Advice on writing can be tricky because being a writer is a peculiar state, but here is what you need to know not to worry too much.
Advice on being a writer can be found almost everywhere but are they actually working? As a writer, you are sometimes looking for reassuring words or tips to get things done, but sometimes the things you read have the opposite effect.
Writing a novel sounds really appealing because as soon as you have an idea, you technically have something you can write about. Then complications begin. You have only answered the “why” question here, and then you still have all the other question marks popping: am I a writer? When should I write? How? For whom?
Don’t torture yourself with all these questions, you don’t need answers right now. Here you’ll find some precious things you need to know if you want to write a book without stressing too much. Always remember that it’s not homework, and you are not a student but a writer.
What does it mean to be a writer today?
If you google this question, you will find tons of websites trying to answer it. I consider myself an amateur writer, and it’s normal to wonder if you can, but the first answer is the simplest one: you are a writer as soon as you consider yourself a writer. Nothing more, nothing less.
You can consider yourself a writer when you have written something, but not necessarily when you have finished it. Let’s be clear, the things you wrote for school don’t make you a writer, but all the rest do. Either it is a long or a short piece, fictional or not, a novel, a poem or a song, it doesn’t matter. All you have written, even if it’s just saved in a long-forgotten hard-drive and has never been read by anyone, counts.
Of course, it’s not because you wrote fanfiction when you were fourteen that you want to call yourself a writer. It depends on what you want. So, if you only wrote this teenage fanfiction and you feel like a writer, then you are one. Being a writer is first a state of mind; you’re the one who gets to decide.
It’s almost like being part of a movement: you are the only one who can tell if you want to be in. “Writer” sounds like a job title, but it’s more than that. You don’t need to earn your life by selling books to be a writer, even if society and your high-school career advisor would disagree.
The internet gave us so many places to express ourselves with blogs and dedicated websites like Archive of Our Own and Wattpad. It also allowed so many people to give advice, but are they really helping? It’s a question of opinion. I’ll give you mine, but first let me tell you three things I would have liked to know before I started reading advice online.
Three useful pieces of advice everyone should know
- Don’t listen to advice you find online
It is a bit of a paradox, but it’s one of the most important things you should keep in mind. If you’re googling “writing techniques,” it’s probably because you need help and don’t get me wrong, advice articles can be useful. You don’t want to throw away everything you read because you could find some interesting tips, but you should remember that there is no perfect method.
If there was one, everyone would be the next Rick Riordan and where would be the thrill? What works perfectly for one author can be awful for another one. It’s normal. Someone’s methods can help you, but sometimes you find yourself very far away from what you read. And that’s okay: keep in mind that writing is a personal thing and not every method can be applied to everyone.
Maybe the first tip you find will be perfect for you, maybe the second would make you cringe because you won’t understand how you could do that. It’s important to know that not fitting in the cases you find doesn’t make you a bad writer. A lot of advice lists start with variations of the same sentence, ‘read a lot’. If you don’t manage to do that, don’t blame yourself.
The point here is to listen to yourself. If you’re looking for advice and you find some that you can apply to your writing process, that’s great. But if you find a ten-point list with nothing you see yourself doing, don’t panic.
- Write whenever you want to.
This is the logical following of the first advice. In those same advice articles, you will probably find different versions of “write everyday.” Once again, maybe it’s a good technique for you, but maybe you’re not the kind of person who can (or want to) write every day. Nothing is automatic, and you should always do what is best for you.
Write whenever you want to because if you force yourself and you don’t like what you’re writing, then your readers will feel it and won’t like what they’re reading. I like to think about writing and reading as a partnership: the writer has to be true to his readers. Sometimes you’re just not in the mood, sometimes it’s just not a good day for your writing. It’s normal, you’re still human.
Some people will say the writer block doesn’t exist, mostly because they have never been confronted with such a thing. Lucky them. If you’re not part of this select group, you’ve already been in front of a blank page with nothing to write on it. Maybe you didn’t have any idea, maybe you just didn’t find the perfect way to transform them into words. Stop comparing yourself with others and be kind to your mind; it is also going through a lot.
Don’t get me wrong; you can force yourself into writing a part. Sometimes you just need it so you can get to the next step. But keep in mind that it probably won’t be your best piece and you’ll need to edit it more for the second draft. Once again, it’s okay. Deadlines can be useful for some people but horrible for others.
If one day you are published, your publisher would probably impose deadlines for your next book and then you won’t have any other choice. Even if you’d be lucky to live as an author, it probably won’t be funny every day. Right now, you’re free to do as you want, so enjoy this freedom of procrastinating on your writing because, hopefully, it won’t last.
- Don’t let anyone drag you down.
The people around you can be very important when you’re a writer but nobody should be able to make you doubt yourself or your writing. Knowing other authors can be helpful. They are good beta readers because they aren’t afraid to tell the truth and they probably know what you’re dealing with. You can also find help on supporting groups like Writers Helping Writers (several groups have similar names).
You need honest people criticizing your work, because if the first person to do so is a professional publisher, it might hurt. A lot. However, if you don’t want to share your writings with anyone, it doesn’t mean you are not a writer. In the end, you have the final word: your writings are personal and if you want to keep them for yourself, it’s understandable.
Nobody can tell you to stop or, on the contrary, to keep going. If you want to do it, you do it. If you want to stop for whatever reason, even if you’re in the middle of the story, you stop. If you don’t want to try to publish it, nobody can force you. You are the only owner of your masterpiece, never forget that. You do whatever you want with it.
You’re an artist and a writer, never let anyone convince you of the contrary. It may be difficult but it’s never impossible. So, don’t believe it when you’ll hear that you’ll never make it, because you will hear it at one point. As Lin-Manuel Miranda once tweeted it, “They’re gonna laugh. That’s okay. Keep writing.” People won’t always take you seriously, and you’ll probably have moments when you won’t either. It’s normal, and you’ll deal with it.
They're gonna laugh. That's okay. Keep writing. https://t.co/COQjCrfwcE
— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) February 17, 2016
If any other hobby is accepted, yours is too. Never be ashamed of the genre you choose to write. Youth literature authors are full grown adults. If E.L. James wrote Fifty Shades of Grey, got published and earned millions then you can write erotic romance novel. And your first genre doesn’t define what you have to write for the rest of your life.
I am probably not the most relatable source on the topic, but I can give you my personal experience. I’m still struggling. I’m three years into the writing of my main novel, and it’s not even almost finished. It’s okay for me, I write it when I want to, even if sometimes my ‘blank periods’ last for months. The most difficult thing, which is also the most important one, is to believe in yourself.
I’m not 100% focused on my biggest piece. I think it’s interesting to write other things, even if you already have one novel going on. I follow my mood and my envies. Yes, you can do other projects besides your big one, it might even help you get back into the right mood for your masterpiece.
I am not a fan of advice I find online because they never fit me. Maybe that’s why I wanted to give my own. I think these advice articles can be restrictive and stressful. They don’t give enough credit to freedom and personal approach. Every writer is different so it doesn’t sound logical to try to make them fit in the same scheme.
I am personally surrounded by other writers, and they are all amazing beta readers. They are very helpful, always there to cheer me up but always truthful with their critiques. I know I can trust them, they even help me figure out some parts of my stories. But besides that, I still find it difficult to introduce myself as a writer to other people.
At the end, it is not always easy, but it feels good. Very good. So, I really hope you found yourself in the definition of what it is to be a writer and that these three pieces of advice are helpful. Let me know if you agree with them and don’t hesitate to give us your own tips in the comment section!