10 Things I Wish I Knew As A Beginning Writer

Written by Eric Vance Walton | July 25, 2013

I’ve been writing for nearly twenty years. The writing bug bit me in tenth grade when I was given an assignment to write a short story. It was a comedy piece about taking my driver’s test. The teacher read it aloud, the class laughed and I was hooked. Since then I’ve held a succession of professional jobs that have nothing to do with writing. Finally after eighteen years and the publishing of my first novel, “Alarm Clock Dawn” I’m close to my dream of writing full time. Why did it take so long? Simply put, many mistakes. If I had a time machine and could go back and tell my twenty year old self only ten things about writing this is what they would be:

1. Learn the fundamentals of writing before you even attempt a writing career. I cannot stress this enough, even if you feel that writing comes naturally to you, learn grammar and the mechanics of writing. Take classes, attend workshops or read books on your own. You will need to do so eventually and getting it out of the way first will save you much precious time.

2. Polish, polish and polish. A piece is almost never done after the first draft is complete. I don’t know how many times I’ve emailed or posted a piece online that I thought was done only to have a new idea come to me or find a typo in it later.  My wife jokingly refers to me as, “the tweaker” but after you have some years of writing under your belt you know when a piece is complete and until it isn’t the piece nags at you and you can’t stop thinking about it.

3. Take feedback about your work from those who are close to you or even know you with a grain of salt. I’m not saying to discount it altogether but those who know you are emotionally connected with you to some degree and their opinions will be biased. To get more unbiased feedback post your work on message boards or social media. Writers groups are also helpful but be careful about taking the opinions of other writers too seriously, especially when it comes to style. (for more on this topic see #9)

4. Diversify. It’s wise to create multiple revenue streams if you plan to make a comfortable living at writing. If you want to write books also consider seeking freelance writing jobs and/or speaking engagements. Establish yourself as an expert on what you write about.

5. Work to overcome shyness. Most writers I know, including myself, were at one time introverts by nature. You need to work to become more outgoing and be ready at any moment to speak enthusiastically about your work. Begin with baby steps and each time you step outside of your comfort zone you will build confidence. You must become your own biggest fan and best salesperson. I’ve done things in the last ten years, like public speaking and radio/television interviews that would’ve terrified my twenty year old self. There is an incredible amount of competition out there for the attention of readers and it doesn’t matter how good your work is: if it isn’t getting in front of readers it will never get noticed.

6. A writing career is not easy. It’s very easy to romanticize the writer’s life but most times it is far from glamorous and is one of the most difficult things you will ever do. To be a successful writer requires a mega dose of hard work, commitment, good networking skills, optimism, and also a healthy dose of luck. If you have the discipline to hone your craft writing can be equally as rewarding as it is difficult.

7. Beware of any publisher, agent or otherwise asking you for money from you to do business with you. There are plenty of unscrupulous individuals and companies out there who prey on both the vanity and naiveté of aspiring writers. Thankfully, reviews are now just a click away on the internet. Even if you are self-publishing your work, invest the time in reading online reviews before you sign a contract or upload your work.

8. Read voraciously. Reading the work of other authors will expand your vocabulary and will make you a better writer. I’ve made it a rule to not read books from other authors while working on my novels or even short fiction. If I do read other books I often find the writer’s style can unconsciously surface in my work.

9. Develop your own unique voice and learn how to spark creativity. If you listen to the critiques and feedback of other writers too much in this regard you will lose your own unique style or voice. Your style is what eventually will set you apart and allow you to develop your niche which will ultimately develop into your fan base. Certain people say it’s wise to force yourself to fill up a blank page every day to stay sharp. That doesn’t work for me. If I encounter writer’s block I’ve learned it’s best to take the dog for a walk, go for a bike ride or do anything that has nothing to do with writing and pretty soon the ideas start flowing freely again.

10. As writers we don’t choose to write, we have to write. Writing is not only a form of personal expression, it is therapeutic and it is also a lifelong journey of self discovery. If I stop writing I feel there is a huge void within me, life doesn’t seem as fullfilling. Twenty years into my career I’m still learning new things and polishing my work with every project. Take your craft seriously, create a sacred space to write that is quiet and free from interruptions.  Although writers spend lots of time crafting fictional characters, ironically, the act of writing develops the character of the author more than anything else.

Bio:

Eric Vance Walton invites you to follow his unfolding story by “liking” his Facebook author page at https://www.facebook.com/EricVanceWaltonAuthor for updates and promotions on his current and upcoming projects.

You can buy Eric’s new book One Word At A Time: Finding Your Way as an Indie Author, on Amazon in print or as an ebook.