So You Want to Be A Writer

This is a good time to be reminded about Katie Schuermann, who has two great releases out this month! So, today we have a helpful guest post from her titled, “So You Want to Be A Writer?”

“So You Want to Be A Writer?”

by Katie Schuermann

Somerset Maugham once wrote, “We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to.”

If you are one of those blessed, batty people who has to write but just can’t figure out a way to get started, then these tips are for you.

One: Deconstruct your favorite book.

I know, I know. This is a really difficult, time-consuming task, and it sucks precious hours out of your writing time.

But if you are not willing to do some calisthenics throughout the week, you’re going to run a lot slower and suffer more injuries along the way.

The same is true for writing.

Pull out your favorite book, the one with the story line and vibrant characters that gets you the most excited, and make a chapter outline of how the author does it. Look for details such as plot and character development, narrative pacing, use of imagery, and choices in styling and voicing; make note of when and how the author introduces new characters and lets go of old ones; figure out how the author makes every dialogue read so effortlessly; and learn the trade so you can do it yourself.

Two: Find a patron.

Sometimes that patron will be a publisher or a royalty check.

Most likely, however, your patron will be your day job, your generous parents who let you live with them, or your spouse.

In my case, my patron is my supportive (literally) husband. He finances my hours of writing with his own income, and he does it joyfully. Is it tight living off of one income? Sure, but his willingness to let me stay home and write for the benefit of my neighbor – good return or no – is what makes authorship possible in our house.

That is why I joke with him that he is my patron saint.

(Yeah, he doesn’t like it when I call him that.)

Three: Design a writing space that fosters creativity.

If you’re like me, then anything cluttering your desk ends up cluttering your writing. I’m particular that way. Messes mess me up, and I can’t afford to be messed with when I’m working to meet a deadline.

I can’t even have organized piles sitting on the shelf behind me. Seriously. They whisper annoyingly in my ear like a 5th-grade boy during Social Studies. Piles need to be diminished and filed, and to-do lists need to be shredded or at least hidden in the laundry room under some dirty towels. My Type A brain will hone in on any unfinished task, fire precious missiles of energy toward it, and never actually get to the business of creating.

My calendar also needs to be closed and put away.

Then, only then, can I write.

You may be different. A good friend of mine insists that being submerged in books and piles of paraphernalia is the only way his mind loosens up on the page. To each his own. But I can’t imagine. Literally. The very thought of it gives me writer’s block.

(A quick addendum: I do tend to cover my neat space with choir rosters, maps, chapter outlines, pictures, character backstories, and whatever else it is I need in the moment to keep my fictional world organized. Bulletin boards and cookbook holders – Seriously, try it. – can be very helpful in keeping all of this necessary clutter at eye level and away from your elbows if, you know, you’re weird about stuff like that like me.) 

Four: Become a hermit.

Not all of us can afford a cottage on the coast of Maine or escape to Traverse City for three months out of every year for a writing sabbatical, but most of us still need to escape from the world for a bit in order to get some writing done. You may not be able to leave your own home to finish your final ten chapters, but you can at least leave the social media world behind for a bit.

And good riddance.

I’m serious. Words are a precious commodity, and it’s foolish for writers to spend their gold on Facebook status updates and Tweets and personal blog posts. And don’t even get me started on email, that vampire in street clothes. It will suck the lifeblood out of you along with every oxygen-rich word you’ve been saving for your book.

So turn off your phone. Hide out at your desk for a while. Become a hermit, drive in your mind to your fictional world, and write until you run out of gas.

Five: Keep things in perspective.

Whenever I am tempted to take a bad review to heart, I remember that someone once penned and published the following review of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird:

“Just a bad read. Spend your time on a better story.”

Suddenly, I am reminded that even one of the greatest works of literature cannot please every reader. Why should I expect so much of mine?

On the flip side, whenever I start getting a big head after reading a rave review of one of my books, I remember that someone once wrote the following review of the movie Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, & Blonde:

“Funny and entertaining with a good message.”

Lesson learned: favorable opinions do not a good work make.

So stop worrying about such things. Just work hard and do your best. That’s the gift you can give, appreciated or not.

These and more tips on writing can be found on Katie’s blog, A Writer’s Life.

* * * * * * *

Author Katie Schuermann likes Michael, church, family, green things, bel canto singing, dark chocolate, hiking, and metaphors. She does not like knowing the ending of a book before she opens it. Look for her new books He Remembers the Barren (Emmanuel Press) and The Harvest Raise (Concordia Publishing) both released this month.

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