Lose your ego
Nothing turns off a reader quicker than reading a writer’s ego. It’s boring and not written with your audience in mind. For me, this was the most important of the 10 lessons I’ve learnt writing my first book.
This was my first conscious lesson. I’d only started writing when the ego jumped out from the pages. It was easy to spot. Reading it felt like watching a video of myself dancing drunk trying to impress a girl. I hated how I was trying to sound. Instead of driving the story forward it was puff that needed culling. At least hitting the delete key was easy. This is no kill your darlings. Learn this one fast. Your writing will improve dramatically.
Writing is about consistency
Turing up regularly at the computer/notebook etc., is the way to create content. It sounds obvious, but life throws up a lot of distractions. We all procrastinate. But if you find time to write everyday you will soon form a habit of writing. It could be one page–around 300 words a day isn’t hard. But sometimes writing feels heavy. A book is built one word at a time, so lay down the words to your destination. Soon you’ll find that computer calling you.
Rejection is a road bump
I could say it doesn’t sting a little. But after a few rejections, your hide gets tough and you get over it. I take comfort in the story of the 1970’s hit, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It was rejected 121 times then went on to sell 5 million copies worldwide. And there are countless examples of books that were rejected many times before enjoying great success. Think of a rejection pile as an apprenticeship to becoming a successful author.
Writing should be called rewriting
I’ve rewritten my book countless times. I honestly couldn’t tell you how many. Only that it reads better as my writing improves and the more books I read in the genre it’s written in. I edit out what doesn’t drive the story forward and leave in the parts that do.
Engage other eyes
After rewriting and editing your book you have to let it stand up on its own two feet. You need friends/acquaintances to read and critically review for mistakes; gaps in the story; character development etc. Give them a highlighter and a red pen and ask them to empty them both. They need to be brutally honest, otherwise you won’t get the feedback you needed to improve your manuscript.
Research is important
The level of detail depends if your book is fiction or nonfiction. Nonfiction has a greater level of research than fiction. But with fiction the burden to be honest and consistent with your world is still relevant. The world you’ve created has to be believable (this goes with fantasy – but here it’s more about consistency and detail). In my book, I’ve researched items as diverse as what’s on the menu at a local pizza shop, to the types of cars used by undercover police, weapons used by the army, and what’s a rare bottle of Scotch worth. These details add depth.
Learn to promote yourself
Regardless if you get a traditional publishing deal or not, you need to hit social media and start engaging with readers. This also means attending writing events and talking about what you’re writing about. The publishing industry is small so networking is important. Maybe start a website and write a blog.
You are a writer
Don’t let people tell you otherwise. If you write on a regular basis or have large breaks between writing days, make a lot of money from writing, or very little (or none), you are a writer. Your choice to write might be mysterious to some people, but what people think isn’t any of your business.
Most authors will tell you
I’ve watched many interviews with established authors about the writing process and what makes a writer. Most say it’s about the disciplined act of writing everyday. Yes, there are slight variations with what motivates them and where creativity comes from, but the central theme is to write regularly and read a lot.
And the last lesson…
Believe in yourself. Let a thousand people tell you otherwise, but never let those words repeat in your head.
Also published on Medium.