What are some writing tips for young aspiring authors? If this question sounds familiar, it’s because it’s been asked of every successful author ever interviewed. They get so accustomed to answering it that they say the words on autopilot. Answers usually vary from read more, to get into a critique group. That advice is all fine and good (and true), but what aren’t they telling you? What advice do you really need to succeed in the dog-eat-dog world of publishing?
We talked to best-selling authors in darn near every genre to get all the need-to-know info for you. You’re welcome. Here’s the list:
First drafts all suck
It’s called a “first draft” for a reason. It means the book isn’t done yet. The very use of the word “draft” means there are revisions to come. Great work occurs in the revisions process. Plot holes, choppy dialogue, spelling and grammar atrocities…it’s all OK in a first draft. Don’t worry about it. You’ll edit it all out and polish it until it shines later. We promise, your sucky first draft is perfectly normal, necessary and expected.
It’s OK to use the word “said” as a dialogue tag
Young authors tend to cling to their thesauruses, digging up every variation of the word “said” they can find. There’s no need. Your novel is not the place to demonstrate your impressive vocabulary and mad thesaurus skills. It’ll end up sounding unauthentic and stilted if you’re trying too hard to avoid having your characters just plain “say” stuff.
Adverbs are your enemy
Stephen King said “the road to hell is paved with adverbs.” He’s not wrong about this. (He’s actually never wrong about anything. We love you,Stephen! Call us…) If your character says something “angrily”, you’ve just told your audience how that character feels instead of showing them. Make your audience feel what your characters are feeling, don’t just tell them about it.
You can’t do everything yourself
Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from other authors. Hire professionals like editors, cover designers or proofreaders. If you’re not good at something, it’s OK to admit your weaknesses and bring in help when necessary. No one can be good at everything. Wouldn’t it be a boring world if we were all perfect?
No one will believe in you as much as you do
Don’t expect anyone else, be they publishers, literary agents or publicists, to believe in you as much as you do. You can achieve your dreams. You are good enough. Don’t let anyone else make your decisions for you. Follow your gut; it won’t lead you astray. Believe in yourself and others will, too.
Keep your head down
Don’t edit while you write. Just write. Let the story flow. Edit later. (Remember what we said earlier about how all first drafts suck? Yeah, that still applies.)
Nobody said it was going to be easy
Being an author is hard work. It can be incredibly, unfathomably rewarding…and it can rip your heart out and leave you curled up in the fetal position on the floor. If it’s all easy, you’re probably not doing it right. Accept that it’s going to be hard. There will be setbacks. But no matter what, the one thing you can’t do is give up.
Don’t do it for money
Yes, some authors are wildly wealthy and fabulously well-off. But if writing is your idea of a get-rich-quick scheme, you’ll never succeed. Authors who succeed treat writing like their job. They’re passionate about it. If you lack drive and passion, you can’t fake it. Readers will know, and they won’t respond to it.
Don’t be a sissy
Develop a thick skin. You’re gonna need it. There WILL be rejection and negative reviews. It’s part of the gig. Suck it up.
What about all you authors out there? Do you have something to add? Let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you!