Yes, the lessons I've learned in ten years of writing. This is not to be confused with David Morrell's excellent book, Lessons from a Lifetime of Writing.
So on my own personal blog, I’ve been meditating on the last ten years. In January of 2006, I joined an RMFW Critique Group in Evergreen (with Jan Gurney and Diane Dodge) and later that same year, I went to my first writers workshop in Big Sur, California.
So it’s been ten years since I got serious about this writing gig. If you want the full Ten Years of AMR experience, you can hit my blog. http://aaronmritchey.com/the-blog/.
So I’m going to bullet point the lessons I’ve learned in no real order. The first one is good, though.
- Write the books you love. There is no guarantee that if you write the most marketable book in the world that it will go anywhere. Write what you love and excites you. Try to only work on projects that move you emotionally. That’s where the rich stuff is.
- Know enough about the market to be dangerous and don’t be afraid to write stuff that defies the market. Be bold.
- It’s more fun to write books people can read than to write books no one but you can read.
- It all changes. The game changes. The market changes. Strategies change. It all changes.
- A lot of this game is luck. Play the game a lot.
- Know your enemy. The enemy is not the industry or other writers or any of that. The enemy is your own laziness, doubt, and fear. Fight that enemy by writing books.
- Every writer writes in their own way. Embrace your way but stay open to change. If you ever get your hands chopped off, you might need to dictate your books. Or if you're a slow writer, contracts might force you to speed up. Stay flexible.
- Holding your own book in your hand, your book, your words, never gets old.
- Don’t comment on reviews. Don’t comment on good reviews and certainly don’t comment on bad. When your friend leaves an iffy reviews, don’t pester them for more details. Let it all go.
- I can write more and revise less if I plot out my story. I use a Save the Cat outline. Use lots of tools.
- Be gracious. If you are rich and famous, or if you are poor and struggling, be gracious.
- Most writers are very nice. Most writers are completely fascinating creatures. The few who aren’t are easily avoidable.
- Not everyone who has been supportive of you on your rise to fame will be supportive once you get published.
- Books need to be crafted and they need an outside eye to cut, to smooth, to polish. Find trustworthy people to help you craft both the book you are writing and your writing in general. There is a number of ways to accomplish this: a critique group, a critique partner, beta readers, professional editors, et cetera.
- A good critique makes you excited to improve the work and a bad critique doesn’t.
- Embrace the awesome responsibility of being the final judge of your work. Don’t give away your power to those who might not care about your project, who might be jealous, or who might be blind. It’s your book. Be willing to fight for it.
- Love writing, love your characters, love your worlds. Allow yourself to get lost in the process. Chris Devlin taught me that one.
- When in doubt, fake it until you make it. If you don’t feel like an entrepreneur or a sales person? Fake it. Stretch. Pretend. The world doesn’t care about how you feel. It cares about what you do.
- Find a community of authors to support you. When the industry drops an emotional bomb on you, call three different people and talk about it three times. The negative feelings will disappear. If they don’t, find three more people and tell them the story. We heal through our mouths.
- Read contracts. Don’t sign them if you don’t have a way out or if you lose rights to your book forever. In the words of Prince, forever is a mighty long time. Avoid contracts where your soul is a line item.
- Fight for what you believe in. Believe in yourself and your books. Fight for them, but not to the death. Life is better than death.
- Don’t bash and critique other writers or their books. Unless they ask you to. Then ask them if they want the full-on spicy kung-pao critique before you unload.
- Published books don’t need your critique. It’s done. Over. Be supportive and if you can’t be supportive, be silent. As a writer, avoid leaving scathing reviews. What’s the point?
- Finish projects. There will always be a shiny new idea wearing red lipstick and a short skirt. Stay with your current project and finish it before you start buying the new idea drinks.
- Plan the book, write the book, revise the book, query the book. If no one touches it, publish it yourself. And move on to the next project.
- Do things that make you uncomfortable. Do things that scare you. Be heroic and remember, the dark moment always comes before the grand victory. We are blessed and damned as artists in this world. Embrace the journey. Because it will all be over soon enough.
- Holding your book is holding the minutes of your life in your hands. And the best part? The books will live on, maybe quietly, maybe loudly, but they will live on. Writing books is cheating death.
- Training to be an author should entail the following: torture (learning to handle pain), sales (learning how to sell anything to anyone), and taking holy orders (learning the discipline of an ordained monk). And maybe writing lessons. Maybe.
And so, those are some of the lessons I’ve learned. It’s been a good ten years, but do you know what? I’m looking forward to the next ten. I’ve never been stronger, I’ve never been wiser, and though much is taken, much abides.
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.