Successful writing means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. For some it’s getting words on the paper at all. For some it’s selling lots of books on Amazon, or even just one or two. For others it’s getting their message out there. And others it’s being true to themselves.
Whatever your definition of successful writing, here are some tips to help you get there:
- Just Write – This is the most important tip of all. If you don’t write, you can’t get your story out there. Your first draft is always going to need improvement, so don’t censor yourself the first time through or get hung up on the idea that you’re a bad writer. Your Work in Progress can and will be improved in subsequent drafts. So get out there and be brave.
- Write What You Would Read – Quite simply, you need to be invested and interested in what you write. If you’re bored, then the readers are going to be bored as well. You don’t have to love every minute of what you write, but the overarching book should appeal to you.
- Write When You Can And As Much As You Can – Maybe you’re lucky and write full time or mostly full time, but for most people finding time to write can be tricky. A lot of experts will tell you to write every day. While this is great advice, it’s not always practical and the pressure can lead people to avoid writing altogether. Take advantage of those times you have available, even if you have to preplan blocks of time to get it done. Eliminate distractions as much as you can during these times. But in the end, don’t stress if you don’t get a chance or don’t get as far as you’d like when you do write, but do your best.
- Write What You Know (Or Research) – One thing that isn’t often suggested is to write what you know. This is a good idea, but if people only wrote strictly about what they wrote they’d never be able to write characters of a different gender, race, sexuality, or anything in a fantasy world. How boring would that be?
So what if you want to write what you don’t know? Do your research. There’s a wealth of information in books and on the internet on almost any topic. You can also reach out to people of other backgrounds and get their perspectives. Write respectfully and armed with research and you can write anything.
- Get Feedback – No writer is perfect and no story is perfect. Seek out others in the craft to get feedback whether it’s in the form of a writing group or Beta readers. Look for people who are going to give honest feedback. Avoid groups that only ever praise your work or that tear you down. Neither of these helpful and can be destructive to your work.
- Your First Story Might Not Be the Right One – This is a hard tip to take and learning that the first story isn’t the right fit to be published can be crushing to new writers, but it doesn’t have to be. Shelve that first book and get started on another and maybe another after that. Your writing will improve and with time you may come up with a book worth pursuing. You may even be able to go back to previous works and get them published after all. So keep pushing through and don’t get discouraged.
- Don’t Listen to the Negativity – Whether your own internal doubts or people who aren’t there to support you, negativity can be crippling if you listen to it. For just about every story and author there is likely to be an audience out there, even if you don’t get there immediately. Listening to those put downs will just turn you off of writing and then you’ll never get your work out there. Get good feedback and ignore the bad.
- Reading Other Works Can Be Helpful But Not Mandatory – While reading can expose you to ideas both in creativity and proper ways to write, other books aren’t the only places to get this information. You probably already have a lot of story ideas of your own and merely reading fiction and non-fiction books won’t necessarily teach you proper grammar and story structure by osmosis. And you’ve likely read a lot in your past. Don’t feel pressured to read, though read books at least occasionally.
One suggestion that is worth listening to is to read at least a couple of writing books, whether broad or specific to a topic. These can help you learn things like how to structure your story, how to edit, how to improve character development, and how to emphasize themes. As always, take any suggestions with a grain of salt, but take advantage of the valuable advice found in these books.
- You’re Not On a Timeline – Some people publish their first books in their 20’s and 30’s, others not until their mid-life or even later. Some of the most popular writers were late in life when they first got started, but that didn’t stop them. Writing and publishing takes time and life often interferes. Don’t feel like you’re a failure or that you’ll never get published just because you’re not in your 20’s or 30’s. Just keep writing.
- Find Your Audience – No matter how good your book is, if you don’t find your audience no one will ever read it. Consider your book and who you intend to read it and then look for places to reach out to those people. Social media such as Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram can be good places to start but there are many other places.
Get suggestions from your local writing groups. Reach out to your local library. Reach out to reviewers online and off. Find supportive family and friends willing to read and spread the word (a note – a lot of times friends and family will agree and then not follow through, don’t hold this against them). Get creative. Hopefully with time word of mouth will spread and you’ll begin to sell those books.
These are just a couple of suggestions that can help you accomplish your goals as writers. There are many more out there. Which ones work for you? Leave a comment or contact me on Twitter with your suggestions.