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.
Today’s guest post is from Phillip McCollum, who many of you might remember as the author of The Pros and Cons of Being an INTJ Writer. Phillip has been blowing my mind for the past year as he’s written a new short story EVERY WEEK for 52 WEEKS. Today’s post is all about what the process taught him and how it helped him become a better writer.
52 short stories in 52 weeks?
It wasn’t going to work. I just knew it. It would be a colossal waste of time and I would be stuck in the same damn rut 52 weeks from now–a hard drive filled with innumerable half-starts and unfinished tales.
First of all, I wanted to write novels. Short stories were OK, but they weren’t novels. I’d been indoctrinated by countless ‘writing experts’ that the two styles were as different as house cats and narwhals and if you wanted to do one of them, you should absolutely, without a doubt, completely ignore the other.
Recently I was reading through one of the many writing blogs I subscribe to and I came across a list of do’s and don’ts for writers. Some of the advice came from editors, some from agents, and some from famous, bestselling authors. One of the “rules” said (and I’m paraphrasing): “Any time two characters are sitting around talking about another character the scene is dead.”
I instantly panicked.
Build a Writing Kit
Sometimes I carry a small canvas bag, and sometimes I use a portfolio binder. You can choose whatever container works for you, as long as you have your laptop, notebook(s), and pens or pencils all in one place and ready to go.
National Novel Writing Month has something for writers of every personality type. Tight deadlines for those who work well under pressure, well-deserved admiration for those who thrive by having their talents recognized, and the freedom to work with or without an outline, according to individual creative taste.