I bet you thought I’d start out by saying write. Ha! Fooled you. Nope. My number one rule for writers is to read. Read everything you can get your hands on. In the genre you write and outside of it. Magazines, newspapers, blogs (not FB posts–they don’t count!). Words are power, especially ones you wouldn’t normally gravitate toward. It takes you outside your writing bubble and helps you create more authentic and realistic characters. Non-fiction, fiction, it doesn’t matter. I write romance exclusively but I was weaned on Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and John Sandford. Consider what would have happened if Lin Manuel-Miranda hadn’t picked up that biography of Alexander Hamilton. Outside the norm and bang! A gift for the world. So don’t be afraid to expand your reading horizons. You never know what gift it’ll give the writer inside of you.
2. Take Craft Books and Writing Workshops With a Grain of Salt
Yeah, I know, cliché alert (my editor just cringed. *waving to Kathryn*). Only you can write the story you’re meant to write in the way you’re meant to write it. Don’t plot? Cool (I don’t either). Then don’t, after attending a plotting workshop, think that you must change the way you write your book. What works for authors work for those authors; very few techniques will transfer over to you. Trust me, I suffered from this for a very long time. I’ve taken more workshops than I can count and I still have my own way of doing things. If you want to take their ideas out for a test run, awesome. But only keep what works for you, then discard the rest. The same goes for craft books. Stock your shelves with reference books instead. Books about words, about character, about conflict. That said, if another author’s writing procedure works for you, great! But if it doesn’t, that’s just fine. Because you’re not them, you’re you.
3. It’s okay NOT to write (See disclaimer below).
Guess what? You don’t have to write every day. This is one of those things that ties in to #2. I can’t function on seven days a week of writing, not when I’m usually at the computer anywhere from 4-8 hours at a time. I will burn out faster than I already do. Never beat yourself up because you can’t eek out time in your busy day to write. Yes, finishing your book is important, but life happens; it’s unpredictable and we beat ourselves up enough over other things. Don’t add writing to the list. If you don’t feel like writing one day or can’t get it, that’s totally fine.
Please note: this is NOT permission to not write at all. Nobody say “Anna says I don’t have to write”. What I am saying is that it’s okay when you don’t. Just get back to it as soon as you can.
4. Be Kind.
This might sound silly, but kindness really does go a long way in this world. Being kind takes so much less effort than being snarky or cruel. Okay, scratch that because there are days I live to be snarky. Being kind can be done in so many ways: sharing another author’s FB post to showcase his or her book or being there to listen to an author friend who might be having a rough time; not letting professional jealousy get in the way of your career. Oh, my, this is important.
Another writer’s success honestly has nothing to do with your own. It doesn’t rob you of anything or mean you won’t succeed and besides, everyone has their own definition of success. We each walk our own path and wasting energy on envying someone else’s road is just that: a waste. Write the best book you can. End of story.
5. Surround Yourself With the Right People
We’ve all had people in our lives who haven’t been completely supportive in what we do. I’ve been pretty fortunate. No one has ever laughed in my face when I told them I was going to be a romance author (something I started doing when I was fourteen). If someone doesn’t think your dream is worth going after then maybe they’re not meant to be a part of that dream. Join writers’ groups, make friends with people who “get it”, lock in those people who lift you up rather than tear you down. Those people, I call them psychic vampires, will suck the life out of you, life you need to make your dreams come true. So accept them for what they are and embrace those who will help you achieve your dreams. Believe in yourself and everyone else will, too. At least the people who matter.
6. BONUS! Wear that Romance Author Badge Proudly
Romance is, as author Damon Suede has said countless times, the genre of hope. We write about love and goodness and conquering inner (and sometimes outer) demons. Good triumphs over evil in our worlds and people are inherently good. I can’t imagine growing up without having discovered romance novels. It changed my life–it gave me a life because I discovered that this was what I wanted to do: write about hope and love and all the beauty life has to offer. So you pin that romance writer badge on, front and center. Because romance writers rock!
Now…get back to your keyboard. And write another happily ever after.
USA Today and national bestselling author Anna J. Stewart writes sweet to sexy romance for Harlequin’s Heartwarming and Romantic Suspense lines. Early obsessions with Star Wars, Star Trek, and Wonder Woman set her on the path to creating fun, funny, and family-centric romances with happily ever afters for her independent heroines. Anna lives in Northern California where she deals with a serious Supernatural & Sherlock addiction, surrounds herself with friends and family and tolerates an overly affectionate cat named Snickers (or perhaps it’s Snickers who tolerates her). When she’s not writing, you can find her at fan conventions or at her local movie theater. You can read more about Anna and her books at www.authorannastewart.com.