The main purpose of this post isn't niceties, though. I need to talk to you about something. Okay, I need to *rant* about something, a little.
With the New Year a lot of people make resolutions to start writing, to write more, to get serious about writing. Yay! We need more good stories. But these new writers or newly serious writers get a lot of advice thrown at them. I've been seeing it popping up lately, all over. Especially from published writers.
I read a blog the other day from a published writer telling readers if they want to be a "real" writer they need to write every day. Sure, they didn't HAVE to. But if they were serious about it...well. This writer made it sound like if you don't write every day, you might as well give up now, because you weren't dedicated enough.
NO. NO NO NO NO NO. Guys, I may have growled at the screen a little.
I've seen so many writers give advice like that over the years. Not "I did this, or I do this, and it works for me." That's useful! But that's not what I see everywhere. I see "If you want to get published, or be successful:"
- you should write every day (this is a huge one in the community)
- you should outline (sure, pantsing is okay for newbies, but not for people with contracts...)
- you should NOT outline
- you should use Scrivener
- you should use Word
- you should write in cafes, like real writers do
- you should turn off Internet while you write
- you should let your manuscript sit for (2 weeks, 1 week, a month) after the first draft. Whatever you do, don't touch it before then!
- you should fast-draft and then revise
- you should revise as you go
- you should have 3 (or however many) crit partners for each stage
- you shouldn't have crit partners after a certain point, just agent/editor
- you should have a certain number of stages in drafting
etc., etc. RULES. Not tools, or thoughts, or ideas to consider. RULES. And new writers are going to suck those rules right up and try to do all of them, even though many of them conflict! I know I did. I flailed.
Okay. So my books are not on the shelf yet, so maybe I don't have the authority that a genuine pubbed author has. But I have been doing this for about 12 years. I'm working on my 7th manuscript. And I know a LOT of published authors at this point, have witnessed them go through the process of writing books over and over. And here's what I've learned.
- Everyone writes differently. And that's OKAY.
- Not only that, but every BOOK is different. You'll change and develop as a writer. The books will require different tools. Some might need outlining. Some might need fast-drafting. Some might need a zillion revision stages, and some might only need a couple. And your life will change too. For some books you may write every day. Sometimes you can't do that--you may have other circumstances and you may not be able to write on weekends, or on Wednesdays, or for a week when your mother is here.
You are still a real writer.
I happen to be writing every day right now, because I found a way that works for me. But for years I didn't write on weekends--weekends were strictly family time, and that was important too. I still finished books, had an agent, went out on sub, wrote more books.
I think there are three absolute "rules" you need to follow to be a real writer. These are the only things we all need to do. And we all DO them, over and over and over, from the 20-published-books author to the ones still in the trenches, at all levels. I learned them a long time ago from Diana Gabaldon, and they're the only true rules I've ever seen. Ready? Here they are:
3. Don't give up.
That's it. Nothing else matters.