If you’re really serious about this whole writing thing, chances are that you’ve read your share of “advice” on how to be a successful writer and much of what I have to say is going to sound redundant. Furthermore, I am not a successful writer. I’m currently using an obese raccoon for my ottoman and it pays more of the rent than I do. However, if you’re in a bind and need some advice, I do have a few observations that have helped me to come at least this far.
1. Avoid distractions and write in a place that minimizes your distractions while maximizing your productivity. My fortress of solitude is the local public library. Some days, it’s also my dining room in easy shot of my X-Box, but guess how much actual work gets done on those days (you might be surprised). I also recommend writing at the same time each day or each weekend. Make it a routine and writing will become a hobby as much as it is a job.
…Okay, I’m coining the phrase “jobby” for “job-hobby”. Every time you use it, mail me a dime. I’ll know if you don’t.
2. Talk about your story with someone who will listen. It took me a long time to muster the confidence to begin discussing my ideas with friends and, especially, my fiancée. When I started writing fantasy and science fiction, I was afraid that discussing these things with her would be the biggest turn-off imaginable. “Oh, new lingerie from Victoria’s Secret, huh? Great! Hey, Babe—What do you think the name of Shagaroth’s sword should be? You know, the one he finds in The Vale of Eternal Gloom? Hey, Babe? Where are you going??” But it turns out that my fiancée is a HUGE Sailor Moon geek and now I share all of my ridiculous ideas with her, and wouldn’t you know it, it turns out she’s amazing at taking my ideas and sprucing them up a bit. As a writer, it’s okay to get stuck from time to time and ask for advice. However…
3. Learn to take criticism. The problem is, sometimes your fiancée or significant other will turn around and tell you that your idea is the stupidest thing she’s ever heard. Your idea is a living embodiment of stupidity that looks something like a giraffe with dachshund legs and a big stupid platypus head and it craps piles of stupidity while it watches “Two Broke Girls”. That’s how stupid it is. Just know that your loved one is only being so honest with you because he or she loves you…and is also afraid that your idea, if exposed to the greater public, might ultimately lead to the fall of intelligent civilization. Criticism only amounts to a temporary setback that should ultimately benefit your work.
4. Be modest. Latch onto any success you get and let people know about it. Your promotion and self-promotion should be an ever-evolving process. If you get stunning reviews for your book, tell people about them. If you win an award, staple it to your skin or have its image tattooed somewhere inappropriate. Give people reasons to take your work seriously. Twitter is a popular platform for letting people know all of these details. My advice is to promote but don’t be obnoxious. Twenty tweets a day is a good round number if you space them out. You don’t have to sell everyone on your book by lunch time.
5. Network and schmooze. Don’t look at yourself as “above the process”. You’re not Xerxes from 300 and nobody is going to carry you around on some gigantic platform high above all the other independent writers like you. Be friendly and talk to people. Exchange ideas and thoughts about the industry. Learn what has worked for other people and share your own experiences. Somebody might be grateful when success finally comes knocking, remember you, and invite you along for the ride. If you shun those who are climbing the ladder with you, there is a much greater likelihood that they will conspire to kick you off. Fortunately, it’s a short fall from nowhere to the bottom. Believe me.
6. Stick to your genre. This might seem like a no-brainer. Others might be completely floored by this tidbit. What if my ideas are all across the board, I hear you asking? Well, you can always save ideas for later and visit them in the future. This is usually a shrewd idea anyway, as it gives those stories time to blossom into something that will be better once you finally visit them. In the meantime, try to establish yourself in one genre and many sources say you’ll come closer to finding success more quickly. Also, this is a great incentive for you to write what you truly love. If sci-fi or fantasy is your thing, you get to really feed off of that genre and do your best work there. Then, in the future, your other projects will have an excited base that is interested to see what you’re about to commit to the wider literary landscape.
7. Stay hydrated, folks. Don’t drink too much because water can lead to distractions (peeing), but a nice glass of orange juice is healthy and also gets the mind going. My choice is chocolate milk.
This entry was inspired loosely by How to Write What You Want & Sell What You Write by Skip Press (I swear to God that’s his name). It has some other useful advice and useful observations from professionals. Also handy for budding screenwriters. It might be worth your nickel.