Today's topic is all about writing epiphanies. Years after committing to take my writing seriously, I've discovered loads of nuggets of wisdom I wish I could go back and tell myself.
But would I listen? Not to all of them. I'd still think I had everything under control, that I wouldn't be in a situation to need all of this advice.
I would read some of this and not take heed, so I hope you learn something from this list! Don't be afraid to apply it to yourself and your writing. Own up to it and you may be far better off than I was when I started!
That should probably be #1 on my list, but we'll jump in with the actual list and think of that one as a starter course. Because I know there's plenty of other writers out there who thought the same!
1. It’s not a bad thing when you think your writing is terrible. If you write a chapter and come back to it a week later thinking it’s garbage, you’re recognizing elements that need improvement, and that’s half the battle. That’s HUGE!
Oftentimes, writers continue to feel as though their writing is terrible, revision after revision. Usually this means you learned something since you wrote that chapter, so you shouldn’t get down on yourself about your writing!
2. I’m not a pantser. I shouldn’t even have tried to be a pantser, and I recommend every new writer always start with an outline.
Things get way too complicated if you don’t use one, and for me, I could never get past chapter 5 in any WIP. You have to know the rules to break them, so although you might transition into being a pantser one day, I wouldn’t bet your first novel on it working out so well. Outlines also make me feel like I’m already 20% there with each chapter, so it’s easier to sit down and write that crappy first draft.
3. There is no magic formula. When I first started out, I looked up every outlining and plotting method under the sun.
These systems seemed to be onto something but I ran into some trouble when I started to implement them.
Having an amazing storyline is always important, but I focused so much on it that my writing was the weakest part of my stories. The magic formula didn’t work.
There’s a thousand ways to write a book. Experiment and find what works for your writing brain and don’t focus too much on finding the perfect formula. Those methods aren’t all-encompassing and should be treated as supplementary material and not as strict guides.
4. Editing while writing shouldn’t be attempted by amatuers. You’ll advance far enough one day that editing while writing is possible.
Don’t do it the first time around.
You’ll NEVER get past the first few chapters. For most writers it doesn’t even make sense to edit that early on unless you’re sure you’re going to keep every scene. Why spend 5 days perfecting a chapter only to find out later you don’t need it?
5. Writing changes the way you read. It’s hard not to analyze a book while you’re reading it. That’s both a blessing and a curse. You’ll learn so much about writing from reading, but you’ll find it harder to sink into some books for pure enjoyment. Balancing the two can be difficult!
6. Writing a book takes FOREVER. I had unrealistic expectations when it came to my deadlines. I heard of writers taking 2, 5, 10 years to write and publish their first book. I was better than that. I would write and publish my book in 6 months and it would be a raving bestseller!
That didn’t happen. Don’t expect that to happen to you either, unless you’re already writing full time, with no kids and no other job.
Life likes to get in the way of writing, which isn’t always a bad thing.
7. The fear of failure makes me a better writer. It makes a lot of people better writers.
Are you worried what your significant other will think when you show them your work? As long as it doesn’t cripple you (and it took me a while to share my work), the desire to not disappoint makes me try harder, edit more, learn more about the writing craft. Harness those fears and doubts and make them work for you!
8. Use charts/graphs/anything to track progress toward a goal. This is literally only something I started doing about a month ago. I’ll put a link down below to a template I used to track my editing progress.
You’ll manually have to adjust the “daily goal” column, but it should be fairly self-explanatory. It ends up looking like the NaNoWriMo graph, which I realized this last Camp NaNo motivated me a lot. Visuals of your progress help! I seriously wish I had started doing this two years ago.
9. Automation - I’m still new to this one, but I’m working on using it more often;
while it’s not exactly writing related, it’s helpful for marketing yourself before you publish your book. I use Hootsuite, but there’s a lot of automation programs/websites/apps out there you could use.
This means you can bulk pre-load a lot of your social media content - on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc, which means you won’t have to focus on it so much during the workweek.
10. It’s addictive. Making progress with your writing is so addicting.
Every time you reach a new goalpost, it feels so freaking amazing. It feels like writing the first draft takes FOREVER, so it’s nice to know how great it feels when after you meet those goals.
11. Editing is where the bulk of your learning comes from. Yes, you learn a lot while writing.
But you learn even more while editing, especially with the help of others (like beta readers or professional editors). I thought once I started editing, things would be a breeze. Writing the first draft was the hard part, right?
I was so wrong, and wish I had pushed through to the editing stage on earlier projects - I would know so much more today! So don’t write a first draft and chuck it if you don’t think you’re going to publish it. Try editing it to get the most of your learning experience!
12. It’s stressful. Like woah.
Trying to meet those deadlines, although self-imposed, can burn a hole in your stomach. I don’t respond to high levels of stress well (my “stressed” sign now is I have a balloon in my chest, which makes it hard to breathe).
When I first started writing, I wasn’t planning a wedding, I didn’t own a home with a million renovation projects, and I wasn’t building this YouTube channel. Things were easy, and I didn’t realize how stressful it can be juggling life with my writing.
13. Stay flexible. While it’s important to set goals and try your best to stick with them, don’t kill yourself to meet them.
I was so attached to the goal of publishing my book by the end of 2016 and I was crushed when I realized I couldn’t meet it. But the stress of scrambling to finish my novel wasn’t worth meeting that goal, not to mention my writing suffered by rushing so much. Goals are important, but your well-being is not worth an earlier publication date.
14. It’s hard to compare yourself to others. I’m not saying you shouldn’t compare yourself to others, I’m saying that no two writers experience the same success even on the same path.
When I’m bored, I love to find stories of writers who found success, writers that did this and became bestsellers, writers that did that and quadrupled their subscriber rate. Yes, staying up to date on trends is important, but it’s nearly impossible to gage how successful your book will be by comparing yourself to others.
I wished I had spent a little less time daydreaming about matching someone else's success and instead worked toward my own.
15. You won’t listen. I’m telling all of you these things, and you might really absorb half everything I’ve said so far, might only believe a few items.
I did the same thing. I’m sure I read all of these epiphanies long before I started taking my writing seriously. But, I’m hoping you listen to some and benefit from at least a couple.
Otherwise this post was pointless.
So I hope it wasn’t pointless.
And a bonus item worth mentioning--one I had heard a hundred times before I even started my book: your first draft will suck.
Do not expect it to be perfect.
It’s impossible. But whatever’s wrong with your first draft, you can always fix. You can’t fix a blank page.
Alright, I hope this was super helpful for your own writing journey! Tell me what you wish you could go back and tell yourself (or rather, what advice you wished you had actually listened to...that’s the video I really should have done).
As always, Happy Writing!!