10 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started Writing
~ By Brighton Walsh
10. This business is a whole lot of hurry up and wait.
And, okay, that’s probably not a new one for you. I’m sure if you’ve read even one author’s blog, you’ve heard this. But I cannot stress it enough. It’s basically one giant waiting game—waiting for the call, waiting for contracts, waiting for edits, waiting for blurbs, waiting for covers, waiting for payday! Patience is not my strong suit, but I’ve had no choice but to adapt.
9. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
When I started writing my first novella, PLUS ONE, I got hung up on the smallest things. No, really. The smallest. Should I title my chapters CHAPTER 1? CHAPTER ONE? Or just a simple 1? How long should those chapters be? Can I make them too long? Too short? Should I cut them mid-scene? What’s the right way?!
Hint: There is no right way. Whatever works for you, works for the story, works for your characters is the right way.
8. Your characters will keep you up at night.
Or wake you from a dead sleep, as mine have been known to do. When we open ourselves up to writing about other people, to writing about these lives that aren’t ours, we’re opening ourselves up to a constant barrage of information from these characters. A single line of dialogue, an action sequence, an epiphany… They never seem to come when you have a pen and paper and/or laptop nearby. Which is why my iPhone is a godsend.
7. Join Facebook groups, interact with writers via Twitter, connect online.
The doors that are opened to us because of the Internet are vast, and you should use these to your advantage as much as you can. Making connections with people who share your same passion is invaluable. Writing is a solitary career, but not every facet of it has to be.
6. You will never be able to turn off your brain.
That song you just heard on the radio? Inspiration for an entire plot point. Your crazy neighbor who has seven cats and walks around in a housecoat with rollers in her hair? Landlady for your heroine. A story a friend tells about a missed connection? Perfect meet-cute for your couple.
Inspiration is everywhere, and once you open the floodgates for writing, you will never not see it.
5. Not everyone out there has your best interests at heart.
When you first dive into this crazy, sometimes heartbreaking world, you are searching, hoping for someone to love your book as much as you do. But be careful. Not all the agents/publishing houses/indie editors out there are A) qualified or B) perfect for you. Even though you want everything to happen now, now, now, take a look at #10, take a step back, and really think about if it’s the right thing for you, your book, your career.
4. There is no one way to plot a story
Some people are pantsers—those writers who get an inkling of an idea or maybe just a vague character to go on, who can sit down and write an entire story with nothing to guide them. Some people are plotters—the writers who have everything mapped out, from what happens in chapter 4 to who the heroine’s great-great-aunt was and her astrological sign.
Don’t get wrapped up in what everyone else does. Don’t fall into the trap of, “God, I really wish I could write like…” You write like how you write, and that’s that. Find the best ways to nourish that, and don’t look back.
3. You will never again read a book strictly as a reader.
Sad, but true. Once you’ve finished drafting a novel, bled your heart and soul into it, you can’t help but pick up on things you might not have otherwise. Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it allows you to see the intricacies an author wove into the story. Other times it’s a curse.
2. There is a plethora of knowledge out there. Use it.
An echo of #7, the Internet is an amazing tool for authors. Everything you could possibly want is at your fingertips, if you just know where to look. From blogs to forums to twitter, you can find out everything from how to query to what agent is looking for that contemporary spy novel you wrote to which publishing companies you should stay away from.
1. Not everyone will get it.
I know, it’s shocking, right? All you can think about is this book that you’re writing/have written, and some people act as though it’s a passing hobby. Not everyone understands the dedication we put into researching, writing, editing a book. It’s truly a passion, and like so many others, not everyone will share it. That’s why #7 (yes, #7 again…anyone else thinking of Friends?) is important. Because fellow writers? We get it. We’re where you are. (Generally with our fingers glued to the keyboard and random people talking in our heads.) And we’re here to offer silent support. Or not so silent support when a deadline is looming and procrastination is your friend.
* What’s something you wish you’d known when you started writing?
Brighton Walsh spent nearly a decade as a professional photographer before taking her storytelling in a different direction and reconnecting with her first love: writing. When she’s not lost in made-up worlds, she’s probably either reading or shopping—maybe even both at once. She lives in the Midwest with her real-life hero of a husband, her two kids—one of which is somehow taller than her, but she doesn’t want to discuss that—and her dog who thinks she’s a queen. Her boy-filled house is the setting for dirty socks galore, frequent dance parties (okay, so it’s mostly her, by herself, while her children look on in horror), and more laughter than she thought possible. Visit her online at brightonwalsh.com.