Advice to New Writers

This is a guest post by Elizabeth Spann Craig.

It’s not easy being a new writer. There’s almost too much information out there. It can be overwhelming to read about publishing options, querying, and promotion when you’re trying to get a handle on a regular writing routine. Fortunately, the most important advice can be narrowed down to a few tips.

Tip #1: Set the bar low
his may sound counterintuitive, but I think it’s better to have a string of daily ‘wins’ when it comes to goals. How low can you set your goal to obtain that win? One-hundred words a day? Fewer? Or maybe you should try a time-related goal: five or ten minutes. I found when I took this approach that I’d almost always go over my low goal (which was also motivating), but then the next day I made sure to wipe the slate clean and shoot for my usual, low goal again. One important note here: if you get off-track and don’t make your goal for a while (it happens to everyone), never try to catch up. The blank slate also applies to hopping back into a writing project. Each day is a fresh opportunity to meet your goal.

Tip #2: Establish a writing routine
This is so important and what works is going to be different for each writer. The most important thing is that your body and mind are ready when it’s time to write…because it’s what you do every day. For me at this point, when I sit at my laptop to write, it’s almost like muscle-memory. I get up, fix my coffee, let the dog out, and then sit down to write. To be honest, I’m rarely inspired. It’s not as if the Muse is huddled up behind me, whispering in my ear. But as I get further into my project, I get caught up in the world I’m writing. The routine helps make that moment happen.

Tip #3: Flexibility is key to success
Sometimes you’ll be at a point in your life where you just have to grab your writing time when you can find it. This was my situation for about ten years when I wrote in carpool lines every day. Some writers might have young children, a family member they’re a caregiver for, or other things that impact their ability to write on a strict schedule. Just because you have a routine doesn’t mean it can’t be flexible. Maybe you have to grab five minutes waiting for the mechanic to change your oil. Maybe you’re writing during an unexpected pocket of time between conference calls. Just do whatever you can to get your words on the page so you can fix them later.

Tip #4: Figure out what works and ditch what doesn’t
There’s a lot of trial and error with figuring out a writing routine that works. And it’s good to be open to trying new approaches, especially if what we’re doing grows stale. The most important thing is to assess how your approach is working from time to time. If it’s not . . . if you’re either not able to focus or you aren’t able to meet your goals, it’s time to consider something else. Write in the evening instead of the morning. Write with a timer. Sometimes you might read about how another writer handles their routine and decide to give it a go. But don’t stick with an approach that doesn’t work (or one that used to work, but doesn’t now).

Once you’re finished with your draft, then you’ll want to find out more information: information about finding editors or beta readers or submitting your work. Again, though, it can be easy to get overwhelmed with the sheer volume of resources out there. What I’d recommend is to search only on what you need right then. Break down your research into daily doses so you won’t end up with too much information or going down a rabbit hole. Make sure you’re using a trusted source like Writers First or industry expert Jane Friedman.

Remember to take things one step at a time and to be patient with yourself as you hone your process.

Have you figured out your writing process? What’s your writing routine look like?

Elizabeth Spann Craig

Elizabeth is the bestselling cozy mystery author of the Southern Quilting mysteries, the Myrtle Clover Cozy Mysteries, the Village Library Mysteries, and Memphis Barbeque mysteries for Penguin Random House, Midnight Ink, and independently. Follow her on Twitter where she shares writing links or at her blog where she offers tips for writers. She lives in Matthews, North Carolina with her husband and is the mother of two.

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