header('Cache-Control: max-age=259200'); So... You Wanna Be A Writer? – Kristen Koster
Mar 162012

Cover image for Dorothea Brande's On Becoming a Writer
This week’s topic for my accountability group in our How I Write Series is “What do you wish you had known before you had even started to write? What would you have told your past self? Would you have discouraged yourself or encouraged? Would you have gone a different route?”

So… this post isn’t so much general advice to newbie writers, but more specifically tailored to what I wish I’d known back in 2007 when I decided I was going to do this writing thing as a creative outlet. I was bored and at loose ends during the summer of 2007. I picked up my husband’s copy of Becoming A Writer by Dorothea Brande and was blown away.

The book was written in the 1930s, but here she was in my head, speaking directly to ME, telling me I COULD do this! She believed in me. Total and complete unconditional belief.

Ok. That sounds hokey, but it’s exactly how it felt. And, so armed with that boost in confidence and not much else, I set out to write a Regency-set historical romance, just like the ones I’d been devouring at an astonishing rate. In retrospect, probably not the best plan, but not the worst either. If I’d tried something too simple, I would have been bored easily and not stuck with it. Instead, I’m still eager to tell the first two stories I began the right way. And some day, I’ll pull it off! I’m getting closer all the time.


What do I wish I had known before you had even started to write?

How to better tell a story. I’m still working on learning this one, but knowing where to look for guidance would have been a godsend. These books will be some of the most influential to your writing process and understanding of how stories work: Emotional Structure: Creating the Story Beneath the Plot by Peter Dunne, Story: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee and On Writing Romance: How to Craft a Novel That Sells by Leigh Michaels. Go read them now.

Also, listen to Dorothea… write daily. The journaling is a good start, but keep it up and try playing with fiction in there too.

Oh, and going Gluten-Free will help instead of losing so much time to the boy’s almost daily migraines between 5th and 7th grade. Push to find the cause, not just treat symptoms.

What would I have told my past self?

This is harder than it looks. What you read in a published book is NOT a first draft. Don’t give up because the first draft isn’t perfect.

PRACTICE, practice, practice. Practice with ideas, synopses, hooks, blurbs. Oh.. and when you download Scrivener, don’t give up on it. It’s far more powerful than you think it is. It WILL help you see and build the structure you crave.

Would I have discouraged or encouraged myself?

I don’t think there are any valid reasons to discourage myself about writing in general. I definitely needed pushed and bless my DH, he’s encouraged me every step of the way.

Valid discouragement would be to avoid time sucks, avoid long stretches of not writing new words or ideas.

I would encourage putting myself out there sooner and networking earlier. Social media is a force to reckon with, but it’s not the only thing to spend time on.

Would I have gone a different route?

I don’t think I would have done things very differently, just sooner. And more consistently.

Life is going to happen around you. You will hit some serious road bumps, control what you can. Don’t hide from the world, don’t stop writing. Find your escape in the ballrooms, the salons, the characters. Yes, it may be easier to just play facebook games, and you may even convince yourself that you’re “helping your DH”, but you’re wasting valuable time and eneergy. *head smack*

Two other things, you know that Warrior Writer workshop with Bob Mayer?! It didn’t kill you, right? 1) You SHOULD take both days. *head smack* 2) You SHOULD listen to Pam and Margaret and join RWASD right away. *head smack*

YOUR TURN: What career advice would you go back and give yourself when you were just starting out?

And if you’d like to read about what the rest of my group would go back and tell themselves, you can find their blogs here:

* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris *
* Angeleque Ford * Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney

  9 Responses to “So… You Wanna Be A Writer?”

Comments (9)
  1. Thanks for the great post. My advice to my earlier self? I would have focused more from the beginning on becoming an expert in the craft of narrative.

    Not to be self-promoting or anything, but I would have followed a blog like Storycraft, which posts regular craft-based analyses to help writers become more accomplished storytellers. http://bit.ly/wZlVx7

  2. It’s DEFINITELY harder than it looks. I’m still struggling so much with it. I just started a new WIP while I’m editing another and I constantly complain about how much the new WIP sucks. But yes, the other one I’m editing isn’t the first draft. It’s the…4th give or take. So that’s something we all have to remember. It takes time!

    • The sheer amount of time and knowing that just because you wrote something, doesn’t mean it has to be considered as written in stone were big revelations! It’s interesting how I would have done some things sooner, but you’d caution yourself not to jump the gun. At least they’re about different things! LOL

  3. going to gluten-free! Who would have thought? Wonderful post.

    • Thanks, Angelyn!

      I know, right? This was in addition to minimizing impacts from molds & dustmites as well. Valid allergies, but NOT the worst offenders.

      Couple that with the fact that the boy is super picky and had self-selected down to pretty much only white foods and the more glutenated the better. *sigh*

  4. I’d tell myself to focus on getting the story out of your head. You can agonize over word choice and scene staging once the first draft is done. Also, do whatever you need to to keep writing something you enjoy doing.

    Oh. Don’t start drinking sodas or energy drinks. The extra sugar plus your decision stop exercising will jack up your sleeping and pack on some stubborn pounds.

  5. My advice to my earlier self: Read more. I started writing novels before I was addicted to reading them. It is only through experiencing what’s hot and selling RIGHT NOW that you can understand how to market yourself. That’s not to say what you write has to “fit in” with what’s out there, but in the query process, if you don’t understand the market, it will be difficult to sound like an authority and get noticed.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Jessi! That’s interesting most of the writer types I know were voracious readers first. But I definitely agree that you have to know what’s out there and what’s getting acquired. And like you said, not necessarily to write to the trends, but to be able to stand out from them!

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