There’s no better lesson on how to write a book than actually writing a book—and I mean finishing it. Unfinished works are only practice to more unfinished works.
I’m still just beginning my life as an indie author, but I thought I’d share what I’ve been learning about myself and my writing mindset. Your mileage may vary by a lot, but hopefully you can get something out of my process.
Here are ten things I learned writing my latest book, Burning Promise:
1) Fail fast
The fear of making a fool of myself constantly paralyzes me. A new publication is terrifying—what if this time I’m putting out a failure too embarrassing to recover from?
I convinced myself that I should fail fast. No idea is perfect and all books have flaws, so I’d better just accept that not everything I create will be wonderful, or well received, or even “good”.
That reminds me of an episode of Scrubs. When JD realizes that he will lose a patient sometime—because that happens to all doctors—he can no longer treat anyone. Dr Cox tells him that’s already happened: an old lady died after JD’s treatment a while ago. Despite the news weighing him down, it frees him from his fear and he goes back to work (by the way, Dr Cox was lying so JD could regain his confidence, and to show him there’s no point in not trying for fear of failing).
2) Trust the fear
I also realized that fear is good. I let it be my compass. There is no fear or doubts in watching Netflix, playing video games, or wasting time on social media. Fear only arises when effort is required, when something matters.
Trust fear. As Steven Pressfield said in War of Art, “Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do.”
3) Creation brings destruction
The act of creating is the best way to destroy the demons inside your head. When you get lost in the story, in the present, nothing else matters. Just keep creating. Overthinking and avoiding writing only fuels fear and doubt.
Some uncertainties never go away. We need to learn to live with them and keep working.
Creation will carry us to the end. It’s amazing how just starting to write anything keeps the demons at bay.
4) Keep moving
No matter how slow or unproductive some days are, don’t stop. Small victories add up. Advancing at the slowest speed still means you are moving forward and making progress.
5) Give up
I gave up a book to write Burning Promise (yes, I know I should finish stuff, but hear me out). Writing is hard and some days are awful, but those should be the exception. It’s mostly fun. If it’s a year of pulling teeth, maybe you should write something else.
Ask yourself why you pursue something that only hurts you. And know how to identify if this is really painful or if you are just lazy and afraid of the amount of effort required. Worthwhile things require dedication, but they should not be painful all the time.
Unless you’re a bodybuilder.
6) Finish as quickly as possible
I wrote Limbo in less than 30 days, during NaNoWriMo. It was tiring, but the story and the characters were always fresh in my mind. Burning Promise took a few months, and some details kept escaping me. What works for me is writing the story as quickly as possible, reducing the days when I don’t write to zero.
7) Hard work
Sometimes we just need to power through. Writing does not come easy for everyone, not all the time, so let out your war cry and charge. It doesn’t take courage to fight when victory is imminent—anyone can move on when the wind is right.
If you’ve ever read about story structure, you’ve come across the Dark Night of the Soul or the All is Lost scene. It’s the turning moment for the protagonist. They’re at their lowest point and defeat seems certain. They must reach inside themselves to access their true, hidden strength, and use all they learned to triumph.
It’s not unusual that the writer has to pass that trial as well. Like the character brought to his knees, you too must face defeat in the eyes and wait for it to blink first.
Having some eye drop also helps.
8) Fill the well
I read a lot of non-fiction, which is good for learning and improving the craft. However, it doesn’t fill me with inspiration and the yearning to write as much as reading fiction, especially fantasy. This was a fundamental learning experience—I need to read more books that I wish I had written.
Fill the creativity well with what excites you, and the well will never be empty when you need to drink from it.
9) Trust the reader
Writers are the worst judges of their own work. I feel that in my bones whenever I finish a story.
But a time comes when you must let go of a project. Declare it finished, aware that it will never be perfect, and move on.
It’s not in your hands anymore. It’s no longer your book. Let the readers judge whether or not what you wrote works.
Writing is actual magic—you’re putting words directly into another person’s mind. You’re making them wonder, laugh, cry, or making them so angry as to drive them to Twitter to call you wonderful names in caps lock.
Don’t forget the magic and why you started to write in the first place. Keep it going.
No one else can tell your story.
About the Author
Thiago d’Evecque is an author of fantasy, explorer of dungeons, creator of gods, destroyer of worlds.
He writes the stories he likes to read: fantasy with humor, action, and just a touch of dark. His books are an homage to his greatest influences, from Dungeons & Dragons to Final Fantasy.
You can find more about Thiago and his work on devecque.com.
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