Thursday, January 12, 2012

What I've Learned...

A post geared towards newbies who are bound to make mistakes...like mine.

Writing had always been tucked away on a back shelf and it was something I worked on when I had the time. Either I was in school or studying, then starting businesses and then...the excuses just kept on coming, until one day I was tired of all the reasons why I wasn't writing and just dove in and I love that I did. Now that I have, I realize that all those things which took time away from writing, also took time away from a few other steps I would have taken before writing my first book or during the process.

This is what I've learned to do:
  1. Do the research before writing that first page. I basically wrote the book and then went back and did the research, which ended up changing the timeline of the story a bit and created a lot of extra work. A seasoned writer already knows this, but it's one lesson I won't forget.
  2. Write down every character's name. A writer is always going to remember names of the main characters, but those secondary characters, who show up only a couple of times throughout the story are another matter, at least it was for me. I made the mistake the first time around of not writing down the name of every cowboy at the ranch because I didn't think I would actually use their names again. That was a mistake, because halfway through I had to remember every single name. Again a time saver would have been to write down every name, no matter how minor a role.
  3. Invest in software/Organization. Now not everyone can purchase writing software-many programs are expensive. I finally tried an affordable program called Scrivener (see previous post) at the suggestion of someone in a local writing group. I don't actually use it for writing out the stories, but I do use it for organizing all my research and notes-it's a valuable tool. If writing software isn't an option, create a specific folder on your desktop dedicated only to writing and then create sub-folders for each story and then sub-folders for each research topic, etc. You can certainly use only notepads and note cards, but I have found that these get lost, torn or that nice cup of tea sitting on the desk tips over and ruins a couple. 
  4. Carve out time consistently. I made the mistake early on of thinking I could just fit writing in during the day. Not make a plan, just write when I had the time. The problem with that, is that the day would get away from me and by the time I was turning off my bedside lamp, I'd realize I didn't spend a single minute on my manuscript. I had to learn to carve out at least two hours of the day devoted to writing and with my schedule that wasn't easy. I was already waking up at 6am in order to fit in a workout and walking the dog before the day began and evenings rarely worked because my synapses just don't fire properly late at night. Solution? Wake earlier! I know, crazy to be up at 4am because that means I'm going to bed by 8:00 most nights, but it's what I had to do in order to put in the writing time...at least for now. The point is, no matter how busy you are, set aside the same amount of time every day to your book. 
  5. Read more reviews. One mistake I felt I made was not reading enough reviews on other books of the same genre. I do this more now because I like to get a sense of what the readers enjoy, what did they like about that book, or what didn't they like about this book. I appreciate honest reviews because they can only help to serve the author in writing an even better story the next time. Not every book is going to be liked by everyone, so you'll have to read a lot of reviews to get the best overview. I feel that reading honest reader reviews is just as important as reading the books. 
As a new writer, I'm certain I've made many more mistakes, but that doesn't matter because I've learned from those new author mistakes and soon I will no longer be a new author, but a seasoned writer who makes all new mistakes and I'm looking forward to every moment.

Do you have a newbie mistake you'd like to share?

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