The question I get asked most often would be: What advice would you give an aspiring author? Today, I thought I would try to make a quick list of things I have discovered and things I have learned on this journey to authorship.
1. If you want to be a writer, you must READ! Read dozens of books in the genre that you want to be published in. Read books by authors you've never heard of. Read books in genres outside of your comfort zone. Read classics. Stuff yourself full of novels. Writing is one of the only professions where we are afforded the opportunity to learn at the feet of the masters. Take advantage of that!
2. Tell the story that burns inside of you so brightly you are afraid you will be consumed if you do not write out the words. Even if it scares you, actually especially if it scares you, write it!
3. Always write the story you want to read. Do not write for an audience. Write the book you desperately want to read. When we write with an audience in mind, we lose our own voice and are influenced by our perceived audience that does not yet exist.
4. If you are penning a book, because you want fame, fortune, immortality, or notoriety, set the pen down, walk away from the keyboard, and stop now. First of all, you will be sorely disappointed. Secondly, that is never why writers write.
5. Develop whole characters. Know your characters. Know their favorite flavor of ice cream. What they do when they're bored. What music they listen to. What they drive. What they eat and when and why. Even if this information never makes it into your work, you must know your characters like you know your best friend. They need you to tell their story fully. If you don't know them as fully developed people, their story will fall flat.
6. Know that with every word you write you get better and better. Keep writing. When the critiques and rejection letters come, (and they will) keep writing. Throw out the first million words and start again. Just keep writing.
7. Rejection is part of the process. You cannot write a book that will please everyone. Some people will hate your work. Some people will hate you because of your work. Publishers and agents receive hundreds upon hundreds of proposals every month. Half of them don't even get seen. There are well known authors with hundreds of rejection letters to their names. Keep writing.
8. You absolutely cannot be your own editor, and your mother that used to teach English can't either. Sorry, I know this sucks, but hire a professional copy editor to go through your work before you send it off to be read. You don't want a publisher to toss you away because of grammar issues.
9. Make your characters want something desperately and then come up with every possible way to make it difficult for them to get what they want. Use their strengths against them. That's your job.
10. This pertains to those that want to write in the Romance genre. First, if you're going to write sex, own it. Be there with the couple (or group) while they're going at it. What emotions are they experiencing? Tell the reader. Make certain your choreography works. If you're uncomfortable with it, it will come across in your writing. Also, do not impose your personal moral standards on your characters. You are not your characters. If they are in a situation and would have sex, even if you wouldn't when placed in the same situation, go with the character. This is their story. You are an observer, and you're telling your reader what's going on, not what you would have done instead.