Got on your thick skin?
Here we go!
1 Don’t die with your book in you.
Write. Learn. Commit to doing the grunt work. Stop thinking about writing and write. Don’t expect your first book to be a bestseller. Don’t even expect it to be published.
Want to write a series?
I went along to see George R R Martin speak. Warhorse alert! God he’s awesome. He said (and I’m paraphrasing ) first time writers should never start with a series. They should learn to write first. Worry about writing a series once you’ve mastered the basics. Once you have a few books under your belt. You sure as hell don’t want to be locked into a publishing deal when you’re still clueless.
In other words be prepared to train. Learn by DOING. Every profession requires training, writing’s no different.
Even if you don’t want to be a career author, if you have the call to write a book you must get about the business of writing. And sooner rather than later.
2 Entering the cave of the imagination is tiring!
This shocks a lot of beginners. Especially those that have a romantic vision of the process. You won’t write a book perched on a balcony in Tuscany, a glass of vino in one hand, a quill in the other. You just won’t.
Writing involves long periods of intense concentration, intense imagining, and it’s isolating and draining. We all resist going into the cave. We all linger at the entrance thinking, I don’t want to go in there today. There has to be an easier way.
But there’s not. Whatever you want to write, be it crime fiction, nonfiction, children’s books or romance novels, you must go into the cave—over and over again. Hopefully, once you’ve been in there a few times it’ll stop scaring you. You really do grow accustomed to it. But only if you persist.
3 Organise your priorities.
How badly do you want this? Make a decision then organise your life accordingly. You might even have to get ‘selfish’. Make sure your schedule includes thinking time as well as writing time. Both are equally important.
Timing is also crucial. If you have a full-time job and a young family, how are you going to pull this off? Writing is a hungry beast. And if you succeed and the book is published, there’ll be even more demands on your time.
How intense is your day job? Can you pare back so that you have enough mental energy to pursue your writing dreams? What can you go without? Have you heard of MLI? That’s minimum liveable income. If you can work out how much money you REALLY need in order to get by, it can liberate you. You might be surprised. Most of us need a lot less than we think we do.
The thought of coming up with your MLI might press your buttons. Sorry. Tough love. Having been a sole parent I learned early on that I could ‘do poverty’ with great aplomb. It was a revelation and freed me up psychologically and emotionally so that I could pursue my creative dreams.
Not that I support the starving artist myth. Or the belief that you can have money or you can follow your passions but you can’t have both. That’s BS. But it might help if you agree to live under apprenticeship conditions for the first few years of your writing journey.
4 Dedicate tight blocks of time to errands, don’t litter your days with them.
Errands will eat up your life as thoroughly and as surreptitiously as television. Speaking of which, don’t watch it. Except maybe for Game of Thrones. And some of those comedies on the ABC. And A Place to Call Home.
Plan ahead, be strategic and be consistent. Have you ever met an artist who only drew for one hour on a Saturday afternoon during the school holidays? I doubt it. Artists draw every day. It the same way make writing a priority, not something you squeeze in when all else is done.
If you want to be a writer you must push writing into the foreground of your life. You must tackle it when your brain is bright and energised not when it’s flagging.
Your dreams deserve energy and vitality. Otherwise, what’s the point?
PART TWO (that’s four more tips) TOMORROW.
How tough am I?
Feel like you need some more inspiration? (I’m not always such a hard arse). Subscribe to girl and duck here and you’ll get links to all my creative writing videos—plus the occasional VIP newsletter and all sorts of other news and goodies.