Dear New Author, You’re Doing It Right

Voirey Linger

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos
Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

I vividly remember the early writing days and constantly wondering if I was doing this writing thing right. The only thing I knew to do was open a document and start typing. I looked for reassurance and guidance from writing groups, looked at workshops, was overwhelmed by all the information out there about writing, some of it conflicting. I didn’t know which information was right, so I asked someone on an author loop for guidance. And she gave me one bit of advice I will never forget.

“You obviously have no idea what you’re doing. You should really leave writing to those of us who can do it.”

Yes, that is a direct quote. And a lesson that not everyone in this business is encouraging or wants you to succeed. Luckily, I get stubborn when people make me mad. Less than two years after I read that advice, I was announcing my first book release. Suck it, unnamed author. (We all need motivation. That’s mine. Don’t judge.)

In the years since then, I’ve learned a lot about how I write a book. I’ve also seen a lot of authors where I once was, trying to figure things out, and everywhere, there are authors telling them just how to write. You have to pants, or plot. Plotting means spreadsheets or snowflakes or outlines. You have to format it properly, know your GMC, take workshops and learn your craft. Then and only then, you will be ready to write. And after that, you have to learn how to query and get your first hundred rejections before you can step into big-girl author pants and win at life.

I’m going to tell you something you might not be expecting. Something that goes against all the conventional wisdom being tossed around in authorly circles.

You’re doing it right.

Really you are.

In the beginning, the most important thing you can do is sit down and write. Don’t worry about the workshops, about learning how to construct or deconstruct or make a character compelling. Sit down and write. If you end up with a story, no matter how messed up it is, you did it right.

It can be a train wreck of plotholes. Your heroine can change hair color halfway through. Your hero’s sister can show up two chapters after you killed her. But you finished the book. YOU DID IT RIGHT. Your process worked.

The flipside of this is that if you don’t finish a book, you need to reevaluate. Notice I didn’t say you did it wrong. When you’re learning, I don’t think there is a wrong way to do it. You’re testing, seeing what works for you and what doesn’t. Yes, you can take bits of advice you hear and try them, but if that isn’t a success, it’s not because you failed, it’s because that bit of process isn’t right for you. You have successfully determined this bit of advice can be discarded. Hopefully, you have also determined WHY it didn’t work so you can choose another concept that meets your individual needs as a writer.

There will be a lot to learn ahead. I’m not going to discount the importance of refining your craft. But right here, right now, the most important thing for you, as one brand-new writer, to know is that you can do this. You ARE doing it.

You’re learning to write. Without workshops, or lessons or a writing coach. You’re learning what it takes for you to sit down and write a book. it’s something totally unique to you, something no one else can teach you. Keep going.

Because you’re doing it right.

5 thoughts on “Dear New Author, You’re Doing It Right

  1. Thanks! Sometimes all the advice in the world is not what you need – you need to sit and try and see what happens and then keep going again. Shame on the unnamed author for being so ‘encouraging ‘!!!!

    1. Exactly. I think we all need reassurance sometimes, but sometimes all that outside information is just distracting noise.

      And as for that other author… Well, I think of her every time I sign a contract. As the saying goes, “Living well is the best revenge.”

  2. One of the first bits of advice I ever got was- beware of frustrated writers, they are mean as hell.

    I’ve found that’s excellent advice. The mean ones may look like they are doing well and setting the pace, but really they are scared and trying their best to trip the competition. Must suck to think the only way to get in top is to hold everyone else down.

    1. They can be, and frustrated doesn’t mean doing poorly. Sometimes those who seem to be doing very well can be the most frustrated.

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