Every writer has their routines and strategies…the things that anchor them to reality while making up stories. Go hunt down the blogs of any dozen or so writers and you’ll quickly see that these strategies and lessons are often quite different from writer to writer.
However, I find a lot of inspiration in some of these blogs. As of late, it has taken a few poignant articles from Chuck Wendig and Ksenia Anske to give me the harsh yet soft and reassuring kick in the pants I have needed to get on my with own writing. More than that, it has helped me to remember some valuable lessons about remaining unique as a writer and to never question my own stories or motives.
That being said, here are eleven points that I feel are super important and highly suggest every writer, whether aspiring or seasoned, to give some serious thought to.
1. You must have coffee…or if not coffee, something that you can make yourself, with your own two hands, that serves as a motivator. Being able to create the thing that is providing you with sustenance and energy is sort of godlike and, let’s face it, is something all writers struggle with. Coffee works best because, aside from being delicious, the smell alone can perk you up. Whatever works for you, though.
2. If you haven’t read a book in the last 3 months that made you think “This is amazing writing and everything I have ever written is wretched in comparison” then you aren’t reading the right books. Being intimidated by great writing makes you strive to be better. It teaches us more about humility than non-writers will ever understand. Hunt down some new groundbreaking books through social media to make you re-evaluate yourself and leave you in awe. (My suggestion…start with Eleanor by Jason Gurley).
3. You know that thought you have that goes something like “No, no…that’s idea is too far-fetched” and pops up at least once or twice a week? Yeah, you need to hunt it down and silence it. It needs to be slaughtered. Possibly in a violent way…on the page.
4. Music. Any kind. Use it. Even if you’re one of those weirdoes that says music distracts you while writing, put on something with super low volume. Try ambient. Set the mood. That moment when you realize that you writing has sort of blended with the music is magical.
5. Writer’s block is awesome. There’s no bigger challenge to a writer. Welcome it and even taunt it. Then tear through it with your words and fingers and teeth. (I find that when using my teeth, my writer’s block tastes surprisingly like butterscotch). The longer I write, the more convinced I become that writers block doesn’t really exist…it’s just an excuse.
6. Another thing on writer’s block or lack of motivation…if all else fails, pretend that you’re Paul Sheldon. Write yourself out of that bed and away from the crazy cock-a-doodie lady with the sledgehammer. Unless she’s your muse. Then you must simply appease her and take the beatings. (If you don’t get the Paul Sheldon reference, that makes me sad. Also, see #2).
7. Try something different. Those that frequent this blog (God bless you) know that it’s not my fiction but my ghostwriting and copywriting that pay the bills (a problem that is looking to be remedied within a year or two if things keep going as they are). My ghostwriting has led me to write in genres and styles I never would have touched a few years ago. This experience resulted in my signing a contract for three books under a pen name in a genre I am not very familiar with (more on this in the future). The experience has been fun, rewarding, and has the potential to help me reach a new audience…albeit under a different name. Best of all, it has stretched me as a writer like nothing else has.
8. The internet is a blessing, but also a curse. Case in point: I was researching firearms for a work in progress not too long ago because I know nothing about guns. But somehow, researching what sort of firearm is most commonly used in the FBI got me on a rabbit trail and I was eventually reading reviews for the new X-Files comics. For me, what this means is that if my mind isn’t at least 90% focused on the story at hand, I should not open a browser under any conditions.
9. Speaking of research…don’t let it hinder your writing. Not sure about a place, the make and model of a car, or some other tidbit? Put a place marker in (I use XXX and highlight it in yellow) and keep going. Don’t force yourself to slow down the writing unless it is absolutely necessary. I do most of my research either at the end of a chapter or during the first round of edits, wherein I fill in those XXXs.
10. Find someone you trust to bounce ideas off of. Someone that is familiar with your work and your genre. It has to be someone that isn’t afraid to hurt your precious feelings. And no, Twitter is not a someone.
11. Reading advice and taking it are two different things. There’s tons of it out there…particularly on how to sell a trillion books overnight. Some of the advice is accurate but I find it hard to put much faith in any list that includes LUCK as a tactic. So while it is super helpful to see what has worked for some, don’t waste your time trying to immolate others. Forge your own path with your own machete and weed-eater and wave on the hesitant others behind you to follow along.
How about you fine folks? Any morsels you’d like to toss under the table to the sly hungry dogs?