9 Essential Tips for Myself As An Aspiring Writer

Today makes thirty six (give or take a few hours) times around the sun, for me. So I’ve been a little retrospective today. One gift I received was Stephen King’s On Writing
– something I’ve been told I should have read a long time ago.

That got me to thinking. I first started writing short and flash fiction about twenty years ago. If I could meet myself back then, what advice would I give my earlier writing self?

Here’s the nine most important.

  1. Reduce distractions. I hate it, but I do best with a full-screen plain-vanilla text editor for flat-out writing. I’ve had the best luck with Q10 for Windows and JDarkroom (which works on Windows and Macs).and Windows. When all else fails, take a pen and notepad and go away somewhere. Use headphones.
  2. Edit later. Make a note – say, in brackets [like this] so you can search for your notes later. (Q10 has a note function, but the principle doesn’t require any specific software.) Even if you’re painfully aware how sucky the words coming out your fingers are, keep writing.
  3. Have an ongoing writing goal. NaNoWriMo does this, of course, but it’s over after a month. Having a daily or weekly goal is better. I’ve been using the 100 Word Stories competition as something to keep me writing something, even when I’m fantastically busy.
  4. Have a submission goal. I submit a minimum of one thing a week (I had a backlog when I started submitting.) This does two things – keeps you in the game, and reduces the sting of rejections. How does it do that? Simple: “Oh, that story got rejected. Now I know what to submit this week!” But without submitting, you’re not going to get anywhere. It’s still just a hobby.
  5. Recognize that your brain is out to make you fail. Or at least, mine is. It’s amazing how easily I distract myself from writing and submitting. Things get picked up, clothes get put away, I reorganize my desktop and detangle all the wires… You get the idea.
  6. Keep submitting. At GenCon last year, I had a gentleman tell me he rewrote a short story every time it got rejected. Um, no. Rejections may be because you suck, but they could just as easily be due to editor taste, or because they just bought another story with similar elements, or whatever. This is especially true for anthologies; even with invite-only anthologies, you and a dozen others are all thinking about similar topics. If your short story’s been rejected from say, five or six markets, you might want to give it a once over. By that time, you’ll have more distance on it anyway, and may notice something you overlooked before.
  7. Proofread, read the submission guidelines, and be professional. I just had a rejection from Futurismic because I didn’t read far enough into the submission guidelines. The story was near-future, on Earth. That part of the guidelines I read. I saw the “no space opera”, but I didn’t scroll down and see the “no aliens”. Whoops. Not only is it a rejection, but now I’ll also have a harder tiem selling to that editor in the future.
  8. Go ahead and write the dark whiny emo stuff. Keep it in a binder. For the love of god, don’t show it to anyone. Pull it out later, when you’re feeling doubtful. No, don’t try to publish or fix it – but it’ll make you feel better about what you’re writing now!
  9. You will get better. The more you write, the better you’ll get. The more you live, the more experiences you’ll have to write about.
    There is no reason to stop. None.

Have a great weekend, everyone.