FIVE THINGS TO KNOW WHEN STARTING OUT AS A WRITER
When I first started writing, I was under some crazy presumption that writing should be a natural extension of reading (which I loved to do). Then I actually got to the end of my first manuscript and came to a shocking conclusion: writing is hard work and it isn't glamorous. Here are five things you should know if you're just starting out:
Write. I know, you're saying, “Duh.” But guess what? The hardest part of writing is actually making yourself do it. So many people tell me, “I've always wanted to write a book...” You'll never be a writer if you don't write. Don't worry about beauty and perfection. Just get the words out.
Being a writer is hard work. It can be aggravating, painful, and isolating. One of the biggest hurdles is commitment. I know writers who have a daily word quota. That doesn't work for me. Some days the words flow; other days, the words are slower than tar. So I have a daily time quota If you're working full-time, have a family, etc., that could be as small as ten minutes or a half hour. As long as you write and do it consistently.
Have your dreams, but remember reality. I'm an indie author, and I love the path I've chosen. Do I dream about being a NYT Bestseller? Sure, but do I need that to feel fulfilled as a writer? Nope, not at all. Just remember that no matter if you're an indie author or traditionally published, being a best seller is a rarity compared to the thousands upon thousands of books published every year. Have your dreams—we all need them—but remember that your life won't end if you don't sell x number of books or make x number of dollars. Your life won't end if you don't contract with a big six publishing house. There are so many options for publishing these days. Just find the one that works for you.
Read. Read. Read. It helps you stay in touch with your chosen genre. It also helps you discover what works and what doesn't. Now that I'm four published books into my writing career, it's amazing how I read not only for enjoyment, but with an editor's eye of what I really like in a book and what drives me up the wall. You can't write in a vacuum, and reading helps improve your own work.
Don't beat yourself up. Writers (myself included) are dripping with self-doubt. I never talked to a writer that had enough confidence to say, “Yup, that book I just wrote? Every single person who reads it is going to be in awe.” It doesn't happen. There will always be someone (and most likely lots of someones) who doesn't like your work. That's okay. You've got to have a thick skin to be a writer. Take criticism where it's given and always try to improve your craft. Your best novel should always be ahead of you.
Infraction by Annie Oldham
“What's your name?”
I study him, study his fingers hovering over the notepad screen. I grab his hand. He tenses a moment and pulls back, but I look at him insistently and he relaxes.
Aren't you going to give me a number?
He smiles sadly. “No, I want to call you by your name.”
I watch him carefully, searching his eyes. They're black, almost as black as my hair—or what used to be my hair. I self-consciously run my palm over the stubble on my head. I can't read anything in his eyes. Jack's eyes are hazel, but deep in their colors and emotion. Dr. Benedict's are reflective, bouncing my face back at me. I don't want to trust him, but he's the first kind person I've come across here. Should that make me trust him even less?
“I like that.”
I drop his hand.
“Now I just need to see your arm and get your tracker number.”
I go rigid, all of me freezing to the exam table. He must see the panic in my eyes because his lips turn down and several creases appear between his brows. He tugs on his ear absently.
“This is standard procedure, Terra. We just need to record who comes through here, give trackers to those who have chosen to, um, remove them. Or make sure there aren't any phony trackers.”
My fingers curl around the edge of the table, and I can't release them. I can't even blink.
“It'll just take a moment.”
He doesn't understand my paralysis. How could he? Those who have cut out their trackers are pretty common, especially among the nomads. But those who never had one?
Dr. Benedict steps forward slowly, as one might approach a frightened animal. He lifts a hand, his palm up. He looks submissive even. I watch as his fingers inch toward mine. They brush the skin, and his hand is warm. He gently pries my fingers from the table, and then gradually runs his fingertips up to my wrist and turns my arm over. His eyebrows raise.
“You've never had a tracker?”
I feel the color drain from my face, and I shake my head.
“Were you born in a city, Terra?”
I shake my head again and pull the towel closer around me, wanting to hide from him and the other questions that will surely follow, but he surprises me.
“I think that's everything we need for this exam.” He writes down a few more notes. “But you're not quite done here. You'll need to go through that door.” He nods to the right. “They'll inject a tracker.”
I'm to be branded. I'll never escape them now.