13 Things every writer needs to hear

We writers are incredibly creative when it comes to finding reasons why we suck, our work sucks, our career sucks, the whole goddamn industry sucks. It’s much harder to come up with good reasons why things ain’t that bad after all, why we aren’t the worst possible use of space and oxygen, why our work isn’t public toilet poetry.

I’m no stranger to beating myself over the head with everything I can get my hand on. I’m sometimes downright evil to myself, thinking I not only suck in terms of writing ability, but that all my dreams and ambitions are self-destructive delusions. I can be my worst enemy at times. There are days I have to work real hard to pull myself out of it.

But we have to remember that no master ever just slid out the womb all perfect and genius. We all have a learning curve, and we all make mistakes.

Heads up. There might come a time when our dreams will have expired and our wells will be dry, but it is not this day.

There might come a time to quit and bury our pens, but it is not this day!


*struts around on her fair mare*


Here are 13 facts which help me get back on track. They’re things I need to remind myself of every now and then, to not lose my will to fight through another wordcount. Hope they’ll help you too.


1. Every story can be improved on

No single book out there, not even those who’ve won awards, is perfect. All of them can be improved on. Every single one of them. Your manuscript isn’t perfect now, and it will never be perfect. There’s no such thing. It can always be improved on — and that means IT’S OK that it’s not perfect at the moment. It’s the best you can do right now, and that’s more than enough.


2. Every writer has first written total and utter trash before they got any kind of good

Most first novels are gathering dust on the bottoms of locked drawers, not making the New York Times bestseller list. Or, you know, with the ebook age and indie emancipation and all, first novels are gathering static in some remote Amazon server.

If you feel your first novel ain’t your best work, don’t give up. Tuck it away and move on to the next one. Having written a crappy first anything doesn’t say jack about your abilities. We all learn and grow. Go forth and learn some more!


3. Even if it’s not publishable, it’s good practice

This is particularly true for those of us who query our fingers bloody and gradually sink into a bog of despair and depression as rejection after rejection comes in. But so what? If it ain’t publishable by others, it can still be self-publishable (as long as beta readers don’t go blind and senile reading it). And if it ain’t self-publishable, at least it’s awesome practice you can build on. And no one can take that away from you.


4. Everything can be reused sooner or later

And if you hate the idea of having your labor be reduced to the level of “good practice”, you can still chop it up and cannibalize it for parts. Some characters, settings, pieces of dialog, plot twists or even entire scenes are reusable in future stories. No one will know, and even so, they wouldn’t care if the result is good. Even Frankensteinian stories can kick ass.


5. Everything except grammar is subjective

Taste is subjective.

Quality is subjective.

Even readability is subjective, since some people refuse to read stuff others find great simply because it’s not written according to their preferences (the POV and tense of a story are a factor here too, apparently).

As long as you write cleanly and what you say is engaging, and as long as you can lift your chest up high and be proud of your creation, you’re on the right track.


6. No career is made over night

Slow and steady wins the race. That’s particularly true for writers.

Think doctors become doctors over night? Or lawyers? Or journalists? Or teachers? Or or or…?

Don’t expect authorship to be any easier. It’s harder in fact, since there are no standardized tests and degrees out there to attest your abilities. Only your stories and readers matter, and both of those take time to foster.


7. You get endless second chances

That’s one of the most awesome perks of being a writer. Your novel sucks? Write another. Your choice of genre was a bad idea? Choose another. Your image is compromised? Use a pen name. If you really want it, you will find a way.

Endless. Second. Chances. Folks.


8. Everyone gets rejected

READ THIS (and this, and this, and this, and this). ‘Nuff said.


9. Everyone feels like an impostor

Even the most prolific writers feel like impostors and liars in the wee hours of morning. Like they can’t understand how they came to fool so many people, and that one day someone will be onto them and they’ll be exposed for the frauds they feel they are.

Every artist feels like that when he’s down.

And then they get up again.

You don’t feel like an impostor when you’re struck with a new idea, do you? Know that glorious, explosive sensation when your thoughts all seem to flow faster than the speed of light, converging to shape a new story, a new world with new people and terrific new challenges?

No, no impostor syndrome there.

Always be writing, always be writing, ALWAYS BE WRITING!

Then you are truth, not lie, and everything you make is truth.


10. If you’re in it for the money, stick to formula fiction

If you care more about your sales than the stories you tell, you’re one of the blissful few who keep formula fiction alive and satisfying millions of unpretentious readers out there. It’s a huge market, with plenty of space for competition, you have nothing to worry about. Go write and sell and write and sell. And buy yourself a yaht.

But —

11. If you’re in it for the joy of creation, then do what you really want to do and don’t look back

If you care more about the stories you tell than the money they bring you, then for fuck’s sake stop worrying whether your brainchildren will make any bestseller list or not! Stop worrying whether your choices are fashionable or not, whether your protagonist is the latest riot or your plot is Hollywood-worthy. Stop beating yourself up because this or that person (who’s probably not even in your target audience) says your work isn’t hip, or in, or whatever the latest word for common is.

Write what you want to write. Be bold, be daring, be yourself — crush all doubts under your boot and keep on marching through the exciting wilderness that is un-common fiction.

Or, you know, be schizophrenic like most novice writers and expect to be phenomenally innovative and still sell billions of copies, if you like wasting your energy.


12. As long as you write, you’re a real writer


Also, talking about writing does not a writer make. FINISHED WORKS DO.


13. The more you write, the better you get, and the more you’ll write

It’s the snake biting its own tail, the chicken laying its own egg, the unicorn sticking its glittery horn into its own butt. Wait, what?

Work begets skill, skill begets ease, and ease begets pleasure.

Write through the suck, it will only get better in time. 



Bonus point:

14. At night, all cats are black

Don’t make important decisions or pass judgments when you feel low. There aren’t only bleak options out there, there’s plenty of hope, endless chances and possibilities, regardless of how deep you’ve fallen. Just be patient and wait for the dawn, then take a look around you with fresh eyes. You’ll see.

Published by Veronica Sicoe

Science Fiction Author — I deliver the aliens.

12 thoughts on “13 Things every writer needs to hear

  1. I need to have at least half of these permanently etched on the backs of my hands to jolt me out of self-doubt and insecurity when I sit down to write.

    Number 1 isn’t a problem for me. I have no doubts whatsoever that every single thing I’ve ever written or ever will write could be improved–and that’s a good thing. The day I believe I’ve achieved perfection will be the day I should lay down my pen and keyboard, because I’ll either be delusion or arrogant beyond endurance. 🙂

    Thanks for this jolt of encouragement, Vero!


    1. My problem isn’t so much believing too soon that my work is done (or perfect), but believing that it will be after just one more edit.


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