I'm sometimes asked what my top tips are for being a writer. What do I recommend beginner writers do? I think my success at being a writer boils down to three things:
- Find a routine
- Set goals
- Give yourself permission to write crap
1. Finding a routine
Finding a writing routine was probably the hardest thing I had to do when I first started writing. I was working full-time and out of the house from 7am to 6pm. By the time I'd had dinner, the last thing I felt like doing was sitting in front of the computer for another couple of hours to write. I tried a lot of things. Initially, I chose a Tuesday evening and half a day on the weekend to be my writing times. But I became frustrated at how long it was taking me to write a book. Then I changed to a 9-day fortnight which meant every second Friday I could write, and I used the whole day to get significant amounts written. When the train line was put in, I started catching the train to work which meant 60 minutes a day to write on my commute.
2. Set Goals
I'm a very goal-oriented person. I find if I set myself goals - I'm going to write X number of words this week, or I'm going to edit Y number of chapters - it motivates me to get it done. My goals are yearly, monthly and weekly and I think next year I'm going to try a 5-year plan.
3. Give yourself permission to write crap
Your first draft doesn't have to be perfect. It doesn't matter if the dialogue is stilted and the description is overdone. You can always fix it in the editing stage. For me, the most important thing is to get the story down, because I don't know the whole plot until it's written. Then I go back and add foreshadowing, smooth character arcs, add description and fix dialogue. I love Nora Roberts' quote, "You can't edit a blank page." So just get those words down.
Finally, two things that every writer needs is patience and perseverance. If you want a traditional publisher, be prepared to wait months (sometimes even years) to get a response. And if at first you don't succeed? Try again... and again... and again.