It all begins that way. You write.
At least you write if you call yourself a writer. If you are one of our rare “just readers” readers, at ease.
But if you call yourself a writer, write.
I called myself a writer since I was six, when I decided when I grew up I wanted to write novels just like Enid Blyton’s. I filled several exercise books with (frankly appalling) children’s adventure novels, before I graduated to (frankly appalling) science fiction and mystery. Somewhere there in my late teens I realized I didn’t have enough world-experience to write good novels or even short stories that sounded real, so I wrote short shorts that were moral and preachy (and apparently could have won a Nebula, if I’d been writing them in English) mostly from the countercultural side because that was all the rage in the seventies and I was a kid. So you know, the saintly drug user dies and everyone realizes how mean they were to him, or aliens come down and redistribute wealth. (Yeah, it was burned. Why?)
That kind of thing is thin gruel, so I wrote it only – as with my poems – to either show off or exercise one of the peaks of emotion that hit adolescents.
I didn’t write every day. I didn’t write every month.
Until I got married. My husband you see is a musician. Though he sometimes lets it lapse for a year or so, because we’re moving and the piano is elsewhere, he practices. Every day. He understands the value of practice.
So when we’d been married three months, he said “How come you don’t write? I thought you were a writer?”
I made the usual newbie excuses: inspiration wasn’t there; I didn’t have ideas; I never knew how to finish stories.
And he said, “Writers write. It doesn’t matter if you’re ever published. If you’re a writer, you write every day.”
So I did. And eventually I started sending things out and collecting rejections, before collecting acceptances, before making enough off this that my getting the day jobs I could (secretary. Free lance translator.) is moot because I make the same now. The hours are terrible, but I work in the warm and (right now) in my pajamas.
Now it’s been almost thirty years since I got that kick in the rear, and here’s what I’ve learned in that time:
- No writer has just one story/world in him. If you think you do, you haven’t given your imagination full rein. The reason you should is that like knowing your native language better when you know another, you know your first world better in the light of the others. I’m starting to think I might be able to – now – write in a commercial form the world I first wrote eight unsalable novels in.
- No block is never ending. So far the longest blocks I’ve had: one year and then two years were predicated on very serious illness plus a raft of scary life events. Even those passed/are passing as the underlying problem gets taken care of.
- Finishing is difficult for everyone. There’s a hump in the middle of every story (or one third in for me) and you have to consciously push past it. If you do, you get the biggest rush ever as everything comes together towards the finish. It’s better than any high drugs could give you. Try.
- Practice makes perfect. No, let me say that again. Practice makes perfect. I don’t care how wretched you are, if you write every day you will improve. Now, I’m not saying you’ll be Shakespeare, but live long enough, write every day and I guarantee you’ll be readable.
- Your goals should be goals you can control. Don’t make up goals that say “I’ll sell a million copies indie” or “I’m going to sell to TOR and win a nebula.” Those goals are dependent on many circumstances. You can hope for them, sure. But you can’t control them. Instead your goals should be “I’m going to finish two novels” (or three or four or ten) “this year, and they will be better than last year’s novels.”
- If you don’t put your work in front of people who might buy it, you will never know if they would. Send that stuff out, or put it up indie.
- Rejection is what happens on the way to success. And before you say “I had twenty rejections, no one ever bought me.” I used to send out a story a week. For six or ten (I can’t remember) years I got 100 rejections by March every year. I used to keep them in laundry hampers with the year marked on top. As for indie, one of our regular bloggers here had a novel up that sold clear nothing for a year and then suddenly made the writer thousands of dollars. Someone discovered it and told a friend who told a friend. You never know. Allow your stuff to have a chance at success.
But most importantly, write. Write every day. Write like you mean it.
Writers write. That’s what we do.