Learning to Write

Once in a great while, I run across a writer who thinks that they know it all. They’re professionals, maybe bestsellers. They might have a Ph.D. in Creative Writing even. They can almost convince you that they really do know it all—until they say something stupid.

The truth is that the writing field is huge. You can learn a hundred ways to start a story and you might not know the million other ways that you could have started the exact same story. You might learn how to write dialogue and think you know the topic well, until you suddenly begin trying to write a Jamaican character and have to go back to school.

Writing garbage is easy. Writing beautiful, powerful, evocative prose can be impossibly hard. 

I sometimes feel that writing is an easy job. You can do it anywhere in the world. You can set your own schedule. You don’t have to worry about your cranky boss. 

But make no mistake: being a writer isn’t for people who don’t like to work. If you’re a lazy slob, you’ll fail here faster than just about anywhere else. No output equals no pay. Writing isn’t a job for people who don’t like to work, but it’s a fantastic job if you love this kind of work.

Editors of course know that even promising new writers have a lot to learn, and that much of what you learn, you will learn only by doing the work. My first novel was a bestseller and won a major award, but I felt that when I wrote my second novel, I learned five times as much as I’d known on that first one. And it happened again on my third novel, and my fourth and fifth. A lot of little things that I had to think about as a new writer became internalized over the course of those first five books.

Several writers—Hemingway, Heinlein, and others—have pointed out that your first million words are “shit.” They’re partly right. In your first million words, you can learn to write publishable fiction and even become a bestseller, but you’re still not going to mature as a writer.

For that reason, it used to be that publishers wouldn’t make a new author into a “lead author” and push their work with heavy advertisements. The publishers wanted to make sure that you were ready for it—that you write well, consistently, for the same audience, over and over again. If you could do that for six or seven novels, then the publishers would begin to take a risk on you.

The same is true today. I’ve spoken to several bestsellers in the Indie market who noticed that their sales really didn’t take off until the self-published their eighth novel. Apparently, the algorithms at Amazon favor those who take their careers seriously—in exactly the same way that editors at major publishers did fifty years ago.

So when you begin writing, you want to push your work, learn your craft, and keep improving until you can build your audience enough to prove to the powers that be that you deserve to be promoted as a bestseller.

But don’t you ever stop learning, even when you’ve been at it for fifty years!

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Writers’ Peak

Want to learn how to get writing fast and stay in creative focus? In this workshops we’ll help you resolve the most common reasons that people face writers’ block and give you some exercises to get you writing again. This workshop is $99 and will be on November 16th 2019 in Provo. If Provo is too far for a one day trip, the workshop is going be recorded live on Zoom. That way you can attend the workshop from the comfort of your own home.

This workshop can be found on my website at MyStoryDoctor.com.

NaNoWriMo StoryBundle

This year’s NaNoWriMo Writing Tools StoryBundle has 13 books and one video lecture, something for writers at all stages of their craft. Plus, you get a code for 50% off Jutoh and 75% off Jutoh Plus, a tool for formatting and creating your own ebooks! Pay what you want (minimum $5): You decide how much these fantastic books are worth. If you can only spare a little, that’s fine, you’ll still get access to four exceptional titles including my Writing Wonder. You can find it at http://www.storybundle.com

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