I feel a post like this would be helpful for someone just starting to write, or for someone who is thinking about jumping in soon but they aren’t quite sure how to get started, living with fear of messing things up.
You learn a whole lot along the way, and I certainly still have a whole lot more to learn. In reality, you are constantly learning new things as a writer, and I really don’t believe anyone has anything 100% figured out. That’s what makes it art. You may even define art as anything where you strive for perfection but can never achieve it.
Anyway, as little as I know now, I do know there are a few things I would have done different from the start had I known better, or had I been able to go back in time and visit myself as a young man.
Write a Million Words
This is the threshold that you hear different writers speak about. It’s the threshold where bad work begins to become good. It’s certainly not an exact number, some may learn quicker, some later, but it seems to feel pretty damn close.
If I were starting today I would write a million words. I’d write real stories, not just nonsense to fill a word count. I’d struggle. I’d work at it. But I wouldn’t submit anything. I’d write that million and then set fire to the whole pile of stories.
This is the most important thing a writer should do. It’s like shooting baskets, or hitting the batting cage, or practicing the golf swing, or any other sports analogy you can think of.
Writing everyday helps in two ways. First, there’s the process of practicing to get better at what you do. Second, there’s the process of trying to stay sharp. At first your jump shot will suck, but with practice it will improve. But take a few days off, and your game will become horrendous, and it will take more practice just to get back into form.
Submit, Submit, Submit
This is the last bit, but you can only submit stories after you’ve written everyday and written a million words.
A story a week is a feasible goal. That’s 52 stories in a year! There will be plenty of rejection and pain, but a few will find their way to happy homes, and you’ll be thankful that you held off honing your craft before you started submitting stories.
I wish I could back, write everyday, write my million, and then really start writing and submitting.
If you haven’t started writing yet, let this be advice to consider.