Five Things Every Beginning Author Should Know

Writerly PenHey folks, today I have five pieces of sage, writerly advice for all the authors out there, thanklessly grinding away in hopes of someday finding an audience.

1. Only Do This Crazy Thing If:

Being a writer is not for the faint of heart, inkslingers. Most Americans—in fact, 81 percent—believe they have at least one book in them. Although I believe anyone can write a book, the reality is writing is difficult, time consuming, and often thankless. It takes years and years of writing to develop the skills necessary to make it as a writer, and even then, there are no sure things. You might well write a brilliant book, only to have it ignored completely: publishers, readers, heck, your mom might not even bother to read your precious word-art. That happens. In writing, there are no shortcuts, no quick bucks to be made, and no guarantees of success. Pursue writing only if you genuinely enjoy writing. Write for fun. Write for you. Write because it’s what you love to do. Any other reason simply isn’t worth the headache.

2. Embrace Failure

As a writer, be prepared to fail. A lot. But know also that failure is great: failure is the road to improvement. I wrote three novels—all bad enough to make your eyes bleed—and a legion of short stories, before I got around to Strange Magic. And that’s okay. Seriously. Writing, like any art or skill set, takes time to get a handle on and it takes failure. It takes trying, practicing, falling, and picking your bathrobe-waring, ink-stained body up off the ground. Each book or story you write will likely be a lesson in failure, but each time you try again you will fail better. Strange Magic was the first book I felt confident enough of to unleash upon the world, but after authoring one novellas and two (almost three) more novels, I can still see how much I’ve grown as a writer.

3. Rejection Hurts, But …

Rejection hurts but it’s not the end of the world. Believe me when I say you will find a small army of people only too glad to vocalize your shortcomings as an author. To be honest, each one star review is still like a knife in my soul, but I understand that’s part of the process. Not every book or story is going to be for every person, and every negative review has something to teach me as an author. With that said, it’s also important to remember that there will also be an army of people who will connect with your work, who will see the value in it. Those are the people you’re writing for—those folks are your tribe, and ultimately, their voices are more powerful and important than the naysayers.

4. You’re Much Better than You Think

It’s often said that artists are their own worst critics, and I’ve found that to be especially true of writers. Is your work perfect? No. Do you have room to grow and improve? Yes, absolutely. Is your work awful? Maybe, but probably not. Remember, just because a piece might be a lesson in failure, doesn’t mean it’s bad. If you take writing seriously—or even just as a hobby you do once in a while—you’re probably better than you think. Don’t let fear prevent you from putting yourself out into the world.

5. Finish Your Work

This is the most important lesson I have to pass on: finish what you start. Now, I’ll admit, sometimes you do need to abandon a piece, but it should only be as a last resort. Word-monkeys are a fickle lot, I’ve found. They’ll write something, but as soon as a newer, shinier idea comes along they jump ship in favor for the greener grass in the next story-pasture. But don’t do it, folks. A story needs to have a begging, middle, and end—and each section has its own difficulties, challenges, and joys. If you only ever write beginnings, however, you’ll never fail enough at middles and ends to get good at those parts. So stick with it, even if it hurts a little.

Now go forth and sow your word-oats into the world. Or, if you have a few minutes, I’d love to hear the pieces of advice you would’ve like to get as a new author. Just drop your suggestions in the comment section.