This blog is for all the writers out there—or should I say, all the would-be writers who are more dedicated to finding reasons why they can’t write rather than just getting on with it (you know who you are)!
Much like childbirth, there is no ‘right time’ to start your writing journey. There is no ‘perfect’ set of circumstances, no ‘correct’ way to do it, and you’ll never be ‘ready’.
What is stopping you is fear. Fear of not ‘getting it right’, fear of rejection, and fear of ridicule on a small or grand scale (if you really fear ridicule, may I suggest not plagiarizing anything in the age of internet search engines?). For some, this fear is so crippling that they never write…or they write, then they stick it in a back drawer where it never sees the light of day until after their death, when a relative finds it and dumps it in the garbage.
In my mind, being a writer is 49.5% courage, 49.5% persistence and about 1% talent, if that. It has 0% to do with luck or contacts (N.B. unless you’re Stephenie Meyer, who apparently wrote her first book and found a publisher all within six months. I hate her a little bit. However, this is the exception, not the rule.)
Here are a few tips:
- Do a Nike: stop thinking about it and just do it. If you spend your time over thinking it, or trying to plan it all out to the nth degree before you even start, you will never get going. Just sit down and write and see what happens. I’m not sure who said this quotable quote, but it’s a good one: ‘You can always edit bad words. You can’t edit NO words.’ True dat.
- Write for yourself and no-one else. If you write worried about what critics, readers, friends or family will think, then you will lose the joy in the work and no-one will read it. Don’t set out to write the best book ever written; instead, write something you’d enjoy reading. Your result will be authentic and this will come across to the reader.
- You will get rejected. You WILL. Come to terms with that now (go on, off you go!). Ready? Ok. Finding an agent and/or a publisher is a numbers game. Get a rejection, have a little cry (or, if you’re like me, have a big old snotty cry) and then send out more queries. Many, many queries.
- I cannot recommend manuscript assessment highly enough. These services review your manuscript like a publisher would and give you feedback, but you haven’t burnt any bridges in the process. Along this vein, please get your manuscript professionally edited before you send it out, too. While you may think your first draft is brilliant, it’s really not. Finish it, and then set it aside for at least a month, so you can come back to it with a fresh perspective. Do this a few times. Then send it off to a manuscript assessment service (Google it, there are plenty around).
- You do not need a degree from an upper-crust university or college to become a writer, just a love of words and a good imagination—very few published writers actually thought they were ‘good enough’ before they started.
- Don’t expect to get rich; you are unlikely to be the next J.K. There are far easier ways to get rich than writing—like salt mining or brain surgery.
- No matter how good your book is, someone, somewhere, will think it’s the biggest load of crap they’ve ever read and won’t be shy about telling you just that. You can’t please everyone.
Don’t squander your life playing it safe, then look back with regret on your deathbed wishing you had taken a chance. Sit down and write something–immediately!
I’ll leave you with the best quote I’ve ever heard in my life:
‘Most people tiptoe through life hoping to reach death safely.’
Fuck that! Now go for it!