I was new to this whole writing thing. Well, not completely new. I’d been writing for many years already, but I’d never researched what goes into writing well and crafting a well-written novel. Until that day.
One afternoon late summer 2017, I finally started searching. How do you write a novel, and write it well? How does one go about outlining it? What goes into editing? You can imagine how overwhelmed I felt at the massive amount of information I got. As a writer just discovering these things, I felt dazed and not a little confused.
But I was ready. Ready to take my writing to the next level and finally actively pursue my dreams of publishing one day. All the authors and writer bloggers I learned from gave me a strong foundation to begin this. But looking back now, I realize there were a few things that I wish I knew, wish I’d been told. Life as a beginning writer would have been that much easier.
I want to share these things with you, hoping that it will help you cultivate a better creative life...
Find your own creative process
I was too stuck on copying other successful authors and writers. Mimicking their creative habits and processes. I thought what I was doing was right. I mean, they’re the experts, right?
Yes, they’re experts. But I was wrong in copying them.
Everyone is different. And because of that, everyone has a different creative process and ways of going about writing a novel. Art is beautiful in that there is never just one way of doing it. It's fluid and changes and moulds to your own process.
To the writer just beginning...Take time to experiment with different things. Just because your favourite author is an extensive plotter, doesn’t mean you have to be to write a successful book. Don’t settle with copying others; try different things to find the perfect creative writing process that fits you.
It’s not a race to get published
It’s hard. Being a young writer and watching other young writers get published while you’re still trying to figure things out. Jealousy can creep in, and dissatisfaction with your own writing. But everyone’s on their own journey, and some may be farther along than you are.
To the writer just beginning... You’re on a road on your own writing journey. Others are on the road too. Some are in front of you and some are behind. But you’re all moving forward. It’s okay to not be where you want to be right now. You’re working hard to improve and you love what you do, and that’s what’s important.
Practice doesn’t make perfect
The famous “practice makes perfect” phrase does not apply to writing. Writing is not an art that you can achieve perfection in. Ask any successful author and they’ll tell you the same thing, that they have things to learn and get better at too.
But practice does make better. And better and better, if you keep practising and working at it.
To the writer just beginning...Don’t worry about getting perfect at writing, because that’s impossible. Storytelling is a constant state of learning new things and practising. But to me, that isn’t a bad thing. It’s thrilling to know that we’ll always be learning and discovering new things and new ways of doing things. Being able to write a perfect novel every time would leave some of the fun out of it.
Word count/writing speed isn’t all that matters
I used to think that a fast writer was a good writer. It’s not. Being able to write fast is a great tool (if you can, that’s great!), but that doesn’t necessarily make you a better writer. The writing world likes to talk about things in numbers: how many words per minute you can write, how many thousand words your novel is, how many pages or chapters you wrote today, what percentage you’re through in your outline, how many novels you’ve finished, etc., etc. It can be intimidating. It can make one begin to frantically pounds out the words to “catch up.”
But how many words you write and how fast isn’t all that matters in storytelling. Quality over quantity. Write at the pace your creativity can flow with.
To the writer just beginning... Find a pace you feel like your creativity can thrive in, and stick with that. Sure, sometimes deadlines (self-imposed or not) can force you to amp up your speed, but never push yourself outside of your comfort-pace if you don’t have to. Focus on writing well, not writing fast.
Figure out/remember your WHY
Discovering the mission or reason behind why you write will fuel you and keep you going when things get tough. Your WHY is going to be the underlying strength behind all your stories, and your message will impact people in deep ways.
Ask yourself WHY you write. Why do you want to show the world your stories? What do you want to accomplish with your writing? How do you want to impact people? Don’t underestimate yourself or the power of storytelling: you could change someone’s life one day.
To the writer just beginning… Ask yourself these questions, then write down the answers. It might take time and thought to figure out the answers, but it will be extremely beneficial to you to know this. When things get tough, when you don’t feel like writing, when you feel unmotivated and discouraged, going back to WHY you do what you do will uplift you and keep you going.
No matter where you are on your writing journey, whether you’re just beginning or have been at it for years, I think every writer needs to know these things. I believe these are some of the foundational elements of a storyteller’s life that need to be fully realized and established to cultivate better writing. I hope these things will help you discover a happier creative lifestyle.