These are the 7 things I’ve learned about writing ever since I decided to pursue a writing career with my first novel!
Bet you already knew that because you read the title.
1. Less is Almost Always More
Be the guide to your audience’s imagination and not the commandant.
This is the shortest one of the list because I didn’t want to be too ironic.
2. the Audience Can’t Read Your Mind
As we write we can see our stories in our heads. The cities and its glimmering windows at night, the faces of our characters and all of their complexions, and even the crumpled up page of a gossip paper tumbling down the filthy street.
We can see it all to the most minute details. Even if there’s some sort of a fantastic action happening, our minds don’t fail to keep track of all the participants and whatever they may be doing.
But the audience can’t peer into our minds.
So what Aramiru? That’s why we write isn’t it? To put down our imagination on paper? And do you know how cheesy and tacky it is to ask yourself questions in third person?
It’s easy to forget the difference between the perspectives of our audience reading our books versus the perspectives of us, writers, writing our own books.
Accounting for this could simply mean making certain that only the necessary details are present when describing a scene or simply realizing what the the necessary details are.
Making sure the action sequences flow in a way where it’s easy for the readers to follow.
And not to lose ourselves having too much fun writing that we forget those who are reading.
This becomes even more important with the logic and the plot of the book. We are gods to our own books and we know all that will happen. But are we writing in a way so that the audience can understand our intentions and our infinite wisdom?
By understanding how the audience is perceiving the story is how we can plan the twists, the developments and the future.
Plot holes are bound to happen. Sometimes accidentally and sometimes purposefully. There are even times when something might not even be a plot hole but be perceived as such. Having a grasp of our audience’s views of our story can prevent foreseeable plot holes, reduce the damage of planned plot holes, and hopefully never allow unforgivable plot holes to happen.
This is one of few on the list that’s hey-I-already-know-this-this-is-basic-you-shamefully-basic-person material. Yes, this should be pretty commonsense. However, it is also one of those tidbits where your perspective and skills with it will grow exponentially as you keep writing and have an audience that you can interact with.
At least, I did. And this an article of the things that I’ve learned. Me. And as the great Michael Jackson once said, “HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO”
3. a Lot of Writers Think They Suck
Yep. We’re an insecure bunch. I used to look in the mirror and think to myself, “you’re an ugly spawn-of-semen-and-egg but that’s fine because you can live with that.”
Now, I look in the mirror and think, “your writing makes puppies cry and children lose faith in humanity. Can you live with that?”
No. No, I can’t.
And as I draw a smile on my face with a crimson lipstick so that I can at least pretend I’m smiling, I realize quickly that it doesn’t matter–at least it shouldn’t matter enough to stop me.
Me sucking. Not my pretty, pretty smile.
Look, there are some phenomenal writers out there. Those who had the gift and put in the hard work to become legends of this craft. And as writers, we also have to compete against timeless masters of writing from even centuries ago.
But it doesn’t have to be about competing with their work and talents.
What’s my work? What’s my talent? Why should I worry so much about what they are without even fully realizing what I am. Did I push myself to the limit to know that I’m not at their level? Does that even matter?
As a writer who wants to tell stories and writing being simply his medium to do that, I realized I just have to write well enough so that I can deliver my stories to the best of my abilities that’s most faithful to my vision.
What else can I do? Just stop writing and never pursue anything with it?
It’s not about being the best there is but being the best at telling your own story.
That doesn’t mean I gave up on becoming a great writer of the legends or something like that. But I think instead of looking at our flaws and telling ourselves we suck, it’s better to ask ourselves ‘why?’ Why do we suck? Where are we lacking? What can we work on?
You do you and be the best you that you can be, because you’re not them and you are you and you have your own talents that only you can do the things that you do. You are awesome. Oh, you. You.
And you still shouldn’t be discouraged if you’re one of those writers who are more focused about the craft than the storytelling.
Here’s an overused quote from high school girls around the world that’s all over their Myspace, Xanga, or whatever the blazes the kids are using these days. Imagine these words with glitters and with a night sky backdrop.
“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”
Just don’t forget to find your own voice somewhere along your journey. Be your own star.
A pretty, pretty star.
TL;DR: It doesn’t matter if we suck, it only matters where we are going to go with our suckage.
4. But a Lot of Us Might Actually Suck
What? You think I’m just being quirky by making the entire list of back and forth paradoxical statements?
And I know what I said up there but the point I’m trying to make now is that we lack self-awareness in different ways. I think especially among us still becoming acquainted with our writing.
It’s really hard to measure where we stand with our writing unless we had the time to establish ourselves with a large group honest peers. For writers, this usually means reviewers and readers for the most part.
Look, within the creative community there’s this unwritten rule about not criticizing one another in public. In private? Shoot. Let the poops fly.
But don’t think of that as necessarily a bad thing. It’s simply manners. And it’s also a bit selfish for someone to expect a stranger or even a friend to give them a harsh reality check and say painfully honest things. It’s uncomfortable and hard for people to do that and in most cases we don’t have the right to force people to put themselves in a position to possibly open a can of worms/whupass.
That’s why I think you need to really appreciate someone who’s brave and honest enough to tell you that you suck and tells you why–always remember to thank those people.
(Obviously, there’s a difference between someone who’s a hater and he’s gonna hate, hate, hate and someone who’s calling you out on your flaws. )
At this stage of my writing ‘career’ (I put my big toe in the pool!) I want more people to tell me how I can improve rather than give me compliments and encouragements. Look, I’m no Dalai Lama. If someone criticizes me, depending on what it is, it’ll hurt. I may even question their criticisms little bit to see if they have merit or to understand it better.
But we have to know when we suck so that we can improve. Embrace and love the criticisms. If we can’t take criticisms, we can’t expect to get better.
It hurts but no pain, no gain. Find someone who will tell you that you’re bad and why you’re bad.
5. Editors Are Gods
A samurai once said, you must choose a worthy lord because you may slice your tummy for him someday.
I don’t know who said that.
I am not a samurai.
And I’m not really that well-versed in Japanese historical figures. I just wanted to add that so you can keep that in your mind as you read this section.
An editor will become your partner for your novel. You’re the mommy and the editor is the daddy. Yes, put your 60s gender stereotype hats on because otherwise that analogy doesn’t work.
Stephen King famously said “to write is human, to edit is divine.”
You should almost always listen to your editor because they are almost always right and they will always be the ones who’ll turn your manuscript into a novel. I knew an editor can make a difference but I just didn’t realize how much.
A good editor will help you-do-you, you-do-you better. You’re a piece ribeye and they’re the salt, pepper, and extra virgin olive oil straight from Italy. They’re the trained outside eye and mind that the clutters of a single mind writing a book needs to clean up.
I am so thankful for my editor because she had to work through my first pile of mess. My style of writing is that I have to just puke my thoughts onto the page and then sort through it later. Because of the process I went through with her, I am exponentially better than where I was before.
Get a good editor. A good editor cares, understands, but is fearless in calling you out.
6. It’s Our Story
There are a lot of questions on writing forums about, “are my chapters too long?”, “is a goody-goody character boring”, “should I not make my character all-powerful”, “is a half-dragon, a half-elf character weird?”
The answer to all those, by the way, is: It entirely depends on your own story. Even the half-dragon, half-elf character.
But this point isn’t about that obvious answer. It’s about the next step, the level up, of that point.
I wondered for a while how I can write my story. What were the rules? What was the general mold for doing something that I wanted to do?
And I honestly couldn’t really find anything that satisfied me and I quickly asked myself what was I doing? What am I exactly looking for?
I had an opportunity–especially as an indie writer–to write my book in a way that should be perfect for the story I wanted to tell. Why follow the conventions and the rules of others simply because it worked for them? It worked for them because it was their rules and conventions for their own stories.
We have to understand our own stories; what they are and what they aren’t.
No one should be able to tell your story better than you can. So don’t follow any archetypes simply to follow an archetype. That archetype might not work for your story even if they seem to be in the genre, have similar characters, and present familiar themes and motifs.
Take advice from editors like they’re sprinkled with diamonds but take advice from writers with a grain of salt. Other than technical and perhaps even general content advice, other writers will see your story with their Ray-Bans.
Really chew on what I said up there before simply swallowing it in by the way. I’m not saying other writers can’t offer you knowledge and criticisms to write your own story better. But, I am saying, ultimately, you should know and own up to your own story.
With that said, we also have to be aware of there are certain general rules of writing that exists for a reason. These are the rules that’s been tested and proven through long history of writing and some that were born from the shifting metagames in the market.
For example, it’s been a while since slow paced books had any place in popular novels. People want fast paced stories that hooks them right away so that they could have the initial momentum to get through a 200-400 page novel.
There’s generally a lack of slow developing novels that gently brews and ages its plot and character to develop some sort of a liquor-reference-bourbon-reference-oaky-soaky-flavored plot.
I wonder if Moby-Dick or A Tale of Two Cities was released in today’s world if it’d be popular at all.
And there’s another key there. Do you want to be popular or do you want to be critically acclaimed or both?
Do you want to make money and write vampire x gargoyles erotica? Or do you want to gamble your life by throwing your novel into the skyscraper of the fantasy genre?
In the end, it’s YOUR story. You do you and do what you want to do because I like the way you move. Just know that reality is always around the corner.
How many “you” do I have in this?
7. An Audience is Earned
Everything written should deserve some sort of an audience. A good audience will provide judgment to the writings and nurture them to grow or have them be killed and brutally murdered if necessary.
At this point, you can probably sense how important I think an audience is to a writer. That’s probably the secret #8th thing I’ve learned.
To a writer, there’s nothing more important than readers to help them understand themselves as a writer.
The greatest learning experience and growth I had with my writing so far has been through the beta-reading and editing. It does wonders for you and for your novel.
However, not everyone and everything earns an audience. You have to work for it.
Working doesn’t mean just write something but it means becoming worthy of someone’s time and effort. Because it takes both of those things things to read a book. Especially compared to what’s out there today to enjoy as entertainment like YouTube, Reddit, video games, and Vine (with that you’re literally competing against a 6 second entertainment where a person simply has to click to enjoy).
Even to the most avid readers this is true (even more so in a sense) because you’re asking them to devote to your book the time and effort they could have spent on other books they wanted to read.
So how do we earn an audience? During the writing process this means taking your own time and effort to gain beta readers and reviewers. Be cordial, accommodating, don’t grovel but still know that they’re doing you a favor at the end of the day unless you’re some sort of writing superstar.
But if you’re a writing superstar I wonder why you’re reading this entry up to this point.
Do you like me? Like what I wrote?
PM me 😉. Ooo la la.
When you’re done writing, whether you’re traditional or indie, you still have to do what you need to do to reach out to your readers.
That could mean book signings, public readings, promotional giveaways, making sure getting the reviews for your novel, and etc.
For indie writers this can be an extremely difficult process. An extremely difficult process. AN EXTREMELY DIFFICULT PROCESS.
For traditionally published writers I understand it’s more-or-less already been setup for y’all.
It can be something simple as blogging. It’s fun, helpful, and I got to save my money on therapy bills.
I’m earning my readers through my blog by sharing my experiences and little things I learned here and there in hopes of helping, entertaining, and perhaps even proving that I am a writer worthy of their time. It’s also serving as an odd journal for this writing journey which is also nice.
Nothing in life is free. Even if someone deserves something doesn’t mean they don’t have to earn it–especially something as valuable as someone’s time.
BONUS: It’s Not Supposed to be Lucrative
Don’t write for money and fame. If you want that you’ll have much easier time with YouTube, acting, music, Twitch, and etc.
I’m not saying getting success in those avenues are easy. Far from it. It’s extremely hard. But at least they’re in the spotlight of the mainstream.
Writing really isn’t to an extent. It’s a dinosaur of an entertainment that’ll always have its place only because of its history, easy entry, and because of how quintessential it is to our civilization.
Write because you have to.
Write because if you don’t you feel like something is wrong with your life.
Write because every time you see someone else’s work you feel like you need to be in the arena competing as well.
Write because you love it.
The money will come or it may never come. Only difference is if that matters to you or not at the end of the day when you’re left just with your stack of papers.
And for the love of all that’s holy and Poseidon, don’t quit your day job or school to write.
It’s not fun to write hungry and it’s not fun to write worrying-about-lights-going-off-and-oh-my-god-is-that-tow-truck-here-for-my-car-no-its-not-thank-goodness-but-I-think-my-garbage-man-didn’t-take-my-garbage-today. There’s absolutely no romance in it. Especially, if you have loved ones who cares about you or if you have loved ones you have to take care of.
Life’s a game of chance. Bet smart. Don’t bet on the 1% by throwing away on the 99.
Are you the next J. K. Rowling? Maybe Stephanie Meyers? Maybe Stephen King?
But none of them quit their day job to write and neither should you.
I’ll share someday why I want to warn so critically against people who’re thinking about quitting jobs and schools for a dream of making it big with writing. But that’s it for this entry.
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Inside Story: I almost played Frisbee with my laptop writing this entry. I thought the new Wordpress editor auto-saved now (which would be fantastic) after having drafts get loaded up again after I left the page before. Nope it does not. Hit that save button.