I feel like I’ve been too silent on my writing/publishing success story. I’ve had many aspiring authors ask me how I got published and how I managed to write over a dozen books in eight years, won multiple awards, and published a series, so today I’m going to share a few of my secrets. These are my personal tips on how I’ve achieved success, and every author has a different story. I’m always shocked at how diverse authors’ stories are. Some write with detailed outlines, others write with inspiration alone as their guides (called pantsters, because they write by the seat of their pants.) These are the things that worked for me, and maybe they’ll help you too.
Tip #1: Outline.
Yep. That’s my number one. (Sorry, pantsters!) There’s a story behind it. When I was teenager, I wanted to write a book. I would get this crazy fun story in my head and started writing it. When I got at around the 1/4 mark, the story never went the way I wanted it, I never got to that one awesome scene I wanted to write, so I gave up. Years later, after making up my mind that I was determined to finish a book, I decided I had to have an outline, or else I would never finish. I wrote an eleven-page outline, even added in some dialogue, character descriptions, inciting incident, story arc, and conclusion. When I wrote the actual book, I finished it in a month BECAUSE I knew where I was going. I had an outline.
Tip #2: Don’t Sweat the First Draft.
I’ve talked to many writers who’ve been writing a book for years. They haven’t finished because they’re still trying to get that first chapter just right. Don’t do that. It’s a waste of time. Once you finish your book, no matter how great that first chapter is, you’ll still end up changing it. Write for fun, write what you love, but don’t aim for perfection in your first draft. Your first draft is the scaffolding that will hold up your subsequent drafts. If you’ve got a solid outline, and you stick to the main points of it as you go, there’s no need for major rewrites. Keep in mind, your story will change from outline to draft, and that’s okay. You’ll never be able to anticipate all the small details until you start writing. Just be sure to stick to your major plot points and you’ll be okay.
Tip #3: Write. Every. Day.
Sorry, it has to be done. I get it. Life is busy. Somedays I feel like I’m barely treading water. But you’ve got to get words on the page every day for your writer’s mind to be in the right place. My goal is 1,000 words every day. I’ll be honest, the kids are going back to school, and I’m struggling. Yesterday I managed 400. But I still wrote something. Make a writing goal and stick to it. Even when I’m not feeling motivated, once I start writing, I’ll usually get into my groove and the rest is easy. Just write.
Tip #4: Don’t Go it Alone.
The best decision I ever made as a writer was to take a novel writing course. I was lucky enough to find one of the best teachers out there. William Bernhardt is a professional in his field, and I highly recommend you check out all the writing programs and courses he offers. He hosts a yearly conference that’s one of the best out there. I’ll also be teaching at the conference this Aug 30-Sept. 3, and the whole lineup looks stellar. You can find more information at the Red Sneakers Conference website. If you can’t afford a course, read books on writing. There are writers out there who will tell you this is a waste of time. They’ll say you don’t need to be “taught” to write. Baloney. You’d be shocked at how many of the SAME EXACT MISTAKES new writers make. Anywhere you go around the world, writers are making these same errors. If you’re a writer, you need to know what they are and how to correct them. And then you need to write about 1 million words in order to become proficient at it. Maybe this sounds harsh, but it’s not. I had tons of fun while writing those 1 million words, which is why I write in the first place.
Tip #5: Persistence.
For me, writing started from a problem. I was in a dark place and didn’t know where my life was going. My sole purpose in life had become raising children, which I loved immensely, and still do, but I needed more. My creativity needed an outlet. I suspect other mothers go through this same process. Writing was my creative outlet. Motivation and drive are those things we talk about freely, but it’s always hard to nail down what it is that truly keeps us moving forward even on those days when we’d rather be doing something else. Find what motivates you. I suggest physically typing or writing down your goal. The more specific you are, the better. For example, instead of saying “Finish a book!” Set your goal as “Write 1,000 words five days a week from 9 AM to 3 PM.” Print it out, then hang it up someplace you’ll see everyday. My first goal was to finish a book. Then it was to write 1,000 words every day. I’ve added to it over the years, but that one goal has never changed.
Let me know if these tips were helpful! Also, leave me your questions and I’ll do my best to answer. I love to discuss writing, so don’t be shy!
~Live long and dream on~