Dear Aspiring Writers,
There are so many of us who start by saying we’re going to write a book someday. We throw out hints of possibilities and dream of what could be. We stand at the precipice and tickle the idea with a feather and wonder, should I? Could I?
Before long, we take the wrong path and begin wondering and obsessing about the finish line (publication). Will we be laughed right off the internet? Will someone trash us horribly in a review? Will agents look at what we’ve written and turn their backs on us while laughing so hard they snort?
We are putting our souls out for all the world to see. Our personal insecurities and fears tell us we will never be good enough. Hell, the world tells us that so each of them can feel better about their insecurities. Unfortunately, we believe that what they say is true. And who wants to put themselves out there for the world to crumple into a ball, kick across the cosmos and set on fire with a flamethrower full of napalm?
So, we allow life and everything we can conjure to get in the way and keep us from writing. After all, if we’re just too busy to write, then it’s just a “Someday” idea. We take a bunch of writing classes so we can say we’re learning the craft.We go to dozens of conferences, read Writer’s Digest and join local writing clubs. After all, this is what we’re supposed to do–learn. We do everything to be a writer–except write. And no, these aren’t bad things when coupled with actually, you know, writing.
So I come to you and say that while learning the craft is part of the right path, it is only a part. The plan is to eat the elephant one bite at a time so we don’t get overwhelmed and go back to our “Someday” shtick.
How, you ask, when there are so many people throwing out advice? Which route do I take? Who has the right advice and who is just yanking our chain to sucker us out of money and time?
At first, you don’t listen to any of them. You listen first to you. Do you really want to write? If so, why, what, and how? Are we talking blogging, non-fiction, fiction or poetry?
Personally, I write because I have a very vivid (and sometimes scary) imagination and a mind that’s always asking “What if..?” and “What next?” and “Wouldn’t it be cool if…?” Of course, that last question is usually followed by something blowing up (in the story).
Now you can refer to authors you’ve heard of who do what you do. You find out who they learn from. You read books on writing by James Scott Bell, Stephen King, Donald Maas, Christina Katz, and Larry Brooks, to name a few.
You enroll in classes online (Coursera.org has some really great classes, most free). You attend a legitimate conference, here and there. But above all, you write.
If writing nonfiction, do you have enough knowledge, background info, and trusted sources and data that backs up your claims/ideas? If fiction, what’s your genre? What are your subgenres? Who is the antagonist and why? How screwed will the protagonist be if the antagonist wins? What is the overall story question and can you wrap that up in one book, even if it’s a trilogy or series (more on that in another post)?
All of these and other preliminary questions should be your first path. Get some understanding of what you are endeavoring to do. Realize that writing isn’t something that you do as simply as sitting and binge watching “Firefly” for the 200th time.
Commit to yourself to BE a writer and not just think and talk about it.
Next, get busy building the book. Create the worlds, the people, the language, and setting. Write a first draft that stinks like a skunk who’s been eating beans. Set it aside, let it marinate then, pull it back out, read it and tear it apart. Put it back together again and again. Have your Alpha and Beta Readers tell you where the connectivity, plot, characters and setting fall flat. Get outside of your head and let the story breath and grow.
All that to say, get the process going. Move toward the finish line one word at a time. Don’t let the possibilities of failure, other people’s opinions, and your fears keep you bound up in the place where you only talk about writing the book.
Write something fantastic, imaginative, honest, compelling, and totally you. Put your voice out there and let it be heard. No one has your voice, your experiences, your unique take on an idea. Get out there and do it.
Put fingers to keyboard (or pen/pencil to paper) and get writing so you can finally stop calling yourself an Aspiring Writer and be an actual Writer.
A Fellow Writer,
Who’s getting it done.