Ten (Hard!) Truths Every Writer Should Know

Writing a novel isn't always a magical affair, and neither is having a full-time writing career. That's why Kristen Kieffer is laying out some hard truths writers need to hear in this blog post over on the She's Novel blog.

It's time for pie again. And this time, you're really gonna need it.

So, friends. Last week on the blog, I shared ten encouraging truths every writer should know. Truths that help us banish our doubts, bolster our self-confidence, and encourage our inspiration.

But that week is not this week. No, siree! 

This week, I'm sharing ten hard truths. Truths that may not be so pleasant to hear, but that absolutely must be heard all the same. Which is why you should probably cut yourself that slice of apple pie before digging in today's post. 

Believe me, pie makes everything better. *passes you a plate*

 

Truth #1: There will always be parts of the writing process that you don't love.

Writing a novel is not some magical experience that occurs in a mountaintop cabin while a gentle snow falls outside the window...or whatever your ideal setting for writing might be.

Most days, it's a hard slog through the mud. Don't be afraid of that. 

Personally, I hate drafting. I love planning, daydreaming, and researching my stories, and I love most of the editing process, too. But that gap in between when you know your story but still have to actually put it down on paper before you can do anything with it?

Yeah. I don't love that part. But that doesn't stop me from writing anyway. The only path to a finished novel is through, my friends.

 

Truth #2: Writing may not be for you.

If you're writing, you're a writer. That's true enough. But if you constantly find yourself reaching for a sketchbook or plucking at the guitar or heading out for a hike instead of writing, you may not find the storytelling success you're looking for.

Now, I'm not saying that you can't have hobbies outside of writing. What I am saying is that writing is time-consuming. Extremely so. And if you'd rather be doing something besides writing most days of the week, you might want to reconsider your choices.

We only get one life to live, ladies and gents. Spend it doing things that make you insanely, stupidly, wonderfully happy. Even if that means letting go of passing interests.

 

Truth #3: Your determination will make or break you as a writer.

Remember when I mentioned that writing is often a hard slog through the mud? 

Yep, that absolutely applies to YOU.

Writing a novel is hard. Overwhelming. Time-consuming. Tiring. You name it. And when you're in the thick of that part of the writing process that you don't like, quitting begins to look reaaaaal nice. 

DON'T STOP.

If you quit–if you tuck your manuscript into a dusty drawer and say sayonara to that project thinking that another, more magical project will come your way–you will never finish a novel. Never. Not until you break that mindset and settle in for the long haul.

 

Truth #4: You MUST understand story structure if you want to write an engaging novel.

You don't have to give up your title as a pantser, but you DO need to understand the basic structure of storytelling. I'm serious now!

The same basic pattern has been used to tell stories for centuries, millennia even. Introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution. It's the backbone of nearly every novel you've ever read.

And sure. Sometimes you'll come across a novel so unique that you can't pick out any sort of structure within its pages. But I'd bet my bottom dollar that those authors understood the "rules" of story structure before deciding to break them. And that's key here. 

So where do you begin if you're completely new to story structure? I have just the blog series for you!

 

Truth #5: Writing is paradoxical.

You need to understand structure, yet so much of storytelling feels like magic. And your characters are fictional, yet sometimes they seem to have a life of their own. And as an author, you are somehow both an extremely-driven worker and a relentless daydreamer.

Let's face it. The process of crafting a novel is difficult to explain to non-writers. And when we do try, we often sound like loony people to their ears. Sometimes we even sound loony to ourselves. And unfortunately this doesn't always make our lives easy. 

Case in point? Let's head on to our next truth.

 

Truth #6: There will always be people who won't understand or respect you as a writer.

There are people in my life that consider my writing silly. Many of those people also think that I'm wasting my time with "this blog" (a.k.a. my online business) when I could be working a "real job". That's just life.

When you do something out of the norm, especially something that can be seen as unproductive or ridiculous, you're ALWAYS going to encounter people who refuse to at least accept your personal choice to engage in that activity.

