Ten Things Every Writer Should Do

I’ve gotten asked by a lot of other authors about any sort of hints or tips of tricks that I could tell them to help them along.  If you’ve read my earlier posts, you know that I think that writing is a very personal experience, and therefore the process changes dramatically from person to person.  But, at this point, I have gotten asked enough that I finally decided to culminate all of the tips that I have found most helpful.

The following is a list of the top 10 things I believe a fiction writer should do. Most of these probably apply to all you nonfiction writers out there as well, but I’ll leave the official version of that list for one of you to develop. So, without further ado, here are the most crucial things every writer should do from my perspective:

Know the basics

Every writer must know the basics of grammar, spelling and punctuation. This is not to impress readers with how well we learned in school. If readers are paying more attention to mistakes than to plot, they will not be your readers for long.

Be original

Imitating another author’s style or rehashing an overused plot line is an easy way to lose readers. We have been blessed with only one Socrates, one Mary Shelley, one Stephen King. Many have tried to imitate them. Can you name one? While imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, it is also a certain path to obscurity.

Want to write

Writers write. It’s what they have to do. Writing requires long hours, tedious edits and rewrites and rarely pays enough to give up the day job. Many have tried writing because it seems a quick and easy path to success. After a few attempts, most find the day job is not so bad by comparison.

Accept obscurity

Writing is a lonely job. Writers spend many long hours hidden away, pecking a keyboard. For a short time, most writers will experience some notice, even admiration, from their social circle. However, as time passes and none of their work shows up on the New York Times bestseller list, friends and family smile knowingly when you claim the title of writer.


Find your audience

Not everyone will like what you write. It’s a fact. Few people south of the Mason-Dixon Line liked the Gettysburg Address. It is extremely difficult to persuade someone to like your work who does not like the genre you write. There are countless groups with interests in everything imaginable. A quick Google search is a good start. From there, try to develop connections that will grow your social circle.

Find a support structure

Writing requires far more self-motivation than the average day job. Writers have only themselves and whatever cheering squad they can put together. Most other professionals are surrounded by coworkers who know and understand the perks and stresses of their jobs. Writers have to seek others who share their compulsion and cultivate a support structure where they can find it.

Get feedback

Few writers can see all the inaccuracies or implications of their work with no feedback. As writers, we see our stories from within. Part of us or someone we have known goes into each character. Places we have seen or imagined have gone into each scene description. However, do they work for our target audience? We will never know unless we make ourselves accessible.

Accept criticism

Not all criticism is negative or valid, but all has the potential for being beneficial. Writers are mostly human. As such, we tend to learn from our mistakes. However, this only happens if we know what our mistakes are. None of us sits down to intentionally throw in a dangling plotline or a contradiction in place or time. Once in, the writer often fails to notice them, but few readers are as oblivious of our mistakes.

Have a thick skin

Because they have to remain accessible, writers are easy targets. They are criticized by those who do not agree with the believability of their characters, the probability of their plots or the choice of genre for their tale. They are subjected to abuse for not eagerly accepting every first draft offered for their opinion. They are vilified as greedy for not accepting a fifty-fifty split for every idea as long as they do all the writing, editing and promotion.

And of course, HAVE FUN!

As long as writing is inner driven, it is only attitude that keeps even its most onerous aspects from being fun. We all know the mental high of the first rush of creativity. Most of