Writing Advice of the Week: Become a Writer

Reading Time: 9 minutes
A dragon-humanoid creature emerges from the glowing pages of a novel. In the background is a snowy winter scene.

We’re nearly halfway through December, and there’s something about the final month of the year that prompts reflection. Do you find yourself asking these or similar questions:

  • What have I done this year that I set out to do?
  • Do I have any unmet goals, or have I made steady progress toward my ambitions?
  • Did I grow and change as a result of having done all the things I have done and choosing which things I did not do?

If December brings about similar reflections in you, you, too, may be undergoing profound change as you decide what you want out of your life and how best to go ahead and get it. While undergoing fundamental changes in who we are is a part of many creative professional pursuits, the change process itself can come with its own set of gifts to help us get through the tumult of change.

Kicking off the writing advice for this week is an article by Rex Pickett for Career Authors titled, Writing Is Not An Avocation — It’s A Life. As most life coaches will tell you, Rex is right. To transform your writing from side hustle or hobby into your life’s pursuit, you must organize your life around your writing. In his article, Rex details his story generation process, which includes taking the trip his characters take so he can bring that journey to life much more completely for his characters. And while I’m not going to advocate you rob a bank to prepare for a bank heist thriller, living out the parts of your story that you’re reasonably able (and legally able) to live will help you discover challenges and opportunities for your characters, including the major conflicts that may arise. And conflict ultimately drives story.

Now, when looking at a process of personal change to beget professional change, it’s easy to get bogged down in too many details too quickly. But, as I caution the authors with whom I work, while the future details are important and do need some focus to come to fruition, it’s unnecessary to worry about things like bestseller lists, awards, even publication deals or graphic design choices until you have a book ready for those steps.

To write a book, you have to write a book. There’s no other way around this fundamental step. And to write a book, you have to become a writer.

Writing a book requires focus and dedication to the crafts of writing and storytelling to share the message you ultimately want to share. And if you’re reading this article and wondering how you’re going to create writing time when there are only 24 hours in a day, check out this podcast episode by Michael La Ronn And Sacha Black for Self Publishing Advice titled, How Do I Increase My Productivity? While some of the advice is geared toward writers reaching their definitions of “done” and looking ahead to publication, the speakers do point out that the actual writing and editing of the book must necessarily take precedence over all else because they are the most difficult and time-consuming parts of the writing process. And remember, publishing is a long game, so play smart to keep the stamina needed to continue forward.

Through all of this professional development and the soul-searching needed to get there, don’t forget that you have a distinct writing voice and style — even if you haven’t discovered it yet. And frankly, many writers don’t recognize their own voices and styles even when they’re properly honed. But readers notice. In a short video, Tim Grahl for Story Grid discusses How To Find Your Writing Voice And Style. Tim starts the video with examples of vastly different literary styles from popular storytellers and states plainly that your unique voice and style is a product of your personality. And your writing personality will only shine through when it knows how to turn on its light. That is, your voice and style will naturally come about when you learn the fundamentals of writing stories and how to apply them to your own work.

In learning the fundamentals of story and applying them to your book, you may be focused on the protagonist and antagonist of your story, as these characters (assuming the antagonist is a character and not a force) are the central pillars of your story. When you need your protagonist to step into a heroic light, you’ll have to give them something to fight for in the context of your book. Because heroes don’t run from conflict; they face it. Brian Andrews for Career Authors writes, I Need A Hero — How To Level Up Your Protagonist, in a succinct article you can break down into bullet points for protagonist character development. And you’ll want to refer to his list, even ask questions of your beta readers to check the quality of your story against the list, when you’re editing for structure and content.

And, of course, it’s not just the protagonist who needs some character-development love. Your antagonist needs love too. Because the villains that stand out the most are often the ones with whom readers sympathize even if the character does absolutely detestable things. If there’s a noble reason to do something awful, however twisted the reason may be, readers need to understand the perceived nobility behind the antagonist’s choices. And part of the antagonist’s nobility may come as a result of their sense of innate goodness. Kristin South for Writer Unboxed gives us Writing A Sympathetic Antagonist and urges us to consider why the antagonist believes that what they’re doing is right, even if it’s destructive. And there’s a creativity prompt for developing character packed into the article from one of my favorite literary agents and craft book writers, Donald Maass.

After doing all that character development work, the last thing you want is to produce a book with a wholly unsatisfying ending. Because I’m sure that at some point you, too, have reached the final page of an otherwise great novel only to discover a fizzle. Lori Freeland for Writers In The Storm shares helpful hints about avoiding the fizzle in Big Bang Not Baby Blip: Write A Satisfying Story Ending. And Lori’s list is highly digestible and, like Brian’s article on heroes, translates well into a checklist you can use to guide your storytelling to reach that big bang.

Part of the professional development of becoming a writer is ensuring we have the brain space and time necessary to devote to the business of writing. While there are many creative people, including authors, who dislike self-promotion and marketing because it takes time away from their writing, there is no book business without underlying business foundations. But again, there are only 24 hours in a day. If you’re worried about how in the hell you’re going to fit in extra time for your business when it’s already sometimes difficult to find time for the writing, well, Sandra Beckwith for Build Book Buzz shares, How To Find Time For Book Promotion. And make no mistake about it — shameless self-promotion is not only important, it is a critical component of your book-business strategy because contrary to popular belief, if you build it, they don’t always come. They have to know it’s there first and be enticed to come.

If you’d like something different than the advice I’ve curated here, checks the links below.

Happy writing!

▼More Productivity Advice for the Week

▼More Craft Advice for the Week

▼More Business Advice for the Week

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Fallon Clark is a Vermont-based manuscript development coach and editor serving fiction and creative non-fiction authors. Her writing has been published in Flash Fiction Magazine. Check out her website, FallonEdits.com, or connect with her on LinkedIn or Substack.

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