Denise wrote in to ask, "What's the best writing advice you've received? Can you sum up the big picture for us?"
I can try...in ten lessons:
1. There are very few great books, but every great book begins with a great idea.
2. A great idea does not constitute a great book. Having a great story to tell doesn't mean you're going to have a great book. It takes hard work to turn even a fabulous idea into a reasonable book.
3. Therefore, keep refining your craft. Take whatever steps you can to improve your writing. Don't settle for what you are. If you're really good, you'll get discovered. "Greatness will out," to borrow an old phrase.
4. Books aren't written, they are re-written. That means you're going to have to write, revise, review, and restructure. Don't think you can create a good book without hard work -- you can't.
5. Read widely and write regularly. The two go hand in hand.
6. Establish a plan for your writing life. Have a time and a place to write. Write toward something. Establish writing goals. Few people move forward in the business side of any craft without some sort of plan.
7. Learn to listen. Get involved with other writers and learn from them. Ask editors for their opinions. Seek out a writing partner or group. Learn how to imitate great writers. Find a mentor. Shut up and listen for a change.
8. Face your fear: You're not the best writer on the planet. You're going to be rejected. Learn to appreciate others as better than yourself. Not writing because of fear is simply a way to protect yourself from potential failure. It's time to grow up.
9. Don't expect non-writers to understand. They won't. Learn to smile and nod a lot.
10. There is value in writing, not just in getting published. We learn about ourselves, about others, and about our world when we write. So there is value in writing something, even if you're the only one who ever sees it. If I help you publish your book, that doesn't validate your life. There are lots of jerks who published books, and lots of beautiful people who never published anything. If you're really a writer, you'll focus first on the beauty of the words.
What about you? What's your best writing advice?