So once in a while, I get a request for some words of encouragement for a writer. I almost always do it, because I know what it feels like to need encouragement. A week or so ago, I got a message from a relative I had not met before. She sounded very nice, and she asked me to send her son, who is a writer, some words. I finally got around to it today, and I thought I’d post those thoughts in case anyone else out there needs to hear this. It’s nothing earth shattering, but I promise it’s all true.
I am your mom’s cousin’s partner, which, now that I write it, sounds kinda distant. But anyway, I am writing because I heard you are an aspiring writer. Your mother asked me if I would send you a few words of encouragement, so here goes:
1) Write. When you feel yourself getting up to get a glass of water, stay seated and write. When you decide you should probably clean the dishes you left in the sink, write. Write all the time. It keeps you sharp, and it makes you better.
2) Read. Read things in your genre, and read well-written books. I’m not sure what your genre is, but whatever it is, read in it and out of it. Read people who write beautiful sentences (see Toni Morrison) and people who write hilarious sentences (see David Sedaris). I could name a lot of other good writers to read, and I’m sure you can, too. Find who you like, and devour their books.
3) Take what you want, and leave the rest. There will always be critics. If someone you really trust tells you something, it may be a good idea to listen. If more than one person has the same suggestion, you may want to take heed. But no matter how good you are, there will always be someone who doesn’t like what you do. Let that go. It’s part of the game. Write the book you want to read, and if someone thinks you should write a different book, let them write that book.
4) All it takes is one. Perhaps you have a dozen rejections from agents and publishers. Perhaps you have five dozen. Doesn’t matter. All it really takes is one agent to believe in you. And the best way to do that is to research! What agent(s) represent authors who are like you? How can you, in a query letter, make it clear that you mean to submit this manuscript to them and not to every agent in the world? And of course, make it good! Your manuscript should be complete, polished, correctly formatted, that sort of thing. Agents definitely pay attention to those things, because they want writers who are ready to be published.
5) Do NOT quit your day job. Not when you get an agent, not when you get an editor, not when you publish your first book, not when you publish your second book, either, unless it becomes a best seller and you have a contract for more. In fact, give up any fantasies about making money as a writer. If you’re good, you may make enough to pay the bills, but unless you are 1% of the 1% of the 1% of the 1%, you will not make a lot of money as a writer. Everyone thinks they are the exception, and everyone is wrong. Write because you have to, not because you think it’s your path to a mansion.
So these are my five words of encouragement. I hope they are helpful! Good luck with your writing!