So…it’s really weird being asked to give writing advice. I instantly want to say this…
Fun fact: Nearly every writer I know (myself included) deals with imposter syndrome. Sadly, that does not mean we buy ridiculous outfits from thrift shops and pretend to be the reigning monarch of Khazibekustanzia. It means that we stare at the laptop screen and wait to read an email that says…
Most writers spend most of their time thinking that they mostly suck at writing.
We tend to believe that everyone else has it figured out and that at some point (if we can just crack the NYT bestseller list!) then we’ll also feel like extra special unicorns. Except it doesn’t actually work that way. We just go right on doubting ourselves.
So why am I sharing this? It’s not, y’know…inspirational.
Except…it kind of is.
Hear me out, okay?
See, young aspiring authors tend to tell me that they’re scared to write a novel because they don’t think it will be all that great. It might even suck. Then they would have to admit that maybe they aren’t cut out for a career in publishing and…
Every. Published. Author. Feels. This. Way.
I’m not kidding.
But if we hadn’t forced ourselves to sit down and write–even when it sounded stilted and awkward and awful and repetitive and…you get my point–then we’d still be exactly where you are now.
So here is the advice that I in no way feel qualified to give you:
If you want to write…then do it. Don’t sit around waiting for someone else to tell you that you should. Most people aren’t all that encouraging of a career in the arts. Don’t let that stop you from telling the story that you love.
2. Write for yourself.
Don’t write for a bestseller list. Don’t write a dragon-unicorn-zombie love triangle because you think it’s going to be the next big thing. I like to remind my friends that if the writing doesn’t make you crazy, the publishing industry will. Chasing a popular trend will only exacerbate that by a billion.
3. Accept that not everyone will like what you’ve written.
Rejection is a huge part of this industry. I have some tremendously talented friends who have written heart-breakingly brilliant books…and they’ve been rejected by publishers. It’s not just publishers who will do the rejecting either. Everyone is a critic. This includes family, friends, teachers, and mentors. The trick is to find a select few people who can appreciate your writing style. If someone tries to make you sound like somebody else, ignore everything they tell you.
You might not want to say this out-loud though…
4. Try to accept what you have written.
It doesn’t have to be The Greatest Novel In The History of Novels. A dragon-unicorn-zombie love triangle doesn’t have to be a metaphor for anything.
And yeah, it might suck. You might want to bash your head against a keyboard when you so much as think about that stupid book. That’s okay too. This isn’t baseball. An umpire isn’t going to yell, “You’re out!” if you write three less-than-stellar manuscripts. Nobody can bench you from writing except yourself.
5. Edit your work.
Let me be clear: YOU need to edit your work. Don’t just hand it off to a parent/teacher/friend/agent/paid consultant because you’re bored and editing is the worst. Nobody knows your book the way that you do. They can’t. Which is why you need to let your inner critic go to town before you hand it over to anyone.
6. Make friends within the writing community.
Not everyone understands our desire to spend time with people who don’t technically exist. So it’s incredibly liberating when you find someone who doesn’t find it weird that you want to know how to, oh I dunno, get away with muuuurder!
It’s okay to form this community online. We’re a really nice group of weirdos.
I haven’t so much as high-fived some of my very best friends. What can I say? A bunch of them live on the opposite side of the country, which means getting together for coffee isn’t easy. Typing instead of talking in no way invalidates our friendship. In fact, I highly recommend following your favorite authors on Twitter. Authors tend to post fascinating articles on a whole range of subjects, especially on gender, race, sexuality, and psychology. It’s an easy way to find out more about the writing industry and to engage with people you admire.
7. Please, please protect your mental/emotional well-being.
Mental health should not be taken for granted. Ever. Studies from Sweden have shown that writers have up to a 50% higher chance of suicide than non-writer people. (I learned this from Natalie Whipples’ blog. She wrote an amazing set of writing tips that you should definitely check out here!) I admit, I worry the most about teenage writers for the simple reason that high school creates a false sense of competition. The “best” in the class is the person who hands in assignments to a teacher’s liking. The “best” in the school is most likely to be the person who does well on standardized tests.
These things have absolutely no bearing on the publishing world, yet it is incredibly hard not to cling to them when adults in positions of authority insist that grades/exams/essays will determine your college path, and thereby, your future.
What makes this situation so dangerous? When there is no one specific person you have to please, it’s easy to feel lost. It can also make some people strike out in an attempt to recreate a sense of hierarchy. How can you write a romance if you’ve never had one? What makes your work different from alllll the other dystopian/fantasy/mystery, etc. books out there? Why would anyone want to read that?!?
If someone says stuff like this to you-–don’t walk, run to the nearest exit.
An essential part of protecting your mental health is maintaining a non-toxic writing environment.
