The Last Bit of Writing Advice I Will Ever Give (April 22, 2013)
And of those that you read, how many were any good? Very few, I'd wager. A couple have been picked up by one or another of the major New York publishers and these folks have been pretty free with their advice on how you can make it, too.
Full disclosure: I've been pretty free with my own bits of advice about how to be a writer. Since I haven't 'made it' yet this isn't a blueprint on how to be a successful writer. This is my list of things that you can do to Be A Writer. Let me be clear: This list is not the magic missile or secret formula you're looking for. There isn't one. I told you that at the beginning. Being a writer is a process. It will take you THOUSANDS of hours to get good at it. All the hours you spend looking at bad TV or surfing the Internet aimlessly you could spend writing and getting better.
Cats, porn, FB and George Takei, folks. That's what you might have to give up in order to be a writer. Here now, for your edification, is the last bit of writing advice I will ever offer:
1 - Sit down in a comfy space.
2 - Put your fingers on the keys and start typing. (Alternately, grab a pen that fits your hand nicely and start scribbling on paper.) Don't worry about whether or not it's going to be good. It's going to be yours and that's all that matters in the Zero Draft.
3 - Don't stop until you have to. Goals are great, set them. Make them specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timebound. (Say 500 or 750 or 1000 or 2000 words per day or 400 per hour or whatever works for you.) This is the brilliance of NaNoWriMo.
4 - Do this every day. Don't give up, but yes - it's also okay to take a day off every now and then. Just don't string more than two or three together. Once you lose the impetus to write because "life gets in the way" or "you just don't feel like it" you're on a downward spiral you may find it hard to pull out of. Go back to the third point above and reset your goals. See 'attainable' if you don't know what to do. Figure out what you can do.
5 - When you've finished your story, read something unrelated to what you've been writing. Magazines, books, even articles written by professionals on the internet are okay. Do yourself a favor and schedule your upkeep of your social media (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, whatever) separately from your reading time. Mixing them up may be a bigger timesuck than keeping them separate. Try it and see what you think.
6 - The next day pull out your story or article or essay and read it. See what needs to be fixed. Do that. Then send it to someone else to read. Listen to what they have to say. Make changes accordingly.
7 - Keep writing.
8 - Send your work out or put it away. There's no shame or harm in only writing for yourself. You don't have to write for publication and probably shouldn't think too much about it in your first year of trying. That said, challenge yourself and see what happens. Do not be too disappointed to be rejected, though. Everyone gets that, you will not be alone nor will you be special if you're rejected. I've found that embracing it as a badge of having stepped across the line that other writers haven't.
9 - Sit down in a comfy space...
UPDATE OCTOBER 26, 2015:
Write What You Know isn't bad advice, it's beginner advice. It's advice that works for non-fiction and reportage. Like all advice...— JASON X (@ajasont) October 26, 2015
...it's one thing in a bag of a bunch of things. It's a place to start. Don't think you have to write what you know. You have to write.— JASON X (@ajasont) October 26, 2015
If writers only wrote what they knew, libraries and bookstores would be terribly boring. Start with one thing, and go from there.— JASON X (@ajasont) October 26, 2015
That's probably a better way to put write what you know: Start with what you know and imagine more. You'll get better the more you do it.— JASON X (@ajasont) October 26, 2015
And don't give up. So what if what you wrote is terrible? Trunk it and write some more. No one gets it right the first time. Do the work.— JASON X (@ajasont) October 26, 2015
So in sum: Start with what you know; imagine more; write lots; finish the story; evaluate honestly; start over. Now you know more.— JASON X (@ajasont) October 26, 2015
Write what you know. The more you write, the more you know. Lather, rinse, repeat. Your mileage may vary.— JASON X (@ajasont) October 26, 2015
Most importantly, pick and choose what advice you take. There's no one path to being a writer except for slinging words every chance you get— JASON X (@ajasont) October 26, 2015