I’d rather not learn anything the hard way.
If I can learn from someone else’s mistake, I’ll always choose that path. Here are a collection of things I’ve learned about writing. Some are from mistakes I’ve made. Others are jewels that wise people passed along to me.
All seven – whether learned from observation or heartbreak – are shared with the hopes of encouraging other writers.
Just get the first draft down. I just finished the first draft of my first fiction book. I’m excited. And the draft is completely terrible.
Here’s why. I wasn’t trying to show how polished I can come across as a writer. I was just trying to get 20 chapters worth of (mostly) organized thoughts on paper.
Someone told me that if I was to try to make every sentence perfect along the way, I’ll never get to 20 chapters. You’ll get so consumed with perfecting the first chapter that you’ll never get to chapter 20. It doesn’t matter if the chapters are a mess. The goal of the first draft isn’t to be polished. It’s to get it down.
Read and listen. I average about one print book and 10 audiobooks a month. I love learning, and I love storytelling. But while I’m reading and listening, I’m also studying how the book came together and things I can learn from other authors.
Write what you know and love. I grew up the world’s biggest hip-hop fan. I’m a Christian who loves the church and theology. I live in an ethnically diverse neighborhood, and I’ve spent a lot of time doing ministry in jails and juvenile detention centers.
I also played college basketball and worked as a sports reporter. My writing reflects all of that. It’s not for everyone, but I know there’s an audience for the things I’m passionate about writing.
Finding a publisher is only half of the battle. Every aspiring author knows the angst of trying to find an agent or publisher; someone who will validate his or her work and give him or her a shot. If I’m being honest, my lowest point came after a big publisher decided to give me a chance.
I thought my sole responsibility as an author was to write a good book, and it would just magically fly off the shelves. I didn’t understand how being an author worked, so I was disillusioned.
Being an author involves way more than writing. The other half of being an author is a similar skill set to running a small business. And unless you are in a position that someone is doing this for you, it all falls on you.
Jon Acuff has this really succinct quote. I’m about to butcher the paraphrase, but it’s equivalent to: “If you write a book and don’t market it, you’d be better off just writing in your journal.”
It’s never too early to start marketing your book. A simple definition of marketing is transferring enthusiasm about your product to the customer (the would-be reader in this case).
I’m firmly in the I-never-want-to-talk-about-myself camp, but there are ways to do this without feeling selfish, narcissistic or egotistical.
I just finished a rough draft of a book, and I make short videos telling the back story of why I wanted to write this book.
It’s (almost) never too late to market your book. If you read the previous sentence and feel like you’ve missed the boat on marketing your book, the good news you probably didn’t miss your window.
You can always go back and tell stories about your book that help transfer enthusiasm from your product to the customer.
I’m still learning every day.
What other writing tips would you add to this list?