Having done enough conventions and literary panels this year, I wanted to address the question I seem to get most often: How do I stay on track?
Many authors, especially those are who “new” to the craft, struggle with this but it is not exclusive to them. Veteran authors have this issue, too. So how do we stay on track? Stick around! I’ll break it down for you in a couple ways which have worked for me. These aren’t guarantees, nothing works for everyone. Take what works for you and discard what doesn’t.
Comment, share, and re-post if you found something helpful!
Physical exercise works for a lot of people but what I’m talking about right now are mental exercises. You have to write often if you’re to get acquainted with the process of writing. Oh yes, there is a process.
The writing process is complex and intricate. You have a singular idea and you must tell it in such a way your readers are able to follow. The trick-no, the skill, is to not allow your reader to be removed from the story. It involves having engaging characters who they can relate to in some way, rhythmic flow and cadence, and making every word count.
Work ethic is imperative to becoming a serious writer. Deadlines can be crippling to some authors, and some are invigorated by them. Either way, deadlines are a real thing and a part of writing, like it or not. If you’re writing for “fun” deadlines don’t figure into the equation.
Depending on how long your story is, dedication is required to get through an entire length of story. Day in and day out, you must spend time with the characters you brought to life. It’s a relationship which doesn’t end until the story does.
A writer’s dedication is test when they go through the editing process. You may think you’re done when you type “The End” but the end is only the beginning. Refining your words is the crux of many authors who put in the time, only to go through it all over again. Repeatedly.
The biggest challenge to dedication is your own resolve. Are you committed to this? Yes? Ok, great! Now the real work begins.
Though these are two different things, I put them together because you must go through at least one (both preferably) to earn your quill. No one shits out gold. Everyone requires editing and critique of some form.
We know what the story is from our perspective. Now, we need to know what others get out of it. This does not mean you must write to appease everyone. If you try, you’ve failed before you’ve put a single word down. What I mean is you must understand how your words form images in other people’s minds. If you have to explain it to your mentor/critique person, you’ll more than likely have to explain it to the readers. This is my mantra and you should also take it into consideration. It’s always better to have several eyes on the story.
Read Your Work Aloud
This is an important skill to learn.
- if you’re looking to get published, you’ll face live readings.
- it helps you connect the words you write with the flow of natural speaking/cadence/flow
If it doesn’t sound right to you, it most likely does not sound right to readers. I think this is pretty cut and dry.
Having a timeline or outline helps, too. More in the next post about that.
Read all the time. Read Everything.
Reading works of other authors is non-negotiable. Pull from what you read and learn from it. What works? What doesn’t? What did you love? What did you not like? How can you do better?
Some authors use the excuse, “I don’t want to be influenced by what I’ve read.”
If you’re writing fiction, read non-fiction and vice versa. There’s a way around the “influence” card. Read a shampoo bottle, read up on marketing, check out a book on “How to write” in your own genre.
And oh yeah, last but not least …
Stop Making Excuses
Write every single day. It can be 50 words, it can be 1000 words. Don’t let anyone tell you what your own goal is unless they suggest you aim to be better than you were yesterday.
Excuses are road blocks you set up for yourself. Without them you can accomplish anything.