Recently I had the opportunity to be interviewed by the folks at the Kobo Writing Life podcast, which was great fun! I talked about being an Australian and writing books for an American publisher (love it, but don’t take my u’s away!), how I got published and what it’s been like in the three years since I transitioned to full time writing.
I also tackle one of the subjects I’m very passionate about: finding creative and emotional balance. Grab a cuppa and listen to the episode here.
One of the questions that the Kobo team asked about was tips for beginners, and I thought I would expand on that here. Writing a book is one of the hardest, most joyful things I’ve ever done and I see so many people lose their way early in the writing and publishing process.
So, if you’ve been thinking about writing a book or you’re stuck on your second (or third) idea and are tempted to throw it in for the next shiny thing…this is for you.
Let me start off with the cliche… FINISH THE DAMN BOOK!
I know, everyone says it. But there’s a reason for that—when you finish something for the first time you have proof you can do it. That does something magical for your brain, and it makes the chance that you’ll finish another project even higher.
Okay, now that we have that out of the way let me say this: stop letting your fears about what other people will think prevent you from writing.
Yes, it’s important to get feedback on your work…after it’s done. Here’s the thing: no writer ever fully masters the whole “not caring about people’s opinions” thing, at least, I haven’t figured that out yet. BUT (and yes, caps is required) that doesn’t have to stop you writing. It’s fine to be scared of something, but it’s not fine to let that fear prevent you from doing something you want to do.
Fear is usually a good indicator that you’re stepping out of your comfort zone and that’s when the magic happens. So push through the fear and keep going.
Don’t use workshops as an excuse not to write. I see this happen a lot with newer writers, and when you’re starting out THERE IS SO MUCH TO LEARN. Trust me, I get it. But rather than cycling on that same three chapters, trying to pack every bit of knowledge you gather into it, keep working on your book. Once it’s done, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to revise it with all those new skills in mind.
Get used to the idea that someone will hate your book. Creating art, telling stories and putting yourself out into the world all mean one thing: the inevitability of being criticised. It’s part of the job. But you know what, it happens to ALL writers. So if you’re frightened of a rejection from an agent or editor, or if you’re worried about a bad review…I’m here to tell you it will happen. But that’s okay, because now you know you’re not alone. And no author’s career was ever ended because a person hated their book.
Build a support network and a community. Fun fact: this job is HARD. But all things worth doing take effort, right? One of the best things you can do is put together a squad of people who’ll help pick you up when things don’t go according to plan. I wrote a blog about this a while ago that you might find useful.
Read strategically. If you love a book, take a moment to think about why. And if you didn’t connect with a story, also take the time to reflect on that. Reading is such an important part of the writing process, and it can really help writers to grow their skills. If you’re writing with the goal of turning it into a career, then read to understand the market as well. Read to research publishers, to understand why top authors are doing so well. Read to get to know your genre better and reader broadly to find inspiration.
Lastly, the best tip I can possibly give to beginner writers is…just do it. You don’t need fancy software or a shiny new laptop or a qualification or someone telling you you’re good enough. Everyone has the right to tell their story. So start getting those words down, be open to feedback and approach your learning with hunger and curiosity. It’s a wild ride, but there really is nothing to be scared of.
Now, go forth and write!