I have four essential rules when it comes to writing, four rules that tell me I’m a writer and not just a bookseller, a farmer, or a scientist. It’s these four rules, simple or complicated as they may be, that separate the amateurs from the professionals, at least as far as the writing content goes.
1. Books do not write themselves.
Sounds simple enough. If you don’t write something, you’re not getting anywhere with your story. Before you can do anything with a story, promotion, publishing, and especially sales, the book has to be written.
2. Books do not edit themselves.
Again, a largely simple principle. Any initial draft is simply raw text. It needs refinement in order to reach the next stage. If you hope to show your story to anyone, you’ll need to edit it.
3. Books do not promote themselves.
Before you tell me that word of mouth is what really carries a book, let me say that you have to get that book into someone’s hand. You might have to find an agent, you might have to do some social networking. Regardless of the method, you have to do something in order to get your story the exposure it needs.
4. Write or Die.
This is the big one, the one rule that might not seem self-evident, even though it is. If you want to write just to write, to have fun, that’s great. Go forth, write, have fun, then go back to whatever you were doing before. I wish you good luck with your endeavors.
This is the rule I put down for those who want their books on shelves, physical, digital, or both. If you really want to do this, if you really want who you are to be defined by your writing, then you have to write. Writing isn’t easy, it’s hard.
Your characters might want to go somewhere you don’t want to go. Your muse might decide to run off, leaving you in a quiet room. You might really want to sleep a while longer. When these things come along (and they will!), you have to decide to keep going anyway. If you somehow find the strength to keep writing, if only in a small form, then writing is part of who you are. Writing, in that case, becomes one of those parts of you that, if you took it out or ignored it, you’d be denying who you are.
In a sense, you would be dead. For writers, writing is part of who we are. It’s in our blood, it’s in our soul. We can’t stop, not now, not ever. We don’t quit, we don’t cut off writing, even if we retire. We are writers and, for us, there are only two choices:
Write or Die.
Follow those rules and you’ll get where you need to be. You’ll find the right opportunities, the right stories, and the right motivation. You’ll find a way to do what you want because you love it so much.
That’s what I do and it’s worked well for me.