Gayle Lynds: Years ago my mentor was Robert Kirsch. A growly sort of man with a big heart, for some 25 years he was the lauded Los Angeles Times literary critic. He was also brilliant and astute. As I began to publish, he advised me, “Make many mistakes right now. Later on when people know you and your work, it’s a lot more embarrassing.”
And of course he was right. I still make the occasional mistake no matter how hard I work to be accurate, and I’m always embarrassed. Still, I wouldn’t have missed this ride called “writing books” for anything.
And that leads me to you. If you’re reading this, it’s likely you’ve considering writing. Your mother, spouse, friends, or coworkers may have said you should write. The books could be works of fiction or about your business, your life, your values, a hobby, or research subjects that fascinate you.
When someone affirms what’s already in your mind, it’s time to pay attention. I’m approached at almost every event by someone who says to me, “I’ve always wanted to write a book, but I don’t know how to begin.”
|Here I am in college, dreaming of writing|
If you can dream it, you can do it. Really. I can’t promise you publication with a major New York house, but I can promise you the intense satisfaction of fulfilling a goal that’s important to you, and an adventure you’ll never regret.
Writing Is 10% Inspiration, 90% Perspiration. Creativity is like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it becomes. If you carve out time to write at regular intervals — whether it’s an hour before work in the morning, or two hours on Saturday and Sunday — be sure to show up. In other words, put your butt in the chair, whether it’s a rocking chair or a desk chair. If you show up, you’ll start writing.
The Journey Is All. We live in a highly literate country, but there’s a downside to it: People often think that since you can read, you can write, and after three years you’ll finish your book, it’ll sell, and you’ll instantly be rich and famous. They seldom stop to think that just because all of us can listen to and enjoy music, after three years of piano lessons no one is going to be so accomplished he or she can solo at Carnegie or the Royal Albert Hall. So give yourself a break. To write a book, you’re learning a challenging and complex new skill. There’s a lot involved. What’s more important — and rewarding — is to do it.
No One Can Teach You To Write, But You Can Learn To Write. Most of us learned by going to writing classes, workshops, and conferences. Many city colleges offer extension or adult ed classes for free or very little cost. That’s how I started, with a 13-week free city college class taught by a published author. If possible, also attend weekend workshops or conferences where you live in residence. And form a writing group of people who are at about the same level as you, to read and critique each other’s work. It’s important for you to be around those who share the same dream, and to immerse yourself in writing, editing, and studying. If you do it, you’ll get better and better.
Be Kind To Those You Love — It Can Be Tough To Live with a Writer. When your eyes glaze over because you’ve just had an idea for a scene … when you wake up in the middle of the night to jot a note to yourself … when you excitedly rip an article from the newspaper while forgetting no one else has had a chance to read it … remember your family likely can’t go in their imaginations where you can. Living with a writer — just being friends with a writer — can be lonely and intimidating. Be kind and understanding, because you’re going to want those you love to be there to celebrate with you when you finish your book.
The years are going to pass anyway. How much better it is to spend them doing something you really care about. If your dream is to write a book, 2018 is a great time to begin.
Wishing all of you a very Happy New Year!
Great writing tips from a master of words and stories – whether you're just starting out or in the middle of your career. Thanks, Gayle.
What a great and encouraging post for aspiring writers! I think all of us have heard numerous people say they have a story to tell and "want to write a book" but then they rarely do. Now you have shown just how to get started, particularly working to learn the craft by attending workshops and classes. I could add that I found subscriptions to monthly magazines such as WRITER and WRITERS DIGEST can be very helpful as well. Thanks, Gayle, for a terrific article here and Happy New Year to all.
Thank you, Gayle, for your encouragement. My greatest inspiration as a writer, the wonderful Sue Grafton, passed away today and it hit me hard, as I considered how much time I had allowed to pass since finishing the first draft of my mystery novel. I have set a goal to finish polishing my manuscript for submission over the next couple of months. Life is short. There is no more time to waste. Happiest of New Years to you and yours!
A pleasure, S. Lee. Can't wait to read your new one!
You're so right, Karna. Those are two important magazines full of advice, ideas, and insights. I found them enormously helpful, too!
So many of us mourn Sue's passing. I understand what you're saying, and hope 2018 proves to be the year you finalize your ms, find a terrific agent, and then a terrific editor, with publication in the near future. You can do it! And Happy New Year to you, too!