How Not to Suck as a Writer

For my Tuesday Tips post I wanted to write from the heart. I wanted to talk about what we all fear deep down. How not to suck. I mean, if we’re going to be honest with ourselves, we’ve got to start there.

Let’s face it; writing is one of those things that it’s hard to know where you fall on the not-sucking line. The Doubt Monster is always present in the life of a writer, but when should you pay attention to the nervous feeling in your stomach that asks if you’re good enough?

Writing takes a ton of time, constant reflection, and complete dedication. You can’t expect to write novels, poems, or picture books worthy of publication without an almost indecent amount of immersion in every aspect of the process. Start to finish most people take between five and ten years of devoted practice to get published. For me it took 7 years of writing (between 20 and 30 hours a week) before I broke in.

So how do you know if you have what it takes?

  1. Ask yourself if you are willing to dedicate 5-10 years of constant work in order to get published. Stop telling yourself that you are the exception to that rule; that you learn faster than everyone else, that you are such a natural and with such interesting stories to tell that it will happen faster for you. It won’t.
  2. Join whatever organization supports the writers in the genre that interests you. I write for young adults so I am a member of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. It’s a lousy acronym for a wonderful organization. I joined the moment I decided I was serious about writing (i.e. 7 years before I broke in). If you write romance, Romance Writers of America has fabulous programming. Join and join in. Same for mystery writers. Nonfiction writers. You get the picture…
  3. Get feedback. If you are in a critique group that’s working for you, awesome. If not, find one. Or at least find critique opportunities or critique partners. The organizations I mentioned above will offer all sorts of places to find good critique opportunities and critique partners.
  4. Get education. There are so many different kinds of workshops and conferences and classes available online or in person devoted to nurturing, supporting, and educating writers. Find them. Invest in these. Take the time to learn how not to suck.
  5. Be relentless when it comes to revising your work. Getting through that first rough draft is wonderful. Once you’ve let it sit and have the time to return to it with fresh eyes, do that.
  6. Be cool with failure. I’m not just talking about rejections because those will be in abundance, for sure. I’m talking about being okay with the fact that at every part of this learning curve, you will realize your understanding of the writing process is so limited and that you couldn’t possibly learn all there is to know about writing if you spent your entire life trying. You don’t get better as a writer until you stare into the abyss of what-if-I’m-never-going-to-be-good –enough, and decide you want to keep going.

I know I’m making this writing gig seem so glamorous. Not!

But the thing is you have to spend a lot of time sucking before you learn how not to suck.

You have to be obsessed with getting better.

You have to hear a lot of hard truths.

You have to be willing to stand in the front of that 360 degree mirror that Stacy London uses on What Not to Wear and get comfortable with your flaws before you can change and emerge a not-so-sucky writer.

doubt
frog-in-mirror-with-purse

                                                                                                                                            (I look gooooood!!!)

You’ve heard me say it before:  #writingisabadboyfriend--- he is incredibly demanding and standoffish and way too much. Writing can be a total jerk. He asks you to bleed for him and then has the nerve to be bored if you don’t make the hemorrhage entertaining enough.

bored

You don’t need that. Not when you could have so much more fun growing orchids or making cookies or painting wooden benches.

But if you’re a true writer, you won't be able to stop yourself. You will be seduced by the story so entirely that you will gladly endure it all. Morphing from sucky to not-so-sucky to pretty-good to really good requires exquisite pain but it pays off with so much glory.  True story.

If you are a true writer/sadist, you will continuously return to the 360 mirror and look at your WIP with the eyes of a perfectionist and a sculptor and a scientist and a teacher and an artist and you will carve out your story. It may take eight years and five other manuscripts to get it right, but none of that will matter, because the journey, all 10,000 plus hours of work will be worth it when #writingisabadboyfriend puts a ring on it and you have your first book birthday. Trust me.

Stacie RameyComment