Occasionally, I’ll get a request for writing advice. I also get requests for free books, free screenplay rights permissions to my novels, and a host of other requests. I don’t mind. But to be honest, I really never expected it. I should have, I guess, and there’s nothing wrong with it—I’m not complaining. Hardly. I just had to figure out how to navigate those requests in the best way possible. It’s not something I had a lot of experience at in the years before I published my first novel.
I’ve thought about this a lot over the time I've been writing, and winnowed down my advice to this: Read a lot, and write a lot.
Pretty much. I know it’s not original, but it’s true, and will bear repeating for the next thousand years, or for as long as there are storytellers in this world, or the next, struggling to find an audience.
Read a lot means what it says: read, read, read. Writers are readers first. If they’re not, well, honestly, they’re probably not really writers. They just want to live the life of a writer. You know, the life of a writer that you see on TV--the one where a writer lives in a million dollar house, drives a Range Rover, has a beautiful partner, wears cool clothes, goes to fabulous parties, and travels all over the world whenever they want to do "research." You know, the version of being a writer that’s NOT REAL.
I think being a voracious reader starts as a kid. But that’s not a requirement. But really, could you be a musician without listening to music? End of story. Read a lot of everything. Doesn’t matter if you’re writing romance or Westerns or fantasy or literary fiction, read broadly in every genre, past and present. Read a lot. Read a lot of everything.
Write a lot means what it says. My first published novel was the seventh novel that I wrote. I couldn’t help myself. I had to write no matter what the rejection slips said, no matter how difficult it became to slog on through with no hint of success on the horizon, never knowing if the day would ever come that one of my novels would hit the shelf. I wrote, and wrote, and wrote…because I couldn’t stop.
I wrote a lot of bad stuff (still do, but that’s another post). I started a lot of projects that I never finished. I wrote a lot of short stories and novels that never found a publisher. My effort was like playing scales, Chopsticks, practice on the piano, which means that, no, I will not publish any of that crap just because I can (navigating the publishing world is another post, too, and this is not that post; this is about writing, not publishing). I wrote for a long time before I published a novel. Almost 20 years. I wrote a lot. Still do. Always will.
And there you have it. Back to the beginning. Read a lot, write a lot. That’s my advice to new writers, old writers, anybody who has a book in them, whatever the situation is, that's my answer, that's my advice. There's no magic to it.
If you’re really a writer, nobody will be able to stop you. Read a lot, write a lot.