‘D’ is for ‘Dos and Don’ts’
1 Don’t Panic. Lots of people fantasize about one day writing a book, but the dream to become a successful, full-time writer is not an easy one to achieve. With dedication, time, sacrifice, and a lot of effort however, it is sometimes possible. So don’t worry. Don’t rush. And don’t give up.
2 Do Write. Establish a routine – every day, or at least as often as possible. Make your writing habit regular and you’ll find that you fall into the flow of writing much easier than if you only work on it sporadically. You’ll also have more to work with … you can’t edit or publish an empty page.
3 Don’t Procrastinate. Don’t waste all of your writing time doing other things. If you’ve scheduled writing into your usual day, make sure that you actually are writing. It’s all too easy to fritter away your time updating social media networks, or watching videos on YouTube.
4 Do Read. Reading is essential to good writing. It also promotes creativity, brain activity, improves your innate use and understanding of language, and exposes you to a variety of approaches and new ideas. Try to vary the genres and authors that you read to experience a broader range of formats, ideas and writing styles – but, do also read widely in the same genre that you are writing in. If you’re writing literary fiction, read that. If you’re writing science fiction space opera, read that. Expose yourself. Keep an open mind, and always carry a book. Alternatively you can read eBooks on, or download audiobooks to, a variety of different platforms. You’ll find that good reading promotes good writing.
5 Don’t Worry About Your Word Count. Some days it’s just easier to write than it is on other days. Sometimes, if you’re starting a new routine, it takes a little while to settle into it. Don’t worry about how much you write during your writing stints, just so long as you are writing. After a while it’ll become second nature, and you’ll find that – with habit – it’s easier to just sit down and pick up from where you last left off. If you’re having trouble getting into your writing session, try a few small exercises to warm up.
6 Do Carry a Notebook. Keep a little book on your person at all times for jotting down ideas and notes wherever you are. You never know when inspiration is going to strike, and you’re far more likely to remember your idea if you write it down. If you prefer to record your notes digitally, you might like to carry a Dictaphone or use the voice recorder on your phone.
7 Don’t Forget to Rework. Everything you write will need some tidying up before it is ready for sharing with other people. The first draft should be simply about getting the story down on paper from beginning through to the end. As Terry Pratchett once said, “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story”. You’ll need to re-draft a number of times, likely re-writing some sections even more radically than others. Each draft will improve, and maybe even change, your overall story. Only when it is the best that it can be, should you move on to editing (etc). A lot of the writing process is re-writing, re-drafting. Take your time to make sure that your story is great and flaw-free.
8 Do Get Feedback. Honest, constructive feedback is a great way to get objective responses to your writing. Find some beta readers to give you their opinions of your work, to check for any glaring errors or plot-holes, or any areas of your work where there may be room for improvement. You might find some at your local or online writing groups. You’ll also want to source reviews from your readers when your writing project is complete, and widely available. It will help if you have (or, can develop) a tough skin, an open mind, and a positive attitude when it comes to receiving feedback on your work. Not everyone is going to like it. But, just because someone says something didn’t work for them with doesn’t mean you have to change it. Consider the feedback you receive in relation to how it might help with improving your work. Be selective about what you accept and what you don’t.
9 Don’t Take It Personally. Expect to receive rejection letters. Expect that not everyone will like everything you write. Understand though: this is not a rejection of you personally. Rather, this particular piece of writing didn’t quite fit with what that person was looking for at that time. I imagine that you haven’t loved everything you have ever read, and that’s fine too. But be proactive about helpful suggestions – if somebody points out confusions, or repetition, etc., in the first few pages, it’s probably worth looking your work over with an eye to another redraft. Getting feedback that you maybe weren’t expecting, or don’t particularly like, is where that tough skin is most useful. Use it to prevent unhelpful or otherwise negative comments from burrowing too deep. Taste is subjective – everyone has different opinions, preferences, interests, approaches, etc. Consider the feedback and/or responses you get, and if – objectively – you don’t agree with something that someone has said, then ignore it. Ultimately, if you are happy with your writing then that is enough.
10 Do Have Fun. Make sure to enjoy your writing time! Writing your story is as much an adventure as reading it should be for your reader. Write about something that interests you, that you are excited about – your enthusiasm will show in your work and help you to maintain momentum as you write.
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