8 things I wish I’d known as a newbie writer


As long as I’ve been able to write, I’ve known I wanted to be a writer. But as we all know, the desire to be a writer doesn’t create books alone. I’ve started writing novels, only to give up three chapters in. I’ve hidden my writing so that the world would never see my scribbles. I had aspirations of being a famous novelist, but didn’t know how to get there.

I was in my mid-thirties when I finally published my first novel. Three years later, and I’m gearing up to publish my fifth fiction novel and eight book. I can’t help wondering how many stories I missed writing because I lacked the courage sooner to write them.

Here are eight things I wish I had known as a newbie writer.

1. Don’t wait until tomorrow to start your book.
When people learn I’m an author, they usually tell me that they hope to write a book someday. Buy why wait? What makes someday a more perfect time than today? I put off writing a book for decades. When I finally started writing, it was a scary place to be. Publishing it was even scarier. But after that first book came the second, and then the third, and so on.
If you are waiting until your life gets less busy, stop waiting. There will always be obligations, a full calendar, and that 9-5 job. If something is crossed off your list, another responsibility is bound to take its place. That perfect moment to start writing may never exist. So make the time today to start writing your book.

2. Bad writing only leads to good writing.
The first attempt at anything is terrible. However, if you keep trying, things start to get better. This is true of anything in your life, including writing. I think back to the very first novel I ever wrote. It was awful! I put a lot of time and energy into that book, only to stuff it under my bed, never to see the light of day again. Without that first attempt at novel writing, I may never have gone on to write novels I was proud to share.
The same things goes for my rough drafts. I’ve stripped out chapters of books I’ve written that took days to create. While it hurt to let them go, I don’t regret having written them. They served as the bridge to the parts of the story I wanted to tell.

3. You are just as capable of greatness as the writers you admire most.
Many great writers had humble beginnings. JK Rowling began writing Harry Potter in a coffee shop, barely making it as a single mother. Stephen King initially threw away the manuscript that eventually put his name on the map. Diana Gabaldon started out as a freelance writer, taking any job that would pay her. Nicholas Sparks racked up years of debt and rejection letters before selling the manuscript to The Notebook.
If your writing isn’t where you want it to be, or your book is largely ignored, you may just be in your humble beginning. Remember this time. When you make it big, you can use your backstory to encourage other writers who are aspiring for greatness.

Once you start writing your novel, don’t skip even one day of writing. Even if you only write 50 words some of those days, you have to stick with that story. Otherwise, numerous obstacles are going to attempt war on your writing efforts. You’ll lose interest in the story. You’ll doubt your abilities as a writer. You’ll lose track of the storyline. You’ll fill up your writing time with other things.
To be a writer, you have to keep your writing muscle conditioned. Skipping one day may lead to a second skipped day. Before you know it, you’ll have missed a week of writing, and that novel will end up an unrealized dream.

5. Step out of the writing cave now and then.
Yes, you need to write every day. However, a great story doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Get out of your house occasionally. Visit with friends, enjoy the fresh air, and practice your communication skills. After all, you never know when an experience might make it into one of your stories.

6. Learning is a lifelong process.
There will always be things you don’t know about writing. There are writers who are more talented than you are. There are ways your novel can improve. Rather than throwing in the towel, aim to be better. Take workshops or classes. Seek advice from other writers. Read, read, and read! Never stop learning.

7. Write what you love, and stop writing what you don’t love.
There are going to be days when the story you’re writing just isn’t there. As a novelist, your job is to keep plugging away until you hit your stride again. However, sometimes the story just isn’t there. If the book you’re writing has lost its appeal for good, it’s okay to put it down and start something new. Why waste your time on something you don’t enjoy? It could be keeping you from the story you were meant to write.

8. Being an author is not a way to get rich quick.
Three years ago when I published my first book, I had visions of the mansion I would buy with my millions, the movie contracts I would sign, how my kids’ college would be paid for, the speech I would give my boss when I quit my job…. Three years later, I am still working the same hours at the same job. I am a hundredaire on the income from my books, though I still haven’t made more than I’ve spent producing them. No movie director has contacted me. And I still get excited over each sale and review.
There are times when I am frustrated that I haven’t hit the jackpot with my books. When I focus on my numbers, it makes me want to throw in the towel. That’s why numbers are the wrong thing to focus on.
As an author, you MUST remember why you are doing this. You love writing. You have stories to tell. This is your creative outlet. You are passionate about creating books.
Don’t forget the reason why you started writing in the first place, especially when success proves to be elusive. And if you started writing as a way to make millions, start looking for a different profession.

How about you? What advice do you wish you had known as a newbie writer?


NaNoWriMo WIN, and how I did it

2013-Winner-Vertical-BannerToday the validator was posted at the NaNoWriMo website, allowing those of us doing this crazy challenge to validate our novels when we reach 50,000 words. I reached 50K on Nov. 22, but am still going with the story. Still, I couldn’t help jumping the gun and validating my novel, just so I could get all my “Winner’s goodies”, and see that lovely purple bar under my name, stating “Winner!”

You can find me over at nanowrimo.org/en/participants/crissi.

I’ve been asked how I write fast enough to get to 50K in 22 days. First of all, if you think that’s fast, you should check out the Beyond 50K Forum. There are folks over there writing 250K words in 30 days, which is absolutely insane. When I try to think about how they do that, my brain explodes.

But for me, writing 50K in one month is a challenge anyone can do. But you have to have a plan, and stick to that plan. Here’s what I did:

1. I wrote every day, even when I didn’t feel like it.

2. I set a goal of 2,000 words a day instead of the usual 1,667 NaNoWriMo recommends. This way, if I get behind one day, I’m still doing okay.

3. I wake up at 5 am every morning to write. After all, sleep can happen next month. I also bring a notebook with me to my day job and write on my lunch break, and then type what I wrote during lunch in the evenings.

4. On the notebook thing – it’s crazy how writing a different way than you’re used to can totally increase the amount of words you’re writing. I thought it would be the opposite. But when I’d sit down to type at night what i had written during the day, I’d be amazed to find 2,000 words or more at times. I think it also helped that I didn’t know how much I was writing at the time, and that I had no internet to distract me.

5. A change of venue (where your kids, spouse, or furry friends aren’t hanging out) can do amazing things for your noveling success. And it’s also much more interesting than your kitchen table.

6. A puppy in the lap makes the novel writing process something to look forward to every early morning. I highly recommend it.

He's so sweet when he's sleeping...and not trying to sit ON my laptop.
My neurotic little monster puppy is so sweet when he’s sleeping…

7. If you can take any vacation days from your day job during NaNoWriMo, DO IT! I took a week off of work, and it was the best week of my life. I got to pretend I actually earn a living writing novels, giving me a taste of what the future is going to be like. And it allowed me to get in a couple of 5K word days.

I know there are a bunch of you who have either reached 50K, or are well on your way there. What are some of your tips to reach 50K and beyond in 30 days?