Becoming a writer is just that – a becoming. Like our 18th birthdays when we become an adult, we know that despite the fact that we are legally recognized as an adult, we are too young to drink and we don’t know anything about what it means to be an adult. It takes years of being of age and feeling the pride, the sting, the work that is required to truly become an adult. Despite all the years of practice, some people never become adults.
Writing is the same. We slowly grow into a writer by studying the craft, learning from successful writers, and practice.
Loads and loads of practice.
We write short stories, try our hand at poetry, launch into a novel. We stumble, fall, are rejected and hopefully, we try again.
Just as infants first roll over, then crawl, stand, and the finally walk, learning the craft of writing (or any craft) is the same. Start by watching others, reading the works of authors who have successfully published again and again. Make this first activity a goal:
Make a list of book you want to read this year. How many books can you read in a month?
Put the list into alphabetical order (or in order according to publication dates).
Keep notes on what you read, reflect on why the stories are wonderful
(or not, and you scratch your head wondering why that dribble was published and not your own work?
…this comment based on personal experience :)
In between reading, and working your other job, making meals, and finding time to exercise, you should find time to write. I suggest this next exercise with a little hesitation:
For a week, track how many words you write.
At the end of the week, reflect about what you did on the days when your word count was excellent.
What did you do on the days you didn’t write much at all?
Remember you are human and there are people in your life who need you.
This is the basic principle of NaNoWriMo.com. National Novel Writing Month (November for Novelist) is a month-long challenge that provides daily inspiration and motivation to write as much as possible – the goal being a 50,000 words. There are both benefits and drawbacks to this.
Benefit – this is a BICAW (butt in chair and write) challenge. It breaks through some of life’s distractions and focuses efforts into one thing – get the words on paper.
Drawback – The result of BICAW stories is more of a ‘diamond in the rough’ than a polished gem.
If you want to challenge yourself to write a much as possible in one day, one week, or one month, I highly recommend you invest the time beforehand to prepare your story as much as possible. Outline, brainstorm, collect snippets of ideas to have by your side before your BICAW adventure.
The purpose of this challenge is for you to go into writing prepared, but to also keep track of what prevents you from writing. It’s more of an exercise in scheduling and lifestyle; an intentional examination of what works and what doesn’t.
Find the balance to be a present human being and a prolific writer. Yeah…good luck :)
Take a break from the story you are working on and work on the query letter to an agent or publisher.
(For help with query letters, spend some time reading www.queryshark.com )
I discovered a hidden benefit when I work on a query letter – it sharpens my purpose in writing that particular story. Every story need a purpose, a lesson, theme, moral, statement – whatever you wish – but it must be there. Many books on the shelves have less than desirable purposes and morals. That is up to you to decide if you are writing a social justice statement (i.e. To Kill a Mockingbird), a tale of to-die-for teenage lust (Twilight), or expressing Christian values (anything by C.S. Lewis, but particularly The Chronicles of Narnia).
When a story starts to fall flat or when I just need a break from writing, I switch gears to work on the query or the synopsis. It’s a nice break from writing scenes, it keeps me focused on the story, and quite often leads to a story break-through.
If there was a common, and yet thin, connection between these three exercises, it’s that writing does not always include writing. Reading, thinking and, people watching. Seek balance, seek mentors, seek to be successful. Oh, and don’t forget to exercise confidence!