Things I’ve Learned About Writing

Well, you knew I’d get to this meme eventually, but I’m bored with lists. Gacked from everyone with an LJ and the smallest writing resume. YMMV.

Everyone’s Free to Self-Publish

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Blogosphere:
If I could offer you only one tip for the future,
the backspace key would be it.
The long term benefits of the backspace key have been proved by the internet,
whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own

I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your early career. Oh nevermind;
you will not understand the power and beauty of your early career until they have faded
and you can barely eke out a few three-act short stories a year
for semi-pro magazines who just want your D-list name on the cover.
But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at jacket photos of yourself and
recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you
and how brilliant you really were.

You’re not as bad at this as you imagine.

Don’t worry about publication; or worry,
but know that worrying is as effective as trying to write the Great American Novel with your toes.
The real work is writing.  Publication is like getting hired for a low-paying office job;
the kind that finds you doing data entry at 4pm every single Tuesday.

Write one thing everyday that scares you.


Don’t be reckless with other people’s egos,
learn to be nice to people who are reckless with yours.

You are not going to write the Great American Novel. Even with your toes.

Read in public.

Don’t waste your time on jealousy;
sometimes you’re ahead,
sometimes you’re behind.
The race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.

Remember the good reviews you receive,
try to learn from the bad ones;
if you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old manuscripts, throw away your old rejection letters.


Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what kind of writer you want to be.
The most interesting authors I know didn’t know at 22 what kind of writer they wanted to be,
some of the most interesting 40 year old authors I know still don’t.

Grow a thick skin.

Be kind to your wrists, you’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Maybe you’ll publish, maybe you won’t,
maybe you’ll have win awards, maybe you won’t,
maybe you’ll get a six-figure deal in your 20s,
maybe you’ll still be trying to get an agent in your 50s.
What ever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either —
your career is half chance, so is everybody else’s.

Enjoy your prose, use it every way you can.
Don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it,
it’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

Just write…even if you have nowhere to do it but in your local Starbucks.

Read the style guides, even if you don’t follow them.

Do NOT read other writers’ blogs, they will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your peers, you never know when they’ll be gone.

Be nice to your readers; they are the best link to your past
and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that editors come and go,
but for the precious few you should hold on.
Work hard to bridge the gaps between advances and bare survival,
because the older you get, the more you need the people
you knew when you were starry-eyed and unknown.

Live in New York City once, if you never, ever want to bridge those gaps;
live in Northern California once, but leave before it leads you into software and a real job.


Accept certain inalienable truths:
cover prices will rise, advances will fall, you too will get old.
And when you do, you’ll fantasize
that when you were young
the industry was reasonable,
authors were treated with love,
and newbies respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don’t expect writing to support you.
Maybe you have a trust fund or a wealthy spouse;
maybe you’ll have a bestseller that keeps you in house, dog kibble, and coffee for five whole years,
but you never know when either one might be remaindered.

Don’t mess too much with your author photo, or by the time you’re 40,
you’ll still be trying to pass off that really good picture your mom took of you when you were 22.

Be careful whose books you buy,
but be patient with those who supply them.
Books are a form of nostalgia,
publishing them it is a way of fishing your heart from the disposal,
wiping it off, learning to call the ugly parts “postmodern,”
and selling it for less than it’s worth.

But trust me on the backspace key.

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