Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Writer

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. But I have only been seriously pursing it for the last four years since graduating from my master’s program. And in the time that I’ve been trying to be a “serious writer,” I have learned some valuable lessons that I wish I’d been told before becoming a writer. And in case you need a little reminder, here are the five things I wish someone had told me before I took the plunge. 

Time

Writing is very time consuming – especially when you’re doing it with an end goal in mind. And as a result, you’ll probably see a dip in your social life or sleep cycle occur. But that is what caffeine was invented for. While this time consumption can be quite isolating at times, it does help to find some like-minded writer friends who understand your same struggles and can help motivate you when the time commitment just seems overwhelming.

Outlining

This one took me a while to finally figure out, but having a clear outline is everything! If I could go back in time to my eighteen-year-old self, I’d tell her to get on the outlining train ASAP and avoid years of unfinished manuscripts because halfway through, they were so chaotic and riddled with plot holes that they were tossed aside. Seriously, now I even outline my short stories. It makes a world of difference. 

It’s Okay to Suck

Writing is something that takes time to perfect. You will suck at first; there is no avoiding it. I just wish I’d known this sooner. But in order to suck less, you just have to keep practicing your craft, as well as embrace the editing process. All first drafts will be cringy and that is okay. 

Don’t Rush

Patience is a virtue, and you need to be patient with yourself. Writing a book is a long and arduous process. It is going to take time. Don’t get upset with yourself if you’re not writing “fast enough.” Go at your pace, take your time, and remember it’s a marathon and not a sprint. 

Don’t Forget to Live

Yes, writing takes up a lot of our time. But you can’t forget to make time for real life. It’s okay to step away from your fantasy world and back into the real world from time to time. In fact, I have learned that a little break from your manuscript every once in a while is healthy and restores your perspective on it. 

Balancing Multiple Projects

As writers it is nearly impossible not to have a constant flood of new ideas. But we how do we balance all the new ideas while still working and completing what we’ve got? Some of us might find that working on multiple projects helpful, but we also want to find a balance. 

Tips to balancing different projects:

1) Use Different Notebooks

We all love a good notebook. It’s almost like a writer’s rite of passage to have hundreds of unused notebooks in some desk drawer just waiting to be used. Put some of these notebooks to good use by dedicating them to your projects. Instead of scattering your ideas for all your stories across several different notebooks, just use one notebook per project. I have found it makes a world of different when I can just go to one notebook for everything having to do with Project A instead of rifling through five different notebooks trying to find the note I wrote.  

2) Plot, Plot, Plot

Organization is key to balancing several different writing projects. Writing one book is difficult enough and requires you to be organized, but when you’re juggling two books or more books, organization is essential. Plotting and outlining is a great way to make sense of your different storylines so that they flow cohesively. The last thing you want is your different plots overlapping in your head, which is why creating clear and concise outlines for each will help to keep you on track for each project. 

3) Compartmentalize One Project Per Day

Divide your time evenly amongst your different projects. And when you go to work on a project, work on just that project. For example, if you’ve decided that you have an hour on a Tuesday evening and you want to work on Book A, then just work on Book A. For that hour, pretend that nothing else in the world matters but working on Book A. If you like to spend your Saturday mornings working on multiple outlines, then make sure whatever length of time you take for yourself you evenly distribute for all your outlining projects. I find that if I’m outlining two things at once, I like to set a timer for each. So, if I’ve given myself half an hour each, I’ll set a timer so I stay on track. This also helps to create a sense of urgency to focus my allotted time to the project at hand, rather than wasting time letting my mind wander. Going off this point, dedicate your day to whichever project fits your mood. For example, if you wake up feeling like you’ve got a million different plot points you want to connect, then maybe take that day to focus on the project that is still in its plotting phase. Or, if you wake up thinking of some really good dialogue, then maybe focus on the writing aspect and choose one of your projects that is already in the drafting stage. 

5) Get in Your “Zone”

Before starting work on any project, it’s a good idea to get your head in the game. As writers we all have our different Go to your favorite writing space, play a specific playlist, light a scented candle – do whatever makes you get into that writer frame of mind. This ritual is also helpful when trying to transition between projects that you’re working on. I personally like to use different playlists for each of my projects. The music helps me shift from one story to the next through different themed playlists. But you can do whatever it is that makes you get in your writing zone. 

6) The 10-minute trick

This is great for those writer’s block moments. At some point we will all experience writer’s block on all of our writing projects. But if you don’t want to abandon yet another manuscript then this is a great idea, especially if you’re experiencing writer’s block on the dedicated writing day of one of projects. Rather than letting it roll over to next week or whenever you’ve scheduled yourself to work on it again, try this instead. Sit down at your chosen writing space and set your timer for 10 minutes. And during that time just start working. By the time your alarm goes off, you’ll be so entrenched in the flow you won’t want to stop. 

7) Be Patient and Don’t Give Up

Perhaps the biggest lesson to take away from trying to balance several different writing projects at once is that you need to have patience with yourself. Each project will end up going at its own pace. You might find yourself wanting to constantly write Project A while neglecting Project B or having severe writer’s block on Project C – and that is okay. No one is expecting you to finish all three at once and within an entire year’s timeframe. That is your own internalized pressure. Be patient and just keep going. Everything that you’re writing will eventually get written, you just need to keep working on them. Some of your projects will end up going fast than you expected, others will give you a little bit more resistance. Just keep moving forward and you’ll eventually get there.