And sometimes those people are your family members. Or your co-workers. Or your friends–though I would question if they're truly friends if they don't support your work. In any case, disrespect can be difficult to deal with at times.

But don't you dare let it hold you back from doing what you love. Okay?

 

Truth #7: You WILL face criticism. Without question.

There is no perfect novel. You absolutely cannot write a book that everyone will love–or even like. So let's just get a few things out in the open:

  1. Your book will get a one-star review at some point. Probably many.
  2. You will receive a nasty, gut-wrenching review of your book. Again, probably many.
  3. You'll probably receive a few horrible emails, too.
  4. And somebody may troll your book on Twitter.
  5. Oh, at some point, someone is going to call your book "trash."
  6. In fact, somebody will probably call YOU "trash."

Tough stuff, right? We could go on, but then we might need a second slice of pie. Best we stop there, if only for the sake of our waistlines.

Let me just say one thing about this: criticism does not define you, your stories, or your passion for writing. So accept criticism. See if you can gain any wisdom from it, and then move on.

 

Truth #8: You're unlikely to become a full-time author.

Okay, this is probably the hardest truth of all to accept. So let me just start by saying that YOU SHOULDN'T LET THIS TRUTH STOP YOU FROM TRYING. I know I'm not. 

But it is a truth that we all need to hear at least once. 

Becoming a full-time author is extremely hard. Many published writers still have day jobs or work part-time, even after they've signed book deals.

And on the flip-side, self-published authors spend years building up their businesses, doing waaay more than just writing and publishing books to make their dreams a reality.

There are certainly ways to supplement your fiction income outside of the traditional workforce–I am living proof of that–but truly working full-time as an author is a career that takes years of hard work and dedication to achieve.

 

Truth #9: You will have to market your own book, no matter which publishing route you choose.

No one likes being a sales person. There's just something about advertising goods and trying to encourage people to buy your stuff that feels skeezy, no matter if you're genuinely excited about the product you're selling.

And if you think that going the traditional publishing route will help you avoid the responsibility of marketing your novel, you're in for a sore surprise.

Publishers aren't going to do much marketing for a debut book. After all, marketing is time-consuming and often expensive. They don't want to risk wasting their resources on an untested author. Which means much of the responsibility of selling your book will fall on your shoulders.

And of course, marketing will also be your responsibility if you're planning to self-publish.

Hey, remember when we said there will always be parts of the writing process that we won't enjoy? Yeah, that goes for the publishing process, too. Time to get a–sellin'!

 

Truth #10: There will always be better writers than you.

Better stories, too! 

That's just the way life is. No one is on top, simply because "the top" is subjective. You may not like the authors I look up to or the stories I adore–and vice versa! But despite how subjective the literary world is, we still often get caught up in trying to be as good as x, y, or z.

The bad news? There will always be someone to chase.

The good news? You're only going to get better with time!

So word hard. Admire other writers. Study their work. Practice their techniques and see if they work for you. Discover your own process. Write, write, write. Tweak your process. Write some more. Publish a book. Grow. Tweak your process again. Publish another book. Repeat for all of time.

The writing life is messy. It's hard. It can even be draining at times.

But it's also a wonderful, joyous, and fulfilling lifelong experience if you choose to accept the hard truths, remind yourself of the encouraging ones, and just keep writing.
 


Let's Chat!


Sometimes life hands us tough pills to swallow. And by life, I mean me. 

I know that many of the hard truths I shared today may be sobering, disappointing, or defeating for you. But if doubts are weighing heavy on you right now, please don't let them win. Go read through our encouraging writing truths post again or share your concerns in the comments below.

Let's lift each other up. It's time we all begin building our very best writing lives!


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Kristen Kieffer is a writer of fantasy fiction and the creative writing coach behind She's Novel. She's made it her mission to help aspiring authors write sensational novels because obliterating expectations is her jam. Her other passions? Coffee and Tolkien, of course!

Kristen is the author of the upcoming The Books of Maveryn series and The Astral Series, as well as several non-fiction books for writers.