Writing is hard. Oh sure some days it’s wonderful and fun. You sell books, you get great covers or reviews, this is awesome. But very often, people don’t realize that making the commitment to write daily is damned hard work. Writing a book takes time. It takes your time and it takes you saying, “not gonna watch television this week until I get my words for the day done.” It means you get up an hour earlier to finish if you didn’t the day before, or that you stay up later.
I get a lot of letters asking about my secret. I don’t have a secret. I work hard. There are no shortcuts. No magic beans. No secret formulas or guarantees. I sit my ass down and I write. That’s what I do and that’s what other authors do.
Talking about writing isn’t writing. I know a thousand people who talk about writing, have talked about writing for years and yet, they have no completed projects. They work on the first fifty pages of a story they’ve been writing for five years but have yet to finish a single book. They go to conferences and sometimes even get themselves a request for a full from an editor. But they don’t have a full because they talk about writing instead of actually writing.
Yes, this sounds harsh. I’m not trying to kill anyone’s dream. But writing is a job. A job. If you want it to be a hobby (and there’s not a damned thing wrong with that either, not everyone wants to be a professional author) then it doesn’t matter. But if you want to be a writer you have to actually write. You have to put it first when it’s supposed to be first. Whining to me or to your friends about how such and such has it so much easier because they don’t have a day job or whatever is worse than useless, it’s negative. You will never have any schedule but your own. Period. It doesn’t matter that author x has all day to write in a swanky office with assistants and snacks delivered every two hours. You’re not author x and you’re never going to be an author of any kind unless you stop making excuses and finish the damned book.
Sit. Your. Ass. Down. Write. There’s the secret.
I don’t have a muse. I’m too busy for one. But if you do, make sure it’s a muse that supports your writing on a regular basis. There are very few perfect writing moments, most of the time you make do, as you do with just about everything else in the world. If you have a muse, makes sure you never use that as an excuse to not write. I’m pretty over seeing people complain that they took the whole week off to play video games because their muse wasn’t cooperating. That’s not a muse to blame, that’s you. Write the damned book.
People get rejected every day. Established authors get rejected. It’s a fact of this business. But they’re established because they write the damned book. People sell books every day too. It can happen. It does happen – Ann Aguirre just sold her first YA yesterday. A book she wrote in two weeks, LOL. This happens because she sat down, turned off the internet and wrote. And then wrote some more. And some more after that. I look at the successful authors and one thing runs between them – they do the work. I’ve never heard Megan Hart complain about the muse (and believe me, we’ve talked about everything under the sun, LOL). I’ve never heard Anya Bast or Cynthia Eden complain about anyone else’s schedule or timeline. Jaci Burton? She’s a machine. She writes because it’s her job and she does a great one.
I get asked for advice a lot – there’s no one true way. Some people outline, some don’t. Some do timed bursts of writing, some don’t. Some take the weekends off, some write three days a week, some use storyboarding, you get the idea. But the one thing successful authors have in common is that they write the book. It’s their job and they treat it like one. It can be a fun job, a job you love more than anything, but if you can’t give it priority when it needs priority, you’re not doing yourself any favors.
Have ten minutes a day? Use it to write. Have to sit in the carpool line? Bring a notebook or a notebook computer. I have a comp book I carry with me all the time. I buy comp books in bulk because they’re easy to carry, small enough to tuck into a bag and cheap. This is just me, you may need cards or time to plot or whatever. The point is, sometimes when life crowds in, you must push back, even if it’s ten minutes a day. Ten minutes a day will get the book finished. Stop worrying that your buddy in your local chapter writes 3k a day. If you write slower, own it.
Own it. Own the very true fact that finishing a book is one of the best feelings on earth. Selling it is even better, LOL. But you can’t sell it if you don’t finish it. Contests are fine and good if you have the extra time. But winning the XYZ chapter’s best opening scene won’t finish your book. If you do NaNo this year, don’t quit after the first week. Don’t quit after the challenge ends either. Now you have to edit (and remember that most books that sell to NY are longer than 50K so you may have to expand). Use NaNo or whatever challenge you enter to get in the habit of writing regularly. Keep that habit.
Writing isn’t a competition, it’s a job. Use the challenges to hone your skills, not as an excuse not to finish, not as an excuse not to write until the start date, and not as a way to compare yourself to anyone else and use that as a reason to quit. You can’t finish if you quit. Power through. Finish the book and let that be your award. Then open a new document and start the next project. And so on.
To everyone entering contests and challenges, I wish you all good luck and look forward to congratulating you all when you finish successfully!