10 Things Pro Writers Wish They Knew When They Started
by Writing Workshops Staff
A year ago
The wonderful thing about embarking on a writer’s journey is knowing that thousands of people have walked this path before. Why is this so great? We can learn from their successes and mistakes, and equip ourselves with everything we need for the road ahead.
So what are the ten things every professional writer wishes they knew in the beginning?
Read on to find out.
The Process ISN’T Always Enjoyable
First things first, let’s gulp down the hard truth: writing ISN’T always fun. In reality, the best writers put hundreds of painstaking hours into their work, even when every fiber of their being tells them to slam the laptop shut. If the thought of that doesn’t make you run for the hills, then you’ve probably got what it takes to make it for the long haul.
Expect Imperfection and Edit Instead
Perfectionism will be the downfall of any talented writer, and the more talented they are, the more stuck they often become. Remember, this is about the process, not just the best-selling book seal. The more comfortable you can get with making mistakes, the easier it will be to accept editing as a fact of life.
Grammar Isn’t Optional
Even if you’re a natural talent with effortless pacing and flow, you still need to put time into mastering grammar. Not only does it add the polished tone that every professional writer must possess, but it also allows readers to process the story in the way we intended. Grammar makes you credible. Period.
Learn to Fall in Love with Research
Have you ever wondered how some novelists master world-building with profoundly colorful dimensions? Or how others write historical fiction in such precise detail, it feels as though you’ve stepped back in time? Writing isn’t as simple as putting words on a page. Research is a fundamental component to make any project come to life.
Discipline is More Important Than Talent
Unfortunately, I’ve seen so many talented writers fall by the wayside over the years. Here’s why: they relied too much on their talent, and never cultivated the discipline it takes to level up their skill set. Like with any other career, the best writers understand that practice makes perfect.
Great Writers Read A Lot of Books
When you live this truth for yourself, you know just how important it is. Reading books makes us better writers by osmosis. Not only does it help expand our vocabulary, but it also conditions our brains to always think in stories and words. For professional writers, reading is the secret key to unlocking a state of flow when they set their own pen to paper.
Sometimes You Have to Kill Your Darlings
“But I absolutely love this storyline!” We hear this all the time from writers who are adamant that they keep their favorite words, storylines, or characters firmly in place. But as the process unfolds, sometimes those darlings just don’t make sense anymore - like the lover who’s perfect, but not for you. Don’t worry: it might sting a little in the beginning, but learning to kill your darlings will protect the integrity of your work as a whole.
Feedback Makes You Better
If we’re being honest, many writers have a reputation for being feedback-immune. And we get it: after pouring blood, sweat, and tears into a project close to our heart, who wants to hear anything negative? But as much as vulnerability is necessary to improve, so is an acceptance of feedback. When we open ourselves up to other people’s opinions, we illuminate our blind spots and make profound strides in our craft.
You Can’t Please All the People, All the Time
I once knew a screenwriter in entertainment who was paralyzed by her people-pleasing tendencies. She had a few calls with agents who wanted her to produce more sci-fi genre, while others demanded she remain focused on crafting 30-minute comedies. And the result of their disparate views was nearly three months of barren wasteland, without a single world set to the page.
This is just one example of how writing to please others can castrate our creativity. While it’s nice to know there will be an audience for our work - and essential if we want to get paid for it - our passion for a project must be the lifeforce behind our career.
Don’t Be Afraid to Sell Yourself (And Your Project)
As writers, many of us tend to be introverted types who’d rather not sell other people on our work. But in order to become published authors or get a script picked up, it’s essential that we learn how to exude confidence in what we’ve created. Don’t shy away from marketing strategies and sales calls that draw attention to your words: it’s what you’ve been working so hard for!