Sunday, December 13, 2020

Advice for Becoming a Writer

Photo of Northern Lights by NOAA

Looking back in the 10-year rearview mirror, here are some lessons learned about writing fiction. If you're new to "creative writing" and want to make a name for yourself or switch careers, let me clue you in:

  • If you're not reading, you won't make it. Not only must you read in your genre and good books in general, you should be reading ABOUT your genre and WHY books are good. Not only must you keep learning how to write better, you should be practicing what you learn. Not only must you market, you should be dedicating time to marketing, because in a larger sense, that's the only way anyone will ever see your work.
  • Don't bank on making a living by writing fiction exclusively. Despite that statement's negativity, it's realistic. If you put that kind of pressure on your creative life ("I must be a bestseller by XYZ or write the Great American Novel before I'm 30"), you will find all kinds of stresses will invade your psyche and take the joy out of creativity. 
  • Keep earning a steady source of income, even if it isn't writing and even it if cuts into your writing/creative time. Having resources for food, water, shelter gives you the headspace (and physical space) to write. If you love writing enough, you will continue to write regardless of having a day job, and your writing will reward you in ways other than financial. Can you make it "Big," whatever "Big" means to you? There's always a chance.
  • Break the rules, but know what they are first. This goes back to the advice: Keep learning.
  • Just because you write it, doesn't mean they will come. Readers and sales don't flop in your lap.
  • Your work isn't for everyone. That's okay. In fact, if it was liked by everyone that would be an anomaly the likes of an asteroid hitting Earth. Carve out a niche for yourself. If you want to be market-savvy, then hyper-focus on trends and popular tropes in your genre. Or, if you're like me, experiment. There's richnesses in following your own muse.
  • Your creative life is yours and yours alone. You don't have to live it any way but your own. If you find success with one piece and like the success enough to repeat it, then follow that path. If you never want to write another story like it again, then don't. You're the master of your spirit. Follow your spirit.
  • Have some FUN in your creative life! Do something that puts you out in the world (virtually, these days, of course). Make people smile, and the act will reciprocate.