A couple of days ago, I stumbled upon Zadie Smith’s Rules for Writers, and, coupled with a conversation I had on Twitter last night, I thought I’d give my own list a go.
For those of you still new to me, here are my credentials: I’ve been seriously writing for publication since I was about fifteen (which is 27 years and pre-internet!), have received at least 300 rejections, had two major writing breaks, and suffer writers block every time I finish a project.
I’ve also had 12 short stories published in small press journals; 19 short stories long-listed, short-listed and placed 3rd, 2nd or 1st in competitions; and three books published by small/indie publishers and one book self-published.
- Don’t aspire be the next [insert best-selling author in your genre], be the first you. By the time you’ve read that author’s latest book, and been inspired to write something similar, the industry has moved on to the next big thing. Don’t you want to lead rather than follow?
- Don’t expect your first draft to be perfect. Most books go through at least several drafts before they are published. Mine go through many
- Don’t be afraid of rejection. I wrote a post about that…
- Read, a lot – in your genre, outside of your genre, non-fiction
- Don’t force yourself to write if you don’t feel like it. I’ve read a lot of advice that says you should write every day, but it doesn’t work for me, so I don’t do it
- In fact, ignore any advice you don’t think will work for you
- Know the rules of good grammar, and then break them, if it works in your story
- Know the rules of submission etiquette and stick to them. Agents and editors have a preference, for their ease, on how they want to be approached. Don’t give them a reason to reject you before they’ve even read your manuscript. Janet Reid has a lot of advice. Personally, I learnt from Writing Magazine.
- Take regular breaks, preferably outside. You don’t want to look pasty in your promotional material
- Don’t give up if things don’t go exactly to plan. Think of plans more as a guideline.
Bonus tip: Enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy writing, if it causes you misery or heartache or depression more than it brings you joy, consider whether it’s really the path you want to take.
What would you add to this list?