Okay, you’re prayed up, you’ve started to immerse yourself in the publishing industry….so what’s next in your pursuit of success as a writer?
The writing, of course! The praying and the educating yourself are very important (and need to continue throughout your career), but they really won’t do much good if you don’t actually write.
Here are some tips as you set about this third step:
1. Establish a set place to write. If you have an office, that’s great. If not, arrange a place where you can keep your writing life a part from all else in your life. I know many writers have no other place to write than the kitchen table, but that’s very impractical for the long term. Make your writing corner comfortable, quiet, and easily accessible (to YOU, not to the rest of the family).
2. As much as possible, set a specific time to write. This will surely be different for each person and largely dependent on your circumstances. I commented to a writer friend of mine in her seventies that it must be nice to have so much time to write. Her reply was that she actually had managed her writing time better when she had a houseful of kids (five!) underfoot. She said she got up early every morning before the rest of the family and wrote then. In order to write when you have other pressing duties, that’s all the more reason to make time—a specific time, if possible—to write.
3. Don’t insist that every writing session last an hour or more—unless you can really pull it off. For me, I simply tell myself that I MUST sit down and write, if only for five minutes. In a way, that’s a trick I play on myself, because I know I’ll never write for just five minutes. Those five minutes turn into ten minutes, then thirty, then before I know, an hour has passed. I’m a natural born procrastinator though. That’s why I need such tricks. If you’re not in that club, so much the better.
4. Although many writers insist on getting each paragraph, page, or chapter just perfect before they move on, I think it’s far wiser to blast through a first draft of just about any project—all the way to the end—and then come back and do the necessary rewrites. For one thing, the creative side of the brain is not the same side as the editorial side. So, for many of us, it’s best to let the creative side have its say without interruption and then when that first draft is finished, let the thing sit for a couple of days and then go over it critically, allowing the editorial side of the brain to do its thing. NEVER send an editor a first or second draft of anything. Revise it until it’s right.
5. Pay attention to triggers that help or hinder you in your writing. Some of these may be surprising. For me, sometimes some classic rock music from the sixties actually helps me creatively. At other times, utter silence is needed. Some writers need a window to look out of on occasion, others find it distracting. Even the presence of food can be a trigger for or against your creativity.
6. Just as keeping up on the publishing industry is an ongoing part of your job description as writer, so too will be your continuing efforts to improve as a writer. You are always going to be getting better as a writer. The more you write, the sooner you become better. There are several important ways you can improve your writing. For me, early on I took some creative writing classes at our local community college. This particular class was called “Imaginative Writing” and continued enrollment from quarter to quarter was encouraged. I took the class for five or six quarters (for no credit, which was cheaper). Many communities offer creative writing as a part of their local adult education program. Also, I began to read the various writers’ magazines such as The Writer, Writer’s Digest, and others. That led to reading many of the best books on writing. (After this series, I’ll blog about my favorites). Because I love writing, I love to read books about writing. I hope you do too. I love to discover the secrets that work for established writers. Some of the techniques seem bizarre (writing the final paragraph of your book first, for example), but that just confirms that writers are different and each one needs to find out what works best in his or her case.
7. If possible, join a critique group. I was part of a truly wonderful group for more than fifteen years. I credit that group with helping me immensely.
8. Be willing to start small. Your first effort doesn’t need to be Gone with the Wind, The Purpose Driven Life or a sale to Christianity Today. (Do consider articles as a great outlet for your writing).
9. When you face writer’s block, overcome it right away. Blast through. If necessary, take a book by your favorite author and just begin to type a few paragraphs. Sometimes this will jumpstart your writing by giving you a rhythm to your prose.
There are nine good tips for the actual writing phase of your career. I know ten would be a more complete number—but I also have been told that blog entries that are too long are seldom read….so I will stop here with the hope you’re still with me.
Watch for Part 4 in just a few days. Now, go write.