My goal for this series of blog posts is for writers to save themselves a lot of time and frustration. This series is meant to get you on the path toward publication, provided you put in the work of writing and revising. Don't worry if you don't follow all these recommendations--who could? I'll be the first to admit that even I'm guilty of sometimes not using my time wisely--look for my tip on social media! But overall this series contains hard-won truths on how to make writing a bigger part of your life. I hope it clarifies the publishing guidelines, professional etiquette, and protocols you may have been unsure about in the past. More than anything, I hope it puts you on track toward opportunities you may not have imagined.
Perhaps some of the smartest advice I ever got was from Julianna Baggott back when I was an MFA student at the Bluegrass Writers Studio. Speaking to a room full of aspiring creative writers she said that in order to write a book you have sit your butt in a chair and write the book.
It's some of the most obvious advice, right?
But you'd be surprised by how many writers run off the rails on their projects. They get stuck developing a character, the plot runs out of energy, or they just lose interest in completing the story--even after investing months in the project. Life gets in the way. (When does it not?) Some people plan to get back to their writing and they just procrastinate and never do.
But if you want to complete a novel you have to put forth the effort of sitting down and facing the work-in-progress. Prepare to hit road blocks. Prepare to feel totally lost and accept that it will often feel like writing the book is the last thing you want to be doing. Writing a novel is a long-term commitment, which is both like poetry and not like poetry--the creation of poetry is often more spontaneous (at least for me it has been) and structuring a book of poetry requires a certain commitment and being mindful of the arc, but novels are whole worlds unto themselves. Every conflict, choice, character, and dilemma is of your own making, and in order to complete the narrative, you've got to get it all on paper.
Too many writers go from project to project without ever working to really complete a project. It's too easy to have a good idea, or write a few paragraphs that really shine. The real task of being a writer is seeing a project through to completion, which is much, much harder. But if it were easy, everyone would be doing it, right? Whether it's a novel or a short story, if the work is salvageable, go back and reread and rethink the work. Your ideas are valuable. The story is there. Finish it.
Tasha Cotter, @TashCotter, is a poet and fiction writer based in Lexington, Kentucky. She is the author of two chapbooks of poetry and the full-length collection, Some Churches (Gold Wake Press, 2013). You can find her online at www.tashacotter.com.