21 Shots (Things I’ve learned about writing)

Tomorrow is my 21st birthday! I’m one of those people who makes a big deal about my birthdays (if I don’t, who will?), and so I’m even taking it to the blog today. Here’s a list of 21 things I’ve learned about writing since I first started imagining things, sometime when I looked like this:

Okay, okay, maybe I didn’t start imagining things the day I was born. But I know I was engaging in stories here:

(That’s The Jolly Postman, a great book)

So, without further ado, here’s 21 shots of things I’ve learned (in no particular order):

  1. Relying on just one engine is not enough. You need story, character, and language to all be working to write effectively.
  2. Write because you love it. If you’re doing it for the grade or for the money, it’s going to wear you down.
  3. Find good writing friends. They’ll probably end up becoming your best friends, and they’ll definitely give you better writing advice than your other friends.
  4. Get used to waiting. You have to wait on other people to feedback, and you have to wait on yourself for the idea or for the right mindset.
  5. Remember that everything is subjective. For everything one editor or professor or critiquer will say, another will negate.
  6. Remember not to reject advice because it is subjective. Some of those critiquers will actually be in tune with what you’re trying to do, and you want to listen to them.
  7. Never stop reading. It’s probably the reason you started writing. Aim to write a book that does what a good book does for you, whether that’s intellectual, emotional, or adrenaline stimulation.
  8. Embrace your point of view. Third person, second person, and first person each have their advantages. Learn what they are and exploit them.
  9. If you’re drafting, then just write. Don’t worry about whether it’s good or not.
  10. If you’re revising, make sure every word counts. 
  11. If you’re writing for publication, then the reader is god.
  12. Don’t waste the reader’s time. Every scene, every character, and every word need to make it worth it for the reader to keep going.
  13. Be generous. Give your time to other writers and readers, and you’ll be amazed what they give back to you.
  14. When giving feedback, be honest. It might hurt the writer at first, no matter how nicely you word it, but in the long run, it will pay off.
  15. When giving feedback, be kind. This is the expression of someone’s essence, no matter how distant it seems from their real life experiences. Remember what it feels like to get criticism on your own writing, or on the way you talk or the way you dress. Follow the golden rule.
  16. Writing is more about learning a skill than being talented. If willing to work hard at it, anyone can become a good writer. And so everyone deserves honest feedback if that’s what they’re looking for.
  17. Work hard. That way you’ll be that someone who becomes a good writer.
  18. Don’t judge yourself based on what other people are doing. Some people write a thousand words a day; some people (like me) write when they have inspiration. Some people publish after sixty years; some people publish after three months. As long as you are being true to your writing, you’re doing it right.
  19. The envy/jealousy/insecurity isn’t going to go away. But you should probably work at hiding it so you keep some friends.
  20. Editing other people’s work is one of the best ways to learn writing. But remember you’re doing it for them, not for yourself.
  21. It’s easy to see what is wrong in someone else’s work. It is so much harder to fix something in your own writing. When you’re editing, don’t get a power trip. When you’re revising, just remember what the amazing writers you’ve edited have done and know you can do it too.

PS My sister, who used to play imaginary games with me when we were this small

has started a blog about fantasy, sci-fi, pop culture, and real science. She’s a PhD candidate, which means she’s actually qualified. Check it out! sarahpflanagan.wordpress.com


14 thoughts on “21 Shots (Things I’ve learned about writing)

  1. Reblogged this on Dragon Hunters and commented:
    My sister’s 21st birthday is tomorrow! She is a talented writer of fiction and to celebrate the anniversary of her birth she wrote up 21 tips for writing. Go check them out! I think most of them can be more broadly applicable to life in general, so whether or not you’re a writer it should be interesting to you. Plus you get to see a picture of me as a child!

  2. Reblogged this on the writing blues and commented:
    This is the first time I’ve reblogged a post but it’s such a good list of things to remember when working on your writing that it merits a repost. It was written by a very young writer who will – judging by this list – go very far with her career. Enjoy!

  3. Just read your blog. Great. Sarah is right most of those things apply to most of what we all do.
    Love, Grammie

  4. Happy Birthday….one day late at this site : ) Great advice in your 21 points. Fantastic picture of you and Sarah in the toy chest.

  5. I love your 21 things list……and The Jolly Postman. I read that book to my children and now they are all grown up. I still have the book on the shelf ready to read to the grandchildren. Keep on writing:-)

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