The Writer's Station
Atlanta, GA

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 typewriters to write

If there’s a book you want to read, then write it – Toni Morrison

 

My foray into fiction began with an idea for a story. An amazing story that I believed I would query or publish, then repeat with another hit—once all the press had died down from the first one, of course. Thankfully, I attended my first writers’ conference before I sent out a single query letter or uploaded the story to an online retailer. The conference was an eye-opener that demonstrated how little I knew about the craft and business of writing. I left that conference feeling humbled, overwhelmed, and questioning whether I was cut out to be a twenty-first-century author.

Understand Your Why

If I’d understood the amount of work, humility, and effort—did I mention humility— involved in writing a novel, I’m not sure I would have undertaken the task. But the thing that’s kept me going over the past several years has been my why.

I began writing fiction because I wanted to tell stories about imperfect love in a way that I hadn’t seen done before.

I wanted to tell stories that reflected the diversity of the world around me.

And, I wanted to make a living doing something I loved. A great living.

So, on the days when my critique group suggests I scrap a scene and start over, I remember my why.

When people quote stats about how difficult it is to become a successful author, I remember my why.

And on the days when a successful career as a writer seems more like something out of a futuristic novel than my real life, I think about my why.

Your why has to be strong enough to propel you through those times when the learning curve seems insurmountable, and the last thing you want to do is write.

Write a lot. Write often.

Write a lot and write often. It’s the one piece of advice you’ll always hear from successful authors.

As new writers excited to gain traction with our first books, our response to hearing the above is usually something like, “Okay, okay, I know that, but what about finding an audience? What about Twitter, and Instagram, and what in the world is a Snapchat? And since we’re hurling honest questions at each other, what if my writing is no good? What if I’m no good?”

Take a moment to fully grasp this fundamental truth: it all comes down to the writing.

Writers have active imaginations. It’s a job requirement, a skill that’s necessary to create our characters and our worlds. But that active imagination can lead us down roads long before we’re ready to take them. So, before you start worrying about how you’ll juggle a press tour between your family life and other obligations, take a moment to fully grasp this fundamental truth: it all comes down to the writing.

If you maintain a long-term view of your writing career, you’ll likely need more than one book to even start gaining traction. Some say the number is three. Others say six. The consensus is, the more the better.

There are exceptions. Andy Weir’s The Martian for one. New Adult phenom, Colleen Hoover, began hitting bestseller lists a few months after publishing her first novel. But these are exceptions. Exceptions are awesome, and maybe some of us will hit that winning mix of magic, luck, and good writing that lands us on bestseller lists and snags movie deals, but I propose a more measured approach to thinking about your writing career.

If we can create an environment where we’re constantly writing, thinking about writing, or reading about writing, then we will begin the work of establishing a strong foundation. The marketing and publishing must come, but for now, fellow writers, write a lot and write often.

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photo credit: pixabay

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