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. 

The Perfect Way to Write Your Novel

Here it is: the cure-all secret that will revolutionize your writing. Are you ready? Do you want to know the perfect way to write a novel? Alright, here is a step-by-step guide below:

1) WRITE!

Thought I was going to let you off easy? Nope. The whole point of writing is to write. It doesn’t have to be good; it just has to come out on paper. That is what editing is for. The key that you need to focus on is sitting down to that laptop or notebook every day and writing something down. There really is no magical secret to writing a perfect novel. Everyone’s novel is perfect in its own way. The real magic lies in actually starting it so go write!

2) Set Realistic Goals

If you’re struggling to get writing, then setting yourself a goal of 5k words a day is a little unrealistic. In fact, it’ll feel next to impossible because when you sit down to write, you’ll get intimidated and suddenly your shower will be in urgent need of cleaning. And if your shower gets cleaned, then you should do the toilet and the sink while you’re at it. And hey, your living room could probably use a dust, and if you dust, obviously you need to vacuum too. Oh look, it’s bright outside. Why not go for a walk? If you’re going to walk, might as well make it productive and take a walk to the grocery store with the canvas bags because it’s about time you stop killing the environment and start meal prepping. If you’re going to eat healthy, might as well exercise in order to lose that gut so you should sign up to a gym. In fact, let’s take a drive to the gym to test it out? And – NO! JUST STOP! Rather than set unrealistic goals for yourself that will then be met with copious procrastination methods, take a deep breath and settle for something more achievable like 500 words. You can even set yourself a time goal instead, like set aside an hour every morning or evening to get some work done. Either way, start small and then work your way up to bigger goals as the smaller ones start to become second nature.

3) Take a Short Break

This is key. Short breaks are good for keeping your sanity. While it’s fun to immerse yourself into your work, short breaks help to avoid burn out. Rather than trying to schedule an eight-hour writing session on Saturday, try to go for six one-hour sessions spread across the week, and a special two-hour day on the weekend. And throughout those writing sessions try to factor in a quick 10-minute break where you can stretch, make yourself some tea, and just step away from the computer or notebook for a minute. It is also a good idea to give yourself a couple days a month where you just don’t write at all. Instead, go for brunch or binge Netflix. Do something that gives your brain a break from your work. It’ll actually make your work even better when you go back to it with fresh eyes.

4) Don’t Give Up

Inevitably, we will all hit a wall at some point in our story. It might happen early on, it may occur in the middle, or it might even come at the end. Either way, the proverbial writer’s block comes for us all. But the key is how you deal with it. Give yourself no more than 48 hours of a break and then get back to it. Even if after 48 hours you still feel like you’re blocked, power through. It’s better to write utter trash that can later be edited than to sit and wait for the brain fog to clear. Writer’s block is the leading cause for stories to go unfinished. Don’t let it happen to yours.

5) Repeat

This one is pretty simple. If you paid close attention to Step 4, you should have a finished product to show for it. Good job. Once it’s been edited and sent out into the world, you can move on to the next project on the agenda, and that is to repeat the cycle: Write, Be Realistic, Take Short Breaks, and Don’t Give Up. It’s not a magic formula, but in following the simple steps you will feel like you’re creating magic.

Happy Writing!