I get emails and messages from aspiring writers all the time asking me for the one thing they should know, or the one thing they should do, in order to be a successful writer. Well, there’s never just “one thing,” but I’ve taken all my very best writing advice and distilled it down into five things that will help any aspiring writer along on their way to success.
Stop Trying to Control Everything
This is a big one. Writers are anxious people and we like control. It makes us feel safe and like we can anticipate the problems lying in wait for us and come up with solutions for them before they’ve even come to pass. But no matter how much we plan things out in our head, we can’t predict the future, and we definitely can’t predict the exact details of how our creative work will turn out once it’s out of our heads and down on the page.
The best thing you can do for yourself is let go. Don’t be so attached to your outline, the order in which you write your story, how you think your characters should act, and whether or not you’re hitting every point of the Hero’s Journey. Those things are fun to play around with and they can be helpful, but don’t try to use them as control mechanisms to the point where you strangle your story.
Traditional versus self-publishing has been a hot topic for quite some time now, with authors divided vehemently between the two. I have clients who are self-published and wouldn’t have it any other way. I also have clients who went the traditional route via agent to publisher and would never dream of doing it different.
One of the stickiest places for writers is when they want to move their characters from Point A to Point B in a story. Sometimes Point A and B are physical places. They might need to get their character from California to China. And sometimes A and B are two points in time, as when their character has to go from high school graduation to an end-of-the-summer scene.
These transitions can be tough for writers. Number one, because there isn’t a whole lot of emotional investment in the transition. It’s just a necessary part of moving the plot along. Number two, most writers tend to overwrite these transition scenes, trying to flesh them out when they don’t need to be fleshed.
Most people don’t pay much attention to their dreams. They seem to be born out of something crazy our brain does when we’re unconscious and not present to supervise our mental activities. But writers aren’t like most people. And we don’t have the luxury of dismissing this rich, frothy mix of layered meaning and symbolism that our minds give us as a gift every night.
You thought this post was going to be about editing, didn’t you?
It’s about something much more important.