20 truths about writing

A little over ten years ago I experienced a personal loss that made me realize fully how fleeting time is and how fragile life is. It took a tragedy for me to realize that I had no guarantee of another decade, or even another year, in which to find the time to turn the ideas bombarding my brain into novels.

My journey from unpublished novelist to published has been a bumpy one. Looking back on that pot-holed road to success, I realize that I wouldn't know as much about the publishing industry, the creative process, and the business of writing had I been an overnight success.

Many of the lessons I've learned have been learned, I'm embarrassed to say, the hard way. I often joke to my friends that I'm a slow learner - perhaps resistant is more accurate. My mother always said I was the most stubborn child she'd ever seen. I tried to impose my belief systems on the vagaries of the publishing business. For instance, I believed that you could write a book about anything that struck your fancy, and if it was a good book it would get published. Guess what I learned? The publishing business didn't care what I thought. Big surprise, huh?

Perhaps Ben Franklin meant people like me when he said: "Experience keeps a dear school but a fool will learn in no other." I don't say this with bitterness, but with a self-deprecating laugh. I may not be the brightest person in the world, but I possess one trait that many do not have. I learn from my mistakes, and I learn from other people's mistakes because I figure I won't live long enough to make all of them myself.

From the vantage point of experience, I decided to pass along these truths for your consideration. Perhaps you'll learn faster than I did and enjoy your journey far more.

1. Writing successfully requires a consistent commitment. You must place the seat of your pants in the seat of the chair on a consistent basis and produce pages.

2. Writing is hard work physically so incorporate taking care of your body from the start. Prevent problems like back spasms, sciatic pain, carpel tunnel rather than try to cure them.

3. Writing is hard work emotionally so take time to play. Don't tell your child "later" every time she or he wants to toss a ball with you or take a swim. Don't tell your husband “no” when he wants you to go fishing with him or play golf. You'll regret it one day if you do. Pages can be written another day, but time with loved ones can't be reclaimed. Life is short. Children grow up while you aren't looking.

4. Writing is hard work mentally so read for pleasure and read to learn more about the world.

5. Not every good book you write will sell.

6. After you sell a book, you'll still get rejected.

7. If you don't get rejected very often, maybe you aren't trying hard enough.

8. You'll lose friends because some become jealous. The day may come when you realize there is no excuse for their nasty comments to others about you. No excuse but jealousy. You'll grieve, but, if you're smart, you'll accept and move on.

9. You'll make new friends who accept you and cheer you on.

10. You won't get rich unless you are that one in a million, and no one can predict that so don't expect it.

11. It takes a bit of luck to sell and continue selling. Good luck seems to grow with a positive attitude.

12. Sometimes deals fall apart for no apparent reason.

13. Sometimes what you think is a curse is a blessing and vice versa.

14. Always remember why you started writing in the first place - because you love putting words together.

15. You can't bend the world, especially the publishing world, to your will.

16. Don't believe everything an editor or an agent says to you.

17. Don't place too much emphasis on reviews - good or bad.

18. Share what you know with others. If you help someone else along the way, you help yourself (and protect your karma).

19. Don't speak ill of other authors or their books. No one ever sets out to write a crummy book. Even if you don't think a book is particularly good, always remember that the author sweated blood over it - just as you do over your work.

20. Always write. If you are waiting for a contract, start a new book. If you are certain that you'll never sell, write. If you are depressed, write. If you are ecstatic over a sale, write. Never stop writing because when you do, that writer's muscle stiffens and atrophies from lack of use. Always write and strive to do better at your craft. Perfect your skills. Develop a great work discipline. If nothing else, you’ll create one heck of an inventory.

Sling Words
wishing you a happy writing day to start the week.


  1. got your site via your comment re: ulnar nerve. i was extremely impressed. i love the list of 20 -- great stuff. especially number 16...

    would love ulnar exercises...

  2. Thanks, Bookfraud. I like your site to. When I get a nano second of free time, I'm going to put a link on my blog to yours. Send me your addy (my email is posted) and I'll try to articulate the exercise.