I didn’t start writing until I was twenty.
I don’t mean I didn’t start taking writing seriously until I was twenty, I mean I didn’t write anything that wasn’t for a school assignment until I was twenty.
No short stories.
OK, scratch that last one. I did write about thirty pages of a memoir on my old IBM Aptiva. I have no idea where that partial manuscript is, and that’s probably for the best.
When I transferred to Beloit College, I decided to become a Creative Writing major because it seemed like fun, and it was, but back then I had many, many, MANY misconceptions about what being a writer meant.
Top Ten Things I Wish I Knew About Writing As A Twenty-Year-Old Absolute Beginner
1. Writing is rewriting.
You just finished your novel. Great. Now the fun really begins.
2. Rewriting is not a quick process.
God may have created the Earth in six days; however, you will not complete your manuscript in anywhere near that time frame.
3. Working with an editor isn’t optional, but necessary.
My short stories wouldn’t have been published without the assistance of Rairigh Drum, who was my developmental editor. My screenplays wouldn’t have attracted the attention of a New York Times best-selling author and a screenwriter who has worked with Spielberg without the assistance of a developmental editor. My non-fiction book wouldn’t have…you get the point.
4. Writing well isn’t enough, you need to think like an entrepreneur to get noticed.
Is it ugly? Yeah, maybe, but the days of the pure writer who refuses to attend to the business end of things is over. Those writers are doomed to obscurity.
5. Success doesn’t come overnight.
Trust the process. If you know that you’re good, go out and prove it. Stay the course, and don’t lose your confidence if you don’t rapidly advance.
6. Networking with other writers (and, if possible, with editors, publishers, and agents) can open up many doors.
Remember that saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Well, it’s both. Don’t be isolated.
7. Most publishers will have zero interest in your writing and will reject it, but this doesn’t mean that you don’t have talent.
Publishers and agents receive an incredibly large amount of submissions. They also usually have very strict criteria about what types of work they publish/represent. Receiving rejections is inevitable. I’ve had over 60 short stories and poems published and scout publications carefully, and still only have an acceptance rate of about 25-30%.
8. You can’t half ass your way to quality writing; you have to whole ass it.
If you’re planning on going through the motions, just put down your pen and give it up.
9. Not all writers are miserable people, and you don’t have to be miserable to write.
Although I won’t lie, sometimes it helps. 😉
10. You don’t have to drink to excess to write well, but sometimes it can be fun.
“He wins his battles by making no mistakes. Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory.” – Lao Tzu
Don’t make mistakes based on incorrect perspectives about being a writer.
Make writing a consistent habit, work with an editor that you can trust, network, realize this is a process, and try to keep a sense of humor. If you do all that, and you have some talent, you’ll be more than fine.
What Do You Wish You Knew When You Started Writing?
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