Ask A Writer: Keeping Going

19 Jul

A third question …

I have a question for your blog. Do you have any tips for helping beginner writers, such as myself, to have the confidence to keep going? While I’m having a particularly confident spell at present, I know this is an issue for many beginner writers.”

The short answer is to keep at it.

Yes, I know. That doesn’t sound particularly helpful. But the blunt truth is that learning to write is very much like learning to do press-ups – the more you do, the easier you’ll find it … but if you stop for a few days, you’ll find you fall back to square one.

What I did – what most writers do, I think – is two-fold. First, I set myself a goal. I told myself, at first, that I would try to write at least 500 words a day, rain or shine. It didn’t matter what those words were, I told myself, as long as they were a reasonably coherent story. The idea was to develop the habit of writing. Most – pretty much all – of what I wrote in those early years was utter drivel (he says, modestly <wink) but I did manage to develop the confidence and drive to just keep going.

The second thing I did, to some extent, was to draw up a rough outline of the planned book. I found that if I knew where I was going, while leaving room for modifications as I went along, it helped convince me that I was striving towards a goal. (This is particularly helpful if you’re writing a book that depends on you seeding clues throughout the narrative, perhaps a detective story.) I don’t believe in following plots religiously, but it does help when you’re starting out.

The blunt truth is that the first million or so words you write will be crap, to put it mildly. Very few people start out with the talent to write polished prose – it’s a skill writers develop over time. My honest advice is not to seek feedback for a while because it will either be from friends and family (people who aren’t going to be cruel) or people who will slam it outright, without making allowances for your relative newness. Self-published books like Empress Theresa, where it is clear that the writer hasn’t spent years practicing his craft (whatever he says about it), tend to attract unpleasant remarks and reviews that aren’t always particularly constructive.

Don’t expect instant success. And beyond that, don’t give up.

Good luck.

5 Responses to “Ask A Writer: Keeping Going”

  1. William Ameling July 19, 2017 at 10:16 pm #

    If you are writing 500 words a day, one million words is 2,000 DAYS or almost 6 YEARS.

    I would much rather read, becoming a writer would turn reading into a JOB and rob most of the pleasure of reading.

    • Sarah July 20, 2017 at 10:22 am #

      That actually sounds like an appropriate timeframe for an apprenticeship in the art.

    • chrishanger July 23, 2017 at 5:46 pm #

      People speed up . The point is to turn writing into a habit.


  2. Voldy August 25, 2017 at 10:47 pm #

    hello chris

    have you heard of or use plot methods?

    also any updates?

    Good books have been rather scarce

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