Hey everyone and welcome (back)!
I’m going to go and guess that you opened this post because you’re a writer and/or aspiring author and you’re trying to find any advice on writing. You’re mostly likely familiar with some of the most commonly said phrases on this type of articles: read a lot, write what you’d want to read and write every day. Which is all solid and legit advice.
But, maybe you haven’t yet come across what I’m about to write, and maybe some of my tips turn out to be of aid to you. If so, then this post will have served its purpose.
Let’s begin, then.
#1: Dream big, but stay grounded
I tried writing one of my very first novels at the age of 12. It involved a girl who stumbled upon a dead body, an attractive investigator who took on the case, and a serial killer who was almost impossible to catch because he was one third of a set of triplets, who all had the initials J. M. and were all actually committing murders.
My next project involved the new girl at school, strange things happening at night, a fallen angel named Sebastian, a final battle on a high-school rooftop and a human/angel romance threatened by a sequel.
Then, it was an academy for angels, followed by something involving vampires and kissing, followed by a variety of demon-hunters and the monsters they’d end up falling for.
In my mind, there was no doubt, even at that early age, that I wanted to write novels that would become bestsellers and get adapted into movies. I daydreamed about book tours, signing thousands of copies of my books, participating in various panels alongside some of my favorite authors, and getting messages from readers all across the world. This was my ‘dreaming big’. There’s nothing wrong with it; in fact, I encourage you to shoot for the stars and hope for the universe. Hope is a wonderful thing, and it can serve as a powerful fuel that keeps the passion going.
But staying grounded is a must. While I did dream about all these things, I also never really expected for them to actually happen. I understood that spending fifty weeks on the bestseller list is not something that happens to every writer; I understood that I lived in a place where literature is not so much valued as it is overlooked, I understood that I write because my soul commands it, not because it is guaranteed that I’d reach a status of a celebrity one day.
And that’s the point. You write for yourself; you write so you could spread a message to others, you write to tell your truth, you write because stories are about to explode from your fingertips. You know that you most likely won’t ever become a household name. And that’s alright. If it happens – great. If it doesn’t – also great.
#2: Write in all genres, all perspectives and all tenses
(not in the same project, of course)
Like I’ve mentioned, I started off by trying to write a bunch of novels in various genres – more specifically, most of those projects were in the realm of paranormal romance, with varying otherworldly creatures and plenty of human heroines involved. My attempts were fairly unsuccessful; not only did my mind keep jumping from one idea to another (a problem I still face to this day), which meant that I would abandon one project for another and then abandon that one for a third and so on, but I also couldn’t seem to plot any of those books to such detail that I would have enough material for a 300-page book.
One of the ideas I had when I was around 14 was a novel about a girl named Ellie, who met Will, a faerie that fed off human sadness and negative emotions. It got discarded for another idea, I can’t even remember which, but then something happened: I stumbled upon a call for short story submissions by an emerging publishing house that one of the authors I’d known about was involved with. It was one of the first real publishing opportunities I’d found, so I knew I had to try.
The problem was, I had no short stories written, nor any ideas for one. Until I remembered Ellie and Will. And so the premise of a novel became a short story. And that short story got published.
Some time later, I discovered a new passion project: poetry, which I scribbled in bursts amid first time falling in love and first time feeling heartbroken.
At 16, I finally wrote a novel.
At 21, I published a poetry collection.
Today (which is still at 21), I focus mostly on novels and poetry.
As far as the writing style goes, when I was beginning to write more seriously, I used a lot of third person view and past tense. That later switched to first person present. Now, I use the latter for my contemporary novel ideas, but I did find a renewed liking for third person past tense for my fantasy novel ideas.
The point of this is – try out as many different things as you can. If you write mostly poetry, that doesn’t mean you can’t write an amazing novel and vice versa. Just because you prefer writing from a first person perspective doesn’t mean you won’t ever want to switch to a third person for another project. Diversity is wonderful and important and will help you improve your writing and find different ways to tell stories you want to tell.
