5 things every writer should do (including me)

So you know how I, like, call myself “A Writer With a Dream” who wants to publish a book and stuff? Well, I’m taking the next step towards realizing that dream: I’ve got a finished manuscript (believe me when I say it was years in the making) and I’m starting to query agents! I’ve even got my first rejection! Yes, I’m excited about that, because that’s what’s supposed to happen! Yaaaay rejection!

Hey, uh, if anyone knows any good literary agents looking for YA science fiction with a superhero bent, uh, let me know. I’m in the market.

So what are the 5 things every writer should do, pray tell? Okay, well, I promise there’s more than 5, but since I insist on doing these trite top 5 tuesdays, I’ve boiled it down to a nickel.

1. read

Haha. Uh, duh, right? But seriously, it’s like… a chef who doesn’t like to eat. If you’re not reading, then what are you doing? Communing with the cosmic oneness and absorbing the ancient wisdom of the universe? If so, can I get in on that?

But notice I didn’t just say “read in your genre,” which is something you hear a lot, I think. And yeah, you should read in your genre. That totally makes sense. That’s probably the reason you write in your genre. But either you a) only ever read in your genre or b) don’t read enough. If you’re in that latter category (admittedly, like yours truly,) then it may be because you feel burned out or scared that you’ll never achieve the genius of those before you… yeah, those are actually the sorts of things I’ve thought. And it’s malarky. Be better than me: stand on the shoulders of giants, as they say. Don’t cower from them.

On the flip side, you don’t have to (nor should you) confine yourself to just your genre. Branch out. Heck, read the exact opposite genre once in a while, or the genre you enjoy the least, just to gain some perspective. Read good literature. Read bad novels. As our old friend Thomas C. Foster says, you can learn from everything and everything if you just stay curious and critical.

2. watch

No, for once I’m not talking about people/birdwatching. (Oh my God, Becca, did you just…?) I’m talking about watching TV and movies. Don’t have to tell you twice, right? Who doesn’t love some Netflix, some Hulu, some… uh… Starz? HBO? Crunchyroll?

But I’m not just talking about binge-watching things for escapism’s sake, though that’s fine, too. I’m talking about watching things through a writer’s eyes. Looking at how film, TV, and even YouTube videos can tell a story… and how they can’t, too. I know screenwriting is a whole different ballgame than, say, novel writing, but there’s still a lot of overlap. It’s still storytelling.

I know I’ve plugged his channel here before, but if you need to be persuaded, check out Just Write on YouTube. He makes video essays about things writers can learn from various movies and TV shows. It’s pretty dope. He even has one about how this South Korean reality TV show tells a compelling story. So, like, you really can learn from everything.

3. submit

I’m so bad about this, holy cow. I’ve just always been scared. I never thought my writing was good enough to submit to magazines and stuff. Well, that pretty much guaranteed that nothing ever got published anywhere, huh? Once again, be better than me: put your work out there. Submit to magazines, short story contests, poetry contests, whatever. Just send it out. Get feedback. Get rejected. It’s so good for you.

If you don’t really have anything submittable or you’re not one for the short story format (I’m sure not), then perhaps this article by Writer’s Edit will persuade you as to why it’s a valuable skill to learn. It sure convinced me.

If you’re concerned about entry fees, here’s a handy list of free writing contests from The Write Life. Honestly, if you just Google “literary magazines submissions” or something along those lines you’ll come up with a ton of results. Nowadays it don’t take much digging to find what you’re looking for, just beware of scams… it should take little to no money to submit your work.

4. connect

Bruh, if I spent less time introspecting and more time connecting with fellow writers, then I’d probably have all sorts of things published. And maybe some friends. Just kidding. I still wouldn’t have any friends.

No, for real, I had no idea how fun and rewarding networking with the writing/blogging community would be until I actually started doing it. Obviously, much of this is done through social media these days, but I also went to a writing festival last summer where I met some amazing people and made some new friends in person. It’s all about who you know, right?

Actually, I’m not so much talking about getting a shoe in the door here as I am forming communal bonds with likeminded individuals. It’s so nice to know you’re not alone, and that there’s people out there who’ve got similar goals as you and who therefore understand your struggles. And it’s not a competition, guys. It’s a support system. When we encourage and help each other, everyone wins.

Put that on a poster. Quote me. Copyright Words and Malarky. Emphasis on the “Malarky.”

5. work

Well, I mean, come on, you gotta put in the work. I don’t really know how much, hours-wise. No one does. Only you can know whether you’re working hard or hardly working, ya know what I mean? Dreams don’t make themselves. Even Cinderella had to put on the slippers and go to the friggin’ ball. Ya gotta break some omelets to make some eggs, ya feel me, homes? I don’t even know what I’m saying anymore.

Actually I do: believing is action. If you believe you can do something, then you’re going to act on it. And say what you will, but there’s really no such thing as luck in the sense that things just randomly happen with no apparent correlation. Sure, life seems a little random sometimes, but behind every success story, there are two things: expectation and action. And timing and patience. Okay, four things.

That’s because things don’t always happen the way you want them to, or when. Just because you’ve finished a manuscript doesn’t mean it’s automatically going to get picked up by an agent. But if you expect and believe in a certain result, then you will take the necessary action required to make you a prime candidate for that result. And that’s probably (definitely) going to take some work.

In the words of the great 21st-century poet, Rihanna, “You see me / I be / work, work, work, work / work.”

am i missing anything? overrating something? do you think there’s a greater 21st-century poet than Rihanna? drop it in the comments!

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

6 thoughts on “5 things every writer should do (including me)

  1. Congrats on finishing a manuscript and actually getting to the point of querying! That’s incredibly exciting. Also, this post cracked me up and multiple points, so thanks for that.

    Like

  2. Becca these are great tips! I need to read more often because it makes you smarter, strengthens your vocab and more creative. My dream is to work for a fashion publication, so I need to get in the habit of submitting to contribute to my favorite fashion magazines. Thanks for these tips, perfect reminder to becoming a better writer!

    Natonya | https://justnatonya.wordpress.com

    Like

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