Golden Rules

October 13, 2009

There is a lot of advice about writing a novel that goes way beyond correcting sentence structure and grammar. Piles and piles of books that help you get into the rhythm and mind set of a writer to ensure your success. Having spent years reading about the do’s and don’ts of writing a novel, here is a collection of some of the most useful advice I have encountered.

And maybe someday you might write a list just like this and include my advice. Ah, the circle of life.

1. Always Write – I think writer’s block to some degree is inevitable and, rather unfortunately, unavoidable. You’re unhappy with the dialogue, there’s a problem with continuity, you halt progress for edits and rewrites, you have an idea for a different story, or the end of your novel just seems so dang far away. There are many reasons for writer’s block. None of which is predictable. But don’t stop. When you stop thinking and behaving like a writer, you won’t be one anymore.

 Writing is like a work-out routine (and if you’re like me, it’s one of your New Year’s resolutions to write a novel). It’s hard to take that first big step and you put it off day after day, week after week. But you finally do it. You start writing, start working-out, and it’s tough. Really tough. You don’t think you can do it and might as well quit. But keep going. No pain, no gain. And it gets easier with regularity and routine. But when you stop that work-out for a couple days, couple weeks or longer, what happens when you start working out again? You have to go through the same struggle to get re-accustomed.

 But always write. Find something to write. Keep a journal, organize research, write a scene you would like to include later, or coughwriteablogaboutwritingcough. It might seem stupid to write something completely unrelated to your novel, but it’s also stupid for a marathon runner to be a couch potato in between races.

 And as the great motivational and over-muscular health-nuts say; YOU CAN DO IT!

2. Be a Writer – I could never understand how one becomes a writer. Do you have to post an announcement in the newspaper, does someone need to give you permission to be a writer, or are you just born with it? The correct answer is none of the above. The moment you make a decision to write, ta-da you’re a writer.

But it really isn’t enough to call yourself a writer, you have to be one too. Act like one. Write all the time (see above). Set aside some time on a regular basis and let everyone know that you’re writing, working, and to please not disturb you. We all know writing is a lot of work, so treat it like a job. Sure it’s easy not to show up for work when you’re the boss, but you’re great novel won’t write itself. Life will always try to interrupt. You have to tell it that it will have to wait another two hours because you have work to do. You’ll be writing. Is there someone else who’s trying to disturb you? Let them know what’s going on to and designate them to take care of things while you’re working. Are they the problem? Go somewhere else where you know you won’t be interrupted frequently.

Don’t think you have time? Find time. I have an hour long train commute that I devote to writing to and from work. Analyze your schedule and find a time that you could utilize writing. If there is no opportune time, schedule yourself a time to write and stick to it.

Some other good advice about being a writer:

Keep a notebook and pen. ALWAYS!

Set goals for yourself each time you write. Word count, finish chapter two, etc.

You might not find specific answers in a book or Google, but don’t be afraid to do some research.

Save your work frequently and try to avoid the temptation to delete old or unused work.

Get other people involved. Share your ideas or ask them to read your work. Don’t be shy.

Take pride in your work.

3. Don’t Listen to Any Advice – I made a great effort to learn about being a writer, but until I did it for myself it was all just theory, hints, and tips. While the advice I have shared is advice that I follow, it doesn’t always work. What might be useful to one writer is not necessarily helpful to the next. What might have helped you through writer’s block last time might not help you again the next time. The only person you need to listen to is you. Find what works for YOU!

Happy writing!



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