Take this advice to heart:
- Never write a novel to prove something.
If you are going to be a novelist, then just do your job. Publishing a novel is not a way to prove something. The objective of a work of fiction is to transport the reader to another world created in print. It is not meant to impress people who have no intention of being transported and probably only will be looking for faults in your work anyway.
- If you write for your own therapy, it’s not for publishing.
Every writer has a book that is not meant to be published. We might call them private journals, notes, fiction for my own consumption, whatever. If you write something for yourself, keep it to yourself. There is nothing shameful about writing something that cannot be published. And things that are written for your mental well being rarely accomplishes the objective of entertaining a reader.
- Never set an age target for your debut.
I confess. I wanted to be published before the age of 20 because I wanted to be a “teenage author”. Then I wanted to be published before 25. I am now 52 and still have no fiction works published. Harry Bernstein published his first book when he was 96, in 2007. He had his first story published in a school newspaper at 16, which was an impressive achievement in his time. Probably akin to having a print-on-demand novel published today. But he struggled as a writer for the next 80 years because he wanted to be published more than he wanted to be matured. Do not make this mistake.
- Never try to write more than you read.
If you are too busy writing to be reading, I can promise you that you will have no future as a writer. Writing without reading is like talking without listening. You are only going to annoy people. If reading is a chore for you, that is already a near fatal disadvantage. Remember to read at least five thousand words for every thousand words you write. If you are a bookworm who cannot live without books to read, you are much more likely to have a chance at writing.
- Never aim for high-brow on purpose.
Engrave this into your bones: There is no such thing as a high-brow literary fiction written on purpose. Writers write out their hearts, and it either ends up high-brow fiction or genre fiction. You do not choose your genre, your genre chooses you. If you must aim, aim for low-brow. Never deliberately try to go high-brow. It will only make you look ridiculous.
- A job to fall back on is a job to fall back on.
If you are going to be a writer, and you need a paycheck to fall back on, do not take on a demanding job. Don’t become a medical professional or a teacher for disadvantaged children. Become a night watchman or a library attendant. Find a job that is not physically demanding and provides a lot of free time. Work in the darker corners of the public sector or get a drab office job. Join the military. They have good libraries.
- If you need psychological help, get it.
Yes, I believe I wrote better when I was perpetually depressed. But that is not a way to live. If you cannot write a good, readable novel when you are mentally healthy, you should not be writing. A little psychological trauma can help you write a story that packs a punch, but if you need your wounds to write, they are not the novels your pre-wounded self was meant to write. Get off the pain. It is not the right fuel for your writing.
- Haters are gonna hate.
Do not expect support from haters. They are only projecting their own insecurities on you. You cannot prove anything to them. You should not try. Walk away. You do not need them and they do not benefit you.
- There is no such thing as failure.
If you get published, great. If you do not, you are growing. Focus on the positives. If you have been writing seriously for a while, your improvement will become obvious. Build on it. Write better. Keep improving. If somebody does not read your awesome story, it’s their loss. Stay on that attitude and keep writing.
- Never be stingy with advice.
Other writers are struggling too. If you have picked up a few tips along the way, share them. Help other writers write. Don’t worry about competition. They are not your competitors. Your competitors are television programs, movies, game consuls and YouTube that tear your readers away from books. Fellow writers only help create more readers. They are your friends. Help them.