self-publishing as a last resort. Today, many authors choose to self-publish as a first strategy. There has been a rapid development of the e-pub and self-publishing ecosystem. There are more review sites, promotional sites, and other author support sites, and there will be even more in a year from now.

There is always something to learn about handling book promotions, review sites, writing podcasts, author blogs, newsletters, networking, associations, and branding. It’s easy to get overwhelmed.

This is a repeat of #1. I still have a lot to learn, and I focus on continuous learning instead of learning everything at once.

 

#4 Writing takes time

A lot of time. So much time that I had to make lifestyle changes. I cut out television almost entirely. I stack my time to be more efficient. If I’m driving, I listen to audiobooks. If I’m at the grocery store, I listen to writing podcasts. There are other choices I’ve made to ensure the maximum amount of time possible to write.

Every choice I’ve made has had both positive and negative consequences. I’ve learned to be more mindful of ripple effects because some decisions can’t be unmade.

 

#5 Writing can be very lonely

If you dedicate too much time to writing, you can lose friends or become depressed. As with many things in life, balance is key. You’re an entire person, not a series of hands that type words. Take care of your mind, body, and spirit. Sometimes, your mind needs more attention. Other times your body needs more attention. Balance the moment with the span of your life.

 

#6 No matter how hard you try, there’s always someone better

Writing isn’t a sport. There’s no championship series at the end of the year to prove you’re the best writer. Sure, there are awards, but they aren’t global awards from your genre and not every book in your genre was reviewed for the award. You can be an Amazon best-seller or a New York Times best-seller, and still, there will always be someone better at the very moment you’re number one.

I often get harsh comments on my work. Professional editors have dressed me down. I’ve been quoted outrageous rates to review my work (try four times industry standard). It would have been easier on my ego for the editor to have said they didn’t have the time to take on a new client. I’ve received condescending remarks from New York Times best-sellers who have told me I shouldn’t write. I’ve been flat-out ignored by authors who have published several books at in-person conferences. I was feet away from them (pre-pandemic,) looked them square in the eye, and asked a question, and they flat out ignored me.

Still, I sit. Typing.

A harsh comment can cut deeply. However, there’s no point in arguing with someone who has a negative view of my work. I don’t dwell on the negative feelings because it will distract me from the other things I need to do that day. I accept, I seek to improve, and I move on.

It takes twenty-five extremely positive comments to compensate for one brutal comment.

My skin will never be thick enough. Callouses over blisters covered by steel plated armour. I need force fields, asteroid belts, and a galaxy to distance myself. 

It will still never be enough. 

What would I have told myself when I started writing? Learn as many self-esteem improving techniques as possible.   

 

#7 Writing is expensive

It might seem like a free hobby where all you need is a computer (or a notepad) and time. If you participate in writer’s groups, there’s often a fee. A coffee, a muffin, a rented room at the library. If you go to coffee shops to write in public, you’re paying for a coffee. If I take courses, most carry a fee (sometimes in a different currency). When you attend conferences, there’s a fee. And so on.

I don’t have inherent talent when it comes to writing. Some people can craft a perfect sentence without having taken a course. I cannot.

I took courses, hired writing coaches, joined associations, went to conferences, bought books on craft, and other associated activities (networking events in a restaurant and I bought my lunch, etc.).

There are ways to minimise costs, such as participating in free workshops offered through libraries and borrowing books on craft instead of buying them. However, there’s a trade-off, at least for me. The less money I spend on learning the craft, the slower I’m able to improve because I’m dependent on free courses.

What’s that adage? Nothing in life is free? Pay in money or in time, but you always pay.

 

#8 Back up

Back everything up using two separate methods. Back up everything because your sanity and emotional well-being depend on it. Horrible things happen in life. Let’s not self-inflict something horrible because we didn’t back up.

I have files on my drive. I have files saved in draft emails. I have a thumbnail drive. I update all three daily. Files on world-building, character notes, drafts of WIPs (including first drafts). I draw maps of my towns and worlds, scan them and back them up.

Back up everything. Daily.

 

#9 There will be times when you can’t write

Sometimes inspiration doesn’t strike. Other times, a busy work or family schedule takes away your free time. Moving. Illness. Mental illness. Injury. Pandemic brain. Any other things that happen in life that disrupt your ability to write.

Give yourself permission to take a break from writing.

It’s hard. But you need to be kind to yourself because no one else will be kind to you.

 

#10 Writing should bring you joy

When it becomes a chore, it’s a sign you need to re-evaluate the balance in your life. You’re also at risk of burning out. Some authors can comfortably write and edit four books a year. Other authors write one book a year. Different authors have different production schedules. Find a release schedule that works for you.

 

Thank you @OldScho94935673 for the topic suggestion.

 

Readers are encouraged to continue the conversation on Twitter. You can reach me at @reneegendron Readers are also encouraged to suggest topics for my next blog post. 

Porter Blaze
wrote
Saturday, December 11, 2021, 09:27
Wow, number 6 was brutal, and a big part of why I have been so hesitant to publish, you are an inspiration