It wasn't until a few years ago that I finally decided to write out all the stories in my head. Every. Single. One. Since then, I've learned a few things about writing and being an author.
So here are the top 10 things I've learned since I started writing novels.
10. You have to make time to write.
Whatever your schedule, you have to be almost militant about keeping your writing schedule. There is no way around this. If you don't treat it like a job, then it's just a hobby. Writing as a hobby is perfectly fine, but don't be saddened when you don't finish a project because of life's distractions. As Peter De Vries once said, "I only write when I am inspired, and I see to it that I'm inspired at nine o'clock every morning." I actually have this quote posted next to my nightstand so I can see it every morning.
9. Lots of thinking goes on before you type a single word.
I wonder how long J.R.R Tolkien took to create Middle Earth. Oh I know! A LONG, LONG TIME. You have to make up characters, give them life, and then put them somewhere (a planet, a solar system, a city in Europe, a fairy realm, or a nook in a tree) and then make them do something or have something happen to them. Damn, I have to think of everything?!?! ...YES, as a writer you have to think of (almost) everything before striking that first letter key.
8. People can't read your mind!
Once you figure out the specifics of your story, you actually have to write it all down because people cannot read your mind no matter how much you wish they could! You know that scene in your story where a dove stands at the open window, representing everlasting life and love?... Well, unless you express the symbolism, to the read it will just be a white pigeon taking a poop at the edge of your window sill.
7. Your friends think you're writing about them.
When my best friends read A Selfish Moment they all asked me, "Which character am I?" I was literally thankful I can honestly say "None of them." They are a mixture of personalities I've experienced throughout the years, dashed with traits of other characters I've never met but read about. They were sadly disappointed, each of them, but I was relieved. Whew!
6. Writing takes a whollata time!
Holy cow it takes a long time to write, and edit, and re-edit, and proof, and re-edit your proofed manuscript.... You get the idea. Throw in time with actual editors, beta readers, waiting for feedback and such. It takes way more time than probably any project I've ever done. And that's to get to the finished novel. I haven't even talked about marketing.
5. Except for other writers, people don't think writing is work.
I'm constantly asked, "So, when are you going back to work?" by other non-writer types. They think I'm home twiddling my thumbs all day long, watching movies and sleeping. Where is that remote? Somehow a novel magically appears on my laptop and I just simply type my name in the Kindle Book entry form on Amazon and POOF! my book is done. Like magic.
4. You can write in different genres.
There are several arguments for and against writing across several genres, but I am all for it. I can't just ignore a story in my head, especially if it's gnawing at me, simply because it's not contemporary fiction, or romance, or sci-fi, or fantasy. Does anyone really not write something because it doesn't fall within their genre? What do they do with that particular story? Hmm...
3. Short stories and poems are unique monsters all their own.
I love writing short stories and poems. You can check them out on the Short Story tab on my blog. I experiment with other genres and I get to make up even more characters. Some of those short stories have triggered bigger stories (the Soul Snatcher is a novella in progress) and other short stories and poems. They stretch my boundaries, force me to step way out of my comfort zone, and allow me to experiment. For example, I don't write horror, yet I wrote Promises for a Halloween blog hop.
2. Follow other authors online. You'll learn a lot.
As the old saying goes, "Teach a man to fish and he fishes for a month." A ton of authors, both traditionally and self published, have blogs where they pretty much log their entire trek through publishing. It's amazing the amount of detail, honesty, pain, suffering, generosity, and gratefulness that is displayed on these blogs. You can get a ton of ideas on marketing, inspiration, and tips on what NOT to do. Marketing is always the hazy fog on the road to success, and these authors have done it well, and some tell you exactly how they do it. They're posting their experience up for everyone to learn. Go fishing!
1. You have to love to tell stories.
You have to love writing, story telling, staring off into the sunset and seeing your ideas come to life before your eyes if you want to be a fiction author. If you don't, then why do it? It's such a long and arduous process... if you don't make that instant million, then what do you have? As another saying goes, "Get a job doing what you love and you'll never work a day in your life." Sometimes I pick up my novels, open to a random page in the middle of the book and start reading, and get caught up in the story all over again. I think to myself, "Wow, I actually wrote this..." Other than my kids, there are very few things that give me that feeling.