Guidelines for a determined writer

Writing notebookI belong to a local writers’ circle and yesterday it was my turn to lead the session. We have a lively discussion which resulted in more ideas. Here’s a potted version…

1. Know what you really want
Not what other people, e.g. family, spouses and friends think you want, nor what you think you should want.
Is writing a ‘want’, a ‘need’ or an ‘obsession’ (possibly an addiction)?
Deal with guilt that writing isn’t a good use of time or a valid job – it’s not selfish, it’s what you want to do.

2. Write now and enjoy it
Write and enjoy it, whatever your goals, whatever kind of writing you do.
Don’t over anticipate the future, e. g. ‘when I get discovered’, ‘when my book becomes a bestseller’.
But don’t let what you’ve done in the past set your writing agenda or stifle your work.
Have a plan, but don’t get obsessed by it – everything will change.

The Bookseller_Editor's Choice3. Be proud of what you have achieved
It can be by participating in a group, finishing a scene, being placed in a competition, publishing your work, getting a five star review or just making somebody laugh at your comedy writing or be moved by your poem.
And don’t compare your own achievements with other people’s; every writer is different.

4. Create and seize opportunities
You are not entitled to recognition however brilliant your writing.
It’s very rare to get a ‘break’ or ‘be discovered’ – usually only in novels or a films (Sorry!)
The old adage is true, ‘The harder I work, the luckier I get.’
Use every life event /change and every meeting with other people, especially fellow writers, as an opportunity.
And when opportunity is in front of you, take it.

5. Share with others
You won’t feel isolated, shut in your bat-cave, desperate to talk about your writing with somebody who understands.
Giving back knowledge and experience is more pleasurable than you think.
You might spark the next Booker prize winner on their way by giving them one little helpful hint.
Others will be open about sharing with you, to your great benefit.

Reading_poem6. Take risks
Dare to read your piece aloud, enter that competition, send your manuscript out to agent and publishers, or for assessments and competitions.
Put your opinion forward, volunteer to lead a session.
Try something you think you can’t do – you may surprise yourself.
If you have a deadline, feel overwhelmed or absorbed with a writing project, take the risk of saying no and displeasing others.
Creation is always risky; you never know what you may discover in yourself, both good and bad, but it may be something glorious.
Humans are naturally risk-averse – thank the Stone Age for that – but do it anyway.

7. Work hard and be persistent
Swanning around being creative is 5% of the job.
Sit down every day and write a minimum number of words even if you revise them all another day.
Organise your work, research methodically and turn off the Internet while you are inputting your words on the keyboard.
Don’t leave the hard slog of writing until a month before the deadline; start now.

Anything else to add to that list?


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers, INCEPTIO, PERFIDITASSUCCESSIO and AURELIA. The fifth in the series, INSURRECTIO, was published on 12 April 2016.

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines…

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