1. Stop over-thinking it. Seriously. You want to write? Then just start. Don’t worry if you don’t know the ending to your novel. Don’t panic if you don’t know how to correctly format conversations. All of those things can be fixed later, provided you have something later to fix. And the only way to have that is to put those words on paper. Write. Then write some more.
2. Which brings me to maybe the most important thing I know. Writing and editing are not the same thing. Let me say that again. Writing and editing are not the same thing. Get your words down on paper. Don’t worry about subject/verb agreement or sentence fragments or anything until long after you get everything down on paper. If you want to enjoy writing, forget about editing it at the same time. There is plenty of time after you are done to rework. When I work with my youngest writers, the first thing I tell them is spelling counts, but only a little. Grammar counts, but only a little too. If you can spell well enough and construct a sentence that conveys what you want then a few misspellings or grammar mistakes aren’t that big a deal. That’s what spell check is for. And editors.
3. Keep moving forward. Say you’ve been writing about a middle-aged, male, insurance salesman. Then you get to page 100 and you suddenly realize that your main character is actually a 25-year-old female roller derby skater. You are going to want to go back to the beginning and start over. You’ll think, “I’ll just fix it quick and then it won’t drive me crazy. Plus I might forget later.” Trust me, you won’t forget. And, again writing and editing are not the same thing. Keep moving forward.
4. You don’t have to create huge blocks of time in your schedule to write. This may be the biggest roadblock for many of the people I’ve worked with. Somehow their image of a “real writer” is a person who sits at their computer for hours at a time, hammering out pages and pages of material at one sitting. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are writers out there who have the luxury of time to create that sort of writing habit. However, there are lots of writers who sneak in 15-30 minutes a day, sometimes while making dinner or for a few minutes after they put their kids to bed each evening. The key isn’t the amount of time you spend. The key is consistency. Write every day and you will complete the stories rattling around in your head.
5. Write what you like. I once took a children’s book writing class. The first thing the woman said was “Don’t write books about animals who act like people. Publishers don’t buy those books anymore.” That was the same time year Mo Willems exploded on the scene. He’s the author who writes such immensely popular books as the Elephant and Piggy and the “Don’t Let the Pigeon…” series. Don’t chase after genres because something seems to be popular or you think it’s something you *should* write. If you love what you are writing, it will shine through.
This is day 24 in the 30 Day National Blog Posting Month Challenge.