Today I’ve got Justin Woolley here with some great advice on an essential skill every writer should develop. Justin puts much of his success in writing and finding a publisher for his debut novel down to that skill.
Over to you Justin…
‘Good things come to those who wait’ might be the worst piece of advice I’ve ever heard.
But ok, while you’re waiting for good things to happen I’ll be over here mashing the keyboard like an infinite number of monkeys.
You see, there’s much advice out there on the craft of writing, some of it good, some of it not, but all of it designed to help you master the nuts and bolts of various aspects of process.
This might be novel structure or showing and not telling or developing characters or building rising conflict while cutting adverbs and killing darlings.
While all that is obviously important, I think the single most important skill a new writer can develop is not related to the craft of writing at all, at least not directly, and that skill is perseverance.
I say that because the craft of writing will come if you work at it.
Take the advice you think works for you. Chuck out what doesn’t.
You’ll hone your skills. You’ll find your voice.
But all that will only happen if you’ve got the drive to persevere.
Writing a novel is hard. Damn hard.
You’ve got to turn up, day after day, and you’ve got to get the words down.
Sometimes the cogs spin like a dream and just like all those infinite monkeys you write yourself some Hamlet.
Other days it’s like hitting your face up and down on the keyboard until your eyes are black and your nose is bloody.
That’s where perseverance comes in.
You need to persevere because you need to finish things.
So many people probably have three and a half chapters of a manuscript saved somewhere in the dingy back-waters of an old hard-drive living in a garbage can and barking indecipherable nonsense at passing files.
Unfortunately unfinished work can’t be edited (and writing is rewriting after all) and unfinished work can’t be published.
Finishing the first-draft of a novel is a significant achievement, it’s the first step toward a completed novel and ask anyone who’s done it, it took perseverance.
So, that’s all well and good you say, but how do I help myself persevere?
Well I’ve found one of the most beneficial things you can do is set yourself a daily word count goal.
Start with 500 or 1000 words, whatever you think you can accomplish in the time you have factoring in however much punishment your face can withstand.
Be realistic but don’t make it too easy either.
You want to ensure you can meet it every day but also setting a goal of six words is cheating.
Consider this little fact brought to you by the magic mathematics: if you write 500 words a day, in 180 days (six months) you will have written 90,000 words.
That dear friends, is a book.
Don’t underestimate the small chunks of time you can find during the day to write either.
Maybe it’s on the train to work or waiting for an appointment.
Perhaps you can only squeeze out 100 words, maybe 50, maybe only 20, but the fact that you spent that time on your writing and not staring at your phone matching coloured pieces of candy is exactly the discipline needed to persevere.
The other key reason you’re going to need perseverance is that once you’ve got that book written (and then rewritten and probably rewritten again a few times) and you finally get it out into the world you’re going to get hit with the sledgehammer of rejection, probably numerous times.
This is where you get to flex those perseverance muscles you’ve built up.
When the rejection hammer smashes your teeth in for the tenth time you head back to the dentist, get patched up and put that book out there again.
This sucks. I get that. I’ve been there.
When you’re hunting for your big break, when you’re desperate to catch that first novel sale, when you’re thinking about giving up or just slapping that sucker up on Amazon yourself, you’ve got to dig deep, take feedback on board and maybe rewrite again.
Ultimately you need to know that persevering here makes you a better writer.
This writing game is a marathon not a sprint.
For some of you my harping on about perseverance may sound a bit preachy, or you be thinking it’s not really a skill, but let me just say this, I had to learn to persevere with writing.
I really do consider it a learned skill and sure, while I obviously developed my craft, I think perseverance is what finally got me my first novel sale.
Perseverance will make your writing output higher, it will make your writing better; it will make your chances of success greater.
At the end of the day perseverance is the trait that turns aspiring authors into published authors.
Justin Woolley has been writing stories since he could first scrawl with a crayon. When he was six years old he wrote his first book, a 300-word pirate epic in unreadable handwriting called ‘The Ghost Ship’. He promptly declared that he was now an author and didn’t need to go to school. Despite being informed that this was, in fact, not the case, he continued to make things up and write them down.
A Town Called Dust: Justin’s debut novel will be published November 13th, 2014 by Momentum Books.
In his other life Justin has been an engineer, a teacher and at one stage even a magician. His handwriting has not improved.
You can find Justin’s website at http://www.justinwoolley.net/ or on Twitter: @Woollz.
A Town Called Dust
Stranded in the desert, the last of mankind is kept safe by a large border fence… Until the fence falls.
Squid is a young orphan living under the oppressive rule of his uncle in the outskirts of the Territory. Lynn is a headstrong girl with an influential father who has spent her entire life within the walled city of Alice.
When the border fence is breached, the Territory is invaded by the largest horde of undead ghouls seen in two hundred years. Squid is soon conscripted into the Diggers – the armed forces of the Territory. And after Lynn finds herself at odds with the Territory’s powerful church, she too escapes to join the Diggers.
Together Squid and Lynn form an unlikely friendship as they march to battle against the ghouls. Their journey will take them further than they ever imagined, leading them closer to discovering secrets about themselves, their world, and a conspiracy that may spell the end of the Territory as they know it.