#3: Finish your first big project for yourself and yourself only
The novel I wrote at 16 never moved past that first draft. I gave it to a couple of friends to read, and they all wonderful things about it (well, mostly that it made them cry a lot at the end, which was the goal, soo…). Still, I decided soon after finishing it that I would never even try publishing that novel. Why? Because I had finally proven to myself that I could finish writing a novel. And that was the most important thing at the time.
So write what you want to write – write it like one day it might get published. But, once you do write it, sit back, let that delirious smile spread across your lips, and pat yourself on the back because you did it.
You did it.
#4: Also, the first draft of anything is mostly shit
Let’s be honest here. The first draft of your novel, or short story or whatever else, is going to be filled with not only genuine grammatical errors and sneaky typos, but it will also be filled with cringy sentences, redundant dialogue and plot holes. That particular novel of mine I told you about – it’s not really good. I mean, it’s good in a way that the story grips you and makes you bawl in the end because, spoiler alert, it was a sad, sad story, but it’s also pretty bad in terms of the writing style and character’s voices and character development. There’s a lot of tell instead of show (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, google it. Trust me.). The quality, to sum it up, is not up to the standard I know I can reach. (example: I still look the same, though – round electric blue eyes framed with black lashes, over them two arches of eyebrows. Between the eyebrows, a straight nose and, under it, two red lips, the lower one slightly bigger than the upper one. –> I could rewrite this here and now and it would look and sound ten times better.)
And, with time, I got better, of course. Not nearly as perfect as I’d like to be, but writing takes a lot of practice and trial-and-error, I’ll get even better. You’ll get even better.
Just… not on the first draft.
#5: It starts with a sentence
I’m really big on grandiose opening sentences. I like when that first sentence grips you by the collar of your shirt and pulls you into the story, leaving you powerless to break its hold. Frankly, the sentence is so good, you don’t want to resist it.
A single sentence is usually how ideas are born in my head. When writing poetry, I think of a single line and then build the poem from it, not knowing when and where and how it will end. When writing a novel, I write one sentence and then develop the plot and the characters and then I realize that I have a new project on my hands. This is my way of creating; I’m sure you have your own. If not, or if you feel your way is currently in hibernation and isn’t really providing good ideas, try this one out – maybe it helps. Maybe it challenges you in new, fun ways.
The important thing is to, again, find the thing that works for you. You have to kiss a lot of frogs to get to the prince, they say. It’s kind of like that with finding your writing voice – you have to whisper a lot before you learn how to shout.
#6: You’ll want to quit more times than you care to admit (and that’s okay)
This is coming from a girl who has been seriously questioning her writing abilities and career choices for over a month now.
Once, I was texting with a friend and I remember sitting on the couch and staring at the books I have at home, over a hundred and fifty of them; I don’t recall exactly what had caused my doubts, but I know I’d written to him that I don’t think I want to do this whole writing thing anymore. I think I was at a point where I was going through a bad case of writers block and there were no opportunities for me to share my work with the world and I was just sick and tired of everything.
I find it slightly ironic that, now, a little over a month after publishing a book that is solely my work, I’m having more trouble than ever with seeing the purpose of storytelling.
But you know what? I can’t stop doing this. Even if no one buys any of my work, ever, even if I go months without writing a single chapter or even a poem, even if people tell me that writing will never pay for my bills and show me that they don’t really believe in me and my passion – I’ll still be the girl madly in love with words and the exquisite joy they bring me. And I’ll still be the same girl who finds comfort through writing, who believes that a book, in the right hands, can make a world of difference to a person.
So I can’t stop. I won’t stop. Won’t quit.
And, you know what?
#7: There will be moments that make it all worth it
Like seeing this:
Seeing your book on Amazon, with even a “look inside” feature, is pretty damn neat, I won’t lie.
So. I want to leave you with a couple of end thoughts: you have a gift. You are a writer, you are a storyteller, you are a healer. You are good enough.
Don’t give up on what you love.
We’ll slay those bestseller lists together.
Now, open that new, blank document and write.