I have discovered the best tip for writing a book. The only tip you will ever need to write an awesome novel. You may ask yourself, just one? Yep, just one. Ready? Here it comes:
Crazy, right? It’s way harder than it sounds. It’s going to take a lot of time and effort and creative energy and rewrites and rejection and edits and rewrites and joy and frustration and… did I mention rewrites? Sometimes you’ll wonder what you’re doing. You’ll feel like a hack. Like an amateur. But the only way to get better is to keep practicing.
I wrote the story that came to me knowing very little about how to pen a novel, and for many years, I kept my writing to myself. I made a ton of mistakes (revealing a major plot point in the first act IN A FLASHBACK? Girl…) I did entire overhauls of my manuscripts and they’ve all been entirely rewritten at least once. I got resource books and read blog posts and consumed all things writing.
After a long time lurking on Twitter, I discovered a little community of writers and put out pieces of my manuscript through writing hashtag games. I finally had a place to connect with people who understood what I was going through. I learned a new language like MS (manuscript), MC (main character), WIP (work in progress), CP (critique partner). Writers came from all facets of life and existed in all writing spaces — traditionally published, self-published, writing their first piece, querying authors, poets, screenwriters, and novelists with that coveted blue Twitter check. But through this medium, I found something else.
I didn’t have a big following. People weren’t retweeting my writing, where other writers were getting heaps of retweets. People were getting agents. Authors were posting pictures of their box of newly minted novels. There were debates on technique, on writing style, on writing speed. Plotter vs. Pantser. Some writers were doing writing sprints, some outlining their whole series with a collection of color coded note cards. And I didn’t do any of that.
As a pantser, I never outlined any of the four novels I’ve written, I don’t make word count goals, and I certainly never wait until I’ve reached the climax of the novel to write the climax. I’m what one might call an eclectic thinker, both in my writing life and my personal life. I’m impatient; I like to get my hands dirty. I don’t write every day and I edit as I go (which is apparently something people don’t do).
In the BT era (before Twitter), I never thought my process was wrong. After reading the thoughts of other writers, I started to wonder otherwise. I struggled with knowing my place. I don’t write in a clean genre, but tend to blend them together. I panicked about the subject of the manuscript I intended to submit for representation. Maybe I wasn’t good enough to be published. I’ve seen similar concerns from my fellow writing community members who wonder if they should just quit.
Writers – Don’t quit.
Art is subjective. And sometimes elitist. The writing process is deeply personal and there’s no one-size-fits-all method. Have you ever read a novel and wondered, did this author have an outline? Did he write every day? Did she edit as she went or wait until the full draft was complete? Bet you didn’t. You know what matters? The story, the characters, and all the emotions that go with them.
Write for yourself. Write for the joy of writing and the thrill of crafting your world and the characters who live inside it. Write for readers. I write what Holly and Brittany and Jason like to read. I work to tame my obsession with rambling purple prose because I can hear my critique partner, Willie in my head saying, “quit with all that wordiness and get to the action already!” My method isn’t perfect, but it’s mine.
Writers write. So go write your story!