8. Try not to get too far ahead of yourself.
Don’t worry about getting an agent when you are halfway through the project. You have much bigger things on your plate, like creating a satisfying ending. I’ve come to realize that my least favorite part of the writing process tends to be the one I’m in. When I’m writing, I daydream about editing. When I’m editing, I fantasize about publishing contracts. When I’m on submission, I imagine book covers and brilliant ad campaigns. When I’m in promotion mode, I realize that it’s been forever since I wrote more than a blog post and what if I suck at it now?!
One good thing I can say for this writing cycle is that it keeps me motivated. It also helps that I’m only thinking one step ahead. If you haven’t finished writing, don’t start researching agents. You might find someone you think would be a great fit, only to become frustrated with the two-thirds of a novel that still requires an ending, not to mention a boatload of editing.
9. Remember that you’re doing something awesome!
You are creating something entirely from your own mind. It just doesn’t get any cooler than that.
Heck yeah, you can make things levitate!
In fact, you can even make this happen:
So is the stress, frustration, panic, heart-breaking rejection and general emotional turmoil worth it?
Um…in a word?
OMG. All of this. Yes. (And I must pimp this post on the basis of the storm trooper gif alone.)
Ha! I’m glad you liked it, Noelle! (The storm trooper gif totally cracked me up! I’m powerless to resist those moves!) 🙂
Thanks, Marni! Great article!
Thanks Wendi! I’m so glad you liked it!
Love. Love. Love, Marni. (And yes, love that stormtrooper hip hop video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ActJTRaFezI )
So glad you loved it, Wendy! (I will never think of stormtroopers the same now!) 🙂
Thank you for this, Wendy!
So perfectly YES to everything you said, Marni! All of the above. I recently realized the kernel of my writing fear lies in the Imposter Syndrome. Such a crazy place to be! Thanks for sharing this and bringing that much more validation to me, and, you know, the rest of writerly community. Happy Friday!
Wow! Thanks, Corinne! I’m so glad the post resonated with you. I’ve decided that every time I feel like an imposter, I’m going to call myself the princess of Khazibekustanzia. You are always welcome to rule with me! 🙂
Reblogged this on Logan Keys Fiction and commented:
Thanks! I’m so glad you liked it!
Well done! Every writer should read this. It’s fast, funny and oh so true. And it has Cumberbatch. Sigh.
Thanks, Sabine! I’m so glad you liked it! (Who can resist Cumberbatch? I mean, can that even be done?!)
Thanks! I’m so glad you liked it!
Great summary. I read my life in every word.
Thank Sabrina! I’m so glad you liked it!
Reblogged this on Wolff's Realm and commented:
Such a great article. Words every writer should read…
Wow! Thank you so much!
You’re welcome, Marni. I enjoyed the read immensely.
I needed to read this today, so thank you.
I’m so glad you connected with it! 🙂
Brilliant. I love it, Marni. Thank you!
Thanks, Christin! I’m so glad you loved it!
Love it, Marni! Reblogging, and will bookmark it to send to any/all aspiring writers I know. I’m so happy that some of my friends are your friends (so this link came across my feed). We are a nice group of weirdos, indeed 🙂
Yay! I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I happen to think that we’re the best group of weirdos, but I’ve been told I’m biased… 🙂
Great post; resonates well even with this not-so-very-young writer.
Ha! Thanks! I’m so glad you liked it! 🙂
Great post. Definitely worth reading and sharing.
Thanks Sandy! I’m so glad you enjoyed it!
Best post I’ve read all year! Am reblogging to my community of romance authors. Thank you Marni!
Oh wow! Thank you so much, Kim! You totally just made my day!
Reblogged this on and commented:
More great motivational advice for writers from Marni Bates, author of YA novel, Awkward. Thanks to a fb post from Karen Y. Bynam. Had to repost this. Not to mention the Depp AND Cumberbatch
Great post, something every author should read and take seriously. Love all the little flicks, too! lol
Thanks Stacey! I’m so glad you liked the blog post! I had an absolute blast finding all the .gifs. 🙂
Fabulous, inspiring, and encouraging. Going to go share this now! Thank you, Stacey!
Wow! Thanks Jennifer! I’m so glad you enjoyed the blog post! 🙂
Marni, you are really smart–for a girl. And I should know. I am a girl.
Love your honesty, insights and humor. Glad we’re in the same tribe. Thank you!
I’m glad we’re in the same tribe too! Thank you for your words of encouragement! You totally just made my day.
Marni! Great post! Just like you–entertaining, informative and completely NOT awkward. :-). You always have the best advice. And you ARE inspirational.
Oh Kim! I’m so glad that I’ve gotten to know you! You are such a genuinely kind person. And just… *overcome with feels* …I’m going to go all High School Yearbook on you and say, “Stay Awesome!”
This is exactly what I needed at a time when I was doubting why I wanted to be a writer. Even after writing and publishing a book, I couldn’t jump back up on the horse to write that second one. Marketing made me see how inadequate I actually was. But your article has restored my faith in myself. Thank you.
Oh man. You’ve done it now. *hugs pillow* I can’t begin to tell you how much your message means to me. I know how much it sucks to feel like an inadequate writer and to hear that I made a difference? *bursts into happy tears* Thank YOU!
The information you’ve imparted has come to me at a time when I was doubting my ability as a writer even though I’ve written and published a book. Marketing that book has shown me my lack of staying power causing me to doubt my writing and so I stopped writing the next book. Your article has lifted my spirits, invited me to re-examine my goals and get back up on the horse’s back. Thank you for your enlightenment and humor and for giving me hope.
Thank YOU for reminding me why I write blog posts! This is…wow. This is something I’ll always treasure.
This is such a great post! Great advice for both aspiring writers and published ones too 🙂
Thank you so much! I’m absolutely thrilled that you enjoyed it! *busts out stormtrooper dance* 🙂
Fabulous pep talk thank you so much. I was heading for writerly doldrums there until I read this. Back to writing the stories I love.
Oh, wow! Thank you so much, Cecilia! Best of luck with your writing! *cheers wildly*
Awesome post, Marni. Your fabulous humor shines through here as it does in your books, which I love. Are you going to RWA this year? If so, I plan on stalking you…in a nice way.
Thank you so much! I’m thrilled that you enjoy my books–and this blog post! Unfortunately, I don’t plan on attending RWA this year. But I hope we run into each other at a writers’ conference! And in the meantime you’re welcome to stalk me online… 🙂
Thanks for this post. It was the perfect encouragement for a writer who has just found out their first book is going to be published, and is struggling to get off the ground with the second. There is so much doubt even when the first was successful, not least of which is ‘can I do it again?’
Wow! I’m so glad you enjoyed my blog post. Congratulations on your book deal! I’m not sure if anyone has mentioned this to you, but…*lowers voice to a whisper*…Book 2 IS ALWAYS THE WORST TO WRITE! You’re not alone, I promise. I will always think of Invisible as “Marni’s Little Meltdown.” I distinctly remember sobbing into a crêpe when I realized that I’d been going about it all wrong. When you start losing confidence in yourself, just look in the mirror and say, “I did it once before. I can do it again!”
Wishing you all the best!
Reblogged this on Lexy Wolfe and commented:
Marni sums it up so much more eloquently than I could.
Wow! Thanks so much!
Great advice, Marni, thanks. As someone who just got a contract for his first novel after it was written twenty years ago, and with 5 more hanging around, I know what it means to write for oneself. Now, though, I have found a great community of writers and they send me great stuff like the link to this post, and I think I might not write soo much tripe, really! As for following trends, well, Leaving the Pack is a werewolf novel and now people tell me I was clever to get on the werewolf bandwagon! Have reposted this on David JM O’Brien
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Fabulous post!!! We think we have an audience, but really it is this huge nebulous cloud of criticism waiting for us and we think we are fakes unless we please everyone. It’s one think to take the countless rejection letters, but the even when we are accepted, it feels so conditional. Thanks for posting this 🙂
Thanks M.A.! I hear you on the conditional part! It feels like the goal line keeps moving, right?! That there is something *else* we should be doing, and by not figuring out what that is, we’re somehow failing. Every time I feel that way I have to suck in a deep breath and remind myself that I’m not alone. Thanks for making me feel less alone!
Once again you prove why I love my Marni! Awesome post, especially this line: “We’re a really nice group of weirdos.” Yes. Yes, we are! xo
So very true! Thank you so much. This is just what I needed to hear, right at this exact moment. And….. I LOVE my group of weirdo friends! They are all over the country, and I have not met most of them, but they are my good friends. Thanks!!!
So perfect. I really needed #1 right now. Thank you! I also genuinely appreciate the part about taking care of our mental health. It’s true. My ten year old has been asking me lately, “Are all great artists crazy?” She has recently learned about the demise of too many artists who have not taken care (e.g., “Did Picasso *seriously* cut off his ear?!?!”). I tell her it’s all up for debate 😉
I’m so glad you enjoyed my blog post! I’ve been reminding myself about the mental health component a lot lately. I hope your daughter knows that mental health issues are NOT a requirement! She doesn’t have to snip off an ear to prove herself to anyone! 🙂 My mom once gave me a mullet/rattail combination haircut. That created more than enough turmoil for me!
Loved this. Loved this. Loved this.
What more can I say?!
Thanks, Edie! So glad you loved it! 🙂
This blew every creative writing teacher I had out of the water. It was the Jennifer Lawrence gif that got me. 🙂 Seriously, thank you. I loved this & it’s made a big impact on the way I think about my writing. Thank you 🙂
Thank you so much. That’s all I can say.
Thank YOU! 🙂
Great post! But I are say my dragon-unicorn-zombie love triangle secretly is a metaphor for something. IT HAS TO BE, DAMMIT!!!