This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
1. Practice patience. Between writing, revising, rewriting, and publishing (if you choose to do so), it’s a long process. I began writing Letters from Skye in 2006 and it hit shelves in 2013. I had to learn patience through the many rounds of revisions, through the search for a literary agent, through the search for a publisher, through the many stages of the publishing process, through those cross-fingered days waiting to see what the world thought of my little book. And yet it was worth it. I feel confident that I put the best book I could out there.
2. Accept criticism. No writer is perfect the first time. And I’m not just talking mechanic here. Even the most seasoned writers work for that feeling of satisfaction. One of the most valuable tools in a writer’s box is a trusted reader or three. Whether they are “official” (agents, editors, teachers) or intuitive, insightful, honest readers you’ve connected with via a mutual love of books, value what they have to say. You won’t always agree with their comments, but take a deep breath and listen. When your book is out there in the world, it will encounter a variety of opinions. It will encounter readers who approach with their own perspectives and experiences in hand. Understand that different people will read your book different ways. When writing, if you’ve listened to your trusted early readers, you’ll have a sense of those various perspectives. That sense will help you decide to whom you are telling your story and how to best tell it. That sense will help you to learn to be a stronger writer.Likewise, learn to give criticism. I perhaps learned the most about my own writing in analysing the writing of others. Seeing how they construct characters and lead them through the maze of the novel, either successfully or otherwise, helps me to develop strategies for my own work. Also, just seeing someone else’s work in that raw, vulnerable, early-draft state is a good reminder of what I said above. No writer is perfect.
3. Accept praise. Just as some writers have trouble accepting criticism, some writers have trouble accepting praise. We are often hypersensitive creatures, who see our own faults and stumbles on the page more clearly than our successes. We read books written by others and feel that pang of “I’ll never be this good.”
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Accepting praise is about more than just bolstering self-confidence (though that’s no unimportant goal). It’s also about reminding ourselves that our words don’t exist in a vacuum. They can and do reach people in very real ways. They allow people to connect, to feel, to laugh, to remember, to cry. Letting people tell you, “I loved what you did right here,” and accepting that as truth acknowledges that connection between reader and writer.
4. Trust yourself. One of the most crucial lessons I learned as I wrote each book after the first is to trust myself. When the story is twisting away from me and when each word feels like a step through sucking mud to reach it, I have to remember I can do it. I can make it to “the end”. It might feel at times like I never will, but I will. I will.
I also trust that, sometimes, serendipity happens. I’m not a believer in “writer’s block”. Instead I’m a believer in “the-answer-isn’t-quite-there-yet block”. Here the aforementioned patience comes into play. I have to keep pushing ahead in the story. I have to keep laying down little bits of plot and character because, at some point, it will all make sense. The answer will be there and it will have been there all along. It’s easier to push the writing aside than to take a breathless leap of faith and keep going. But the view on the other side of that leap makes it all worthwhile.
5. Don’t stop. A runner always keeps running. She stays in practice. She stays in shape. She stays strong. She doesn’t let sore muscles or an unexpected stumble or a daunting course keep her from running. Though she may have people cheering her at the finish line, she often runs only for herself, because she loves the wind in her face, the joy, the pushing herself to go just a little bit further this time.
Is writing so different? It’s easy to get tired or frustrated. It’s easy to come up with excuses. I can’t think of what comes next. This story is going nowhere. I’m not that good. Sitting back on the sofa doesn’t help the runner or the writer go further. It doesn’t help them become stronger or better or more adept. To learn and grow as a writer, you have to keep doing it. You can’t let yourself give in to the excuses. Sometimes you just have to run.
Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole is out now.