Do you ever have a moment when you pray to whatever you believe in that maybe, just maybe, you’ll start getting smarter? That maybe you’ll stop making the same ridiculous mistakes again and again, ever after making your life more difficult?
I do. Especially when it comes to my writing. As with many things, it’s so much easier to give advice than take it. So, I’m going to suggest ten things I know about writing that you SHOULD do … and which sometimes I’m not smart enough to remember.
- Plot the damned book. No, I don’t mean you have to use a spreadsheet and know every detail of every scene, or remember each day of your fictional character’s life (although if that’s for you, go for it). What I am saying is have some kind of a plan. Maybe it’s just an idea of a direction that you jot notes about. Maybe you opt for the “25 things that have to happen” list, or just the major turning points, but if you give yourself a bit of a road map, you make your life SO much easier, especially when it comes time for revisions. Yes, I have started with no idea where I’ve been going, and I’ve written detailed plot cards; the first is too little for me, the second too much (I get bored). Which leads to my next point …
- Plot and write in YOUR way, not the method that works best for Mr. Bestseller or Ms. NewYorkTimes. Certainly, as you grow and learn your craft, your methods will likewise change and evolve. That’s great. They should. And who knows, maybe you will write and plot like other writers … and maybe you won’t. Don’t worry about it so much, and just get on with the writing and discovering your own method. Which means …
- Never stop learning. Take courses, read books, talk to other writers. I think it’s dangerous to suddenly reach a point where you feel you have nothing left to learn. Why, are you perfect? How did that happen? And if you are, where are you supposed to go from there? Your books might still be good, but they’ll never get any better, which personally, sounds boring. So, keep learning, keep trying to expand yourself however you can. Sometimes you’ll learn / realize something that will knock you back on your butt, but that’s okay, it’s just a growing pain.
- Avoid information overload. Respect your own intuition, too. Okay, so once you’ve read all those books, it can be really easy to think, gee, I’m not doing ANY of those things, and I must be terrible, I have to change how I’m doing this, I better try that … Stop. Consider. Are there areas in your writing (craft, methods, etc), that you know need improvement? Than maybe some change is needed. However, don’t change everything just for the sake of change. Some of what you were doing was probably working for you, and if it’s getting the results you want, don’t toss it needlessly.
- Know what input to accept, and what to reject.This is something that takes confidence and belief in yourself, and which changes over time. It applies to critiques, workshops, classes, knowledge in books. Before accepting – or rejecting – anything just because, let it sink in for a bit. Some will stick, and feel right. Others … won’t, so let them float away and disappear. Which leads to …
A break for the week, since this post is growing too long! Next week I’ll have the final 5 things you can do and hopefully avoid my mistakes.
Meanwhile, what mistakes / tips would you share? Come on, it will be cathartic.
Thanks for reading, and have a great week.