So I wrote advice for up-and-coming writers for Inkitt, and they published it on their blog, and so now I can post it here. Enjoy. (And send me bags of money. )
Advice I Wish I Was Given When I Started Writing:
1. You will develop your own writing rules. Until then, try out the writing rules that worked for others. My favorite book in that regard is Stephen King’s ON WRITING. I started by adopting rules listed there, like writing every day at least 2K words, and reading every day too.
2. It’s okay to write badly. Writing well is not important when you start. What’s important is finishing your novel. Writing well will come later.
3. The things you’re being ridiculed for in your writing will be the things you’ll be praised for later. I’ve been told my books are full of Slavisms (Russian turns of phrases that sound odd to an American ear) and that I should get rid of them. Now my readers love my writing precisely because of my Slavisms.
4. It’s okay to hate your writing. It means you have a great taste. Ira Glass said it best: “Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
5. The first draft is shit but it’s the most important draft you will write. The story is either there or it’s not. Don’t work it to death if you sense it’s dead, you will frustrate yourself to death in the process.
6. There is no such thing as writer’s block. It’s a myth invented by lazy writers. If you’re stuck, go for a walk or switch to writing another story.
7. Writing is like any other skill. Don’t pause. Don’t quit. By quitting you will hurt your chances of getting better. Imagine learning to swim and suddenly deciding to quit in the middle of the sea. You will happily drown.
8. Only story matters, nothing else. Not big words, not fancy descriptions, not clever dialogue, not ingenious plot twists. None of that. Plain story is what readers want. Reading is hard work. Don’t make readers suffer through your “writing.”
Advice I give YOU, the up-and-coming writers:
1. Write for yourself. Ignore people who tell you how to write your books. Remember, it’s not for them that you’re writing, it’s for YOU.
2. Do not bother with obsessively checking your book sales or doing promotion or marketing or going to events. Write more books. Your readers will promote your books for you (once your books are good).
3. Get online, talk about your writing process and be yourself. Let people get to know you. The real YOU, not some artificial facade.
4. Have fun! Write whatever the hell you want however the hell you want. Life is too short to write stuff you don’t like.
5. Exercise, eat good food, sleep well, and have plenty of sex. Your stress-free body will free your mind, and your mind will produce better writing.
6. If you’re the only one who reads your writing, it doesn’t matter how it looks. But if you want others to read it, make sure it looks good. And I mean, GOOD. Hire a professional editor, a professional formatter, and a professional cover designer. Or bribe talented students with cookies.
7. Whenever you feel intense emotions, use them. Quickly write them out (instead of crying rivers or punching someone’s face). Number one, you’ll be the calmest person among your friends. Number two, your best writing happens when you’re emotional, so you’ll produce excellent stories.
8. Don’t listen to advice. Forget everything you read above. Forget everything I told you. JUST WRITE.