• River Writing

Six top tips for thriving as a writer

Updated: Nov 22, 2018

Writing is really hard. No, scrap that. Writing is REALLY hard.

Writing a blog, not so much.

I mean, for example, writing 85,000 words of a novel in draft. Editing that novel. Writing 'The End' as something that's really true.

All that is hard enough.

Then it gets really hard. Hard to hear feedback from beta readers or fellow writers. Hard to have agents reject your work. Even when you have an agent (say those who are farther on than me), hard to have publishers turn your book down. Hard, whether traditionally or self-published, to have people hate your book, even if others love it. Hard to write book two. And so on.

I have my first novel out for submission and so far, it's gone to ten hand-picked agents. I've had four 'no thanks' and five full manuscript requests, which produced three really kind rejections ('love your writing but this story isn't for me'). Still waiting on the others. And that waiting is really, really long.

I could feel glum, but I don't. This is because I'm also a positive psychologist and resilience specialist. I still have my moments, when that little voice needles away inside. But I tell that little voice to bugger off. I find the chinks of light. I think 'it's them, not me'. These are some of the techniques and skills from the science of well-being and resilience and when you know what they are and how to use them, they can make a huge difference to one's mood, one's energy and to carrying on.

Before I get to my six tips to help you give fear, low confidence and despondency a jolly good whack around the chops, here are my top-rated gloom generators for writers:

  1. Rejections. What else could be top?

  2. Horrible reviews. Actually, these are arguably worse.

  3. Stuck in the plot. Tangled up in structure. Soggy middle. Not sure where it's headed. Can't work out how to end it.

  4. "God it's rubbish". First draft done, you re-read it from the beginning and...

  5. Editing. My River Writing collaborator Susanna Beard did nine drafts of her book 'The Truth Waits'. At least nine. It's published now and it was worth it, because it's great. But really tough, that editing.

  6. Nothing coming. Have cup of tea, bum on seat, computer that works, Scrivener* poised. Write, delete, write, delete. Leave desk, go shopping/out for lunch/to watch TV/for a sleep. Then hate self.

  7. Perhaps I can't write/perhaps that first successful book was a fluke/perhaps I'll never write anything that good again/et al. That voice - that self-defeating, persistent and remarkably convincing voice.

You are vulnerable and easily hurt as a writer. You are this little furry thing**. But look at how this little hamster is supported. You can be too, by knowing about and using the skills of resilience.

Here they are, my six tips so you can start to feel like the little chap above:

Find the upside. How else could you see this situation? EXAMPLE: Rejection number 17? Ah, but 80-100 rejections are normal these days. Okay, now I feel better.

Interpret it differently. There are always other perspectives. EXAMPLE: They didn't like my story. It's not my story that's the problem. It's them and their tastes/mood/existing list/hangover. Now I don't feel so bad.

Consider the evidence. Deploy rational thinking. EXAMPLE: "I'll never get anything published." Have I approached every relevant agent? No? Every independent/small publisher that takes direct submissions? No? Have I considered self-publishing? Not yet. Have my writer friends told me that? No? Well then...

I can endure. Got through it before? EXAMPLE: Today I've written nothing. But I've had days before when I couldn't write. They passed. This one will pass. I'll stop now. Tomorrow will be different, like it was last time. Good.

Reframe. Think of it in a new, more helpful way. EXAMPLE: "I'm stuck" becomes "I knew at some point this would become difficult and I've arrived there, so it's bound to take longer and be more of a challenge." Right. I feel a bit more positive now.

Stop fortune telling. Mind reading is only found in science fiction. EXAMPLE: "This agent won't like this manuscript." Until I hear back, I can't possibly know that so...

The long version of all of this will be in River Writing's one-day workshop on Saturday 19th January 2019 in Marlow, Buckinghamshire (England), 'How To Beat Fear And Thrive As A Writer', £99 (£89 for members of Lounge Marketing), booking right here on this website.

Go well, fellow scribes.

Jan Stannard

River Writing

* Our favourite writing software, Not being paid to say that, just love it

** A miniature hamster. An actual hamster.

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