There’s something to be said for learning through experience. But then there’s also something to be said for not having to suffer through every obstacle if someone else can share their experience with you and help you along 😉
With that in mind, here’s our list of 10 things every writer needs to know.
1. Finish the manuscript first and worry about all the fine details later
It’s way too easy to get stuck in the drafting stage and endlessly work on the same chapter, over and over again, trying to get everything just right. It’s always better to get the whole thing written and then spend time editing and revising. This is not to say don’t outline or plan, but trying to keep writing and editing as separate tasks will help you maintain momentum. Believe us, it’ll be less time and stress to do it that way!
2. You need a productivity and organizational infrastructure to write a book
You need a way to track your progress, a way to maintain your writing habit, and a way to get over writer’s block when you encounter it. A productivity infrastructure can be as simple as a journal or a to-do list or a weekly planner to schedule your writing time. But without even the most rudimentary infrastructure you will be many times more likely to get sidetracked.
3. Creativity is cultivated, not innate
Too many writers think of creativity as something that is bestowed upon them by the Muse, or as something that only happens in rare or inspired moments. Creativity is actually a matter of practice, like most any other skill. You can purposefully develop creativity and purposefully develop your literary craft through practice and exercise.
4. Welcome and appreciate feedback
Some writers get angry at the editor when they provide feedback on a manuscript or on a chapter. They may feel that the editor did not “get it.” Not to say that a writer needs to accept every piece of feedback or make every change that’s suggested, but a writer needs to welcome and accept feedback with an open mind. When an editor doesn’t get something, usually that means that other readers won’t get it either. All feedback, even that which a writer may ultimately reject, is an opportunity to learn.
5. Don’t confuse your first book with your legacy or magnum opus
The first book for most writers is an emotional experience and can sometimes feel like the most significant work they have ever done. But it’s also the case that for many writers, the first book is where they learn about the craft and what goes into publishing a book. Don’t let the first book consume you as a writer. Finish it, put it on the shelf (sure, feel satisfied for a moment), and then get down to business.
6. 1/3 of the time planning, 1/3 of the time drafting, 1/3 of the time revising
Writing a book isn’t just about writing the draft. And in fact writing the draft is really only about a third of the work involved in a book project. Getting your book researched and outlined in the planning stage takes about a third of the time. Editing and revising the full manuscript takes about a third of the time. If you focus only on drafting the manuscript, you’ll either never finish the draft or not approach editing and revision as a necessary step.
7. Writing is not truly a solitary task
The cliché of the writer, foreboding and alone, is just that: a cliché. Sure, writers spend a fair bit of time alone with the page, but it takes a group of people to bring a book into the world. Writers need editors, proofreaders, beta readers, and of course family and friends. All these people help nurture the writer and the book as it is coming into being.
8. Give the readers what they want
Not to say the writer shouldn’t write the book they want to write, but the reader always needs to be front of mind. (Unless, that is, you don’t ever want to have anyone read the book.) Readers expect certain things from books and from particular genres. If you don’t give readers the things they need and want, like the conventions that go with the genre, they will quickly get lost, close the book, and never open it again.
9. Read voraciously
The more books you read, and the more books you read in the form and genre that you’re working in, the better your own writing will be. Along with reading everything you can get your hands on, sometimes it’s helpful to get a book by a writer you admire and study its construction and prose.
10. You can do this and don’t ever give up!
Writing is a craft that you can cultivate and get better at with practice. Writing a book is no easy task, but with the right support and the right attitude you will succeed. Find ways to cultivate a growth mindset for your writing project and see writing as an ongoing process of learning.
You got this!
Jon + Erika
Creative Cross-Training for Writers: Start a writing habit in 21 days and unlock your creativity by writing in different short forms. Gain traction on your bigger writing project by practicing our ‘creative cross-training’ method. Check out our course!
Sign up to our mailing list below and we’ll send you our guide and mini-course on easy ways to write every day.
Create your writing ritual as a way to ease into a regular writing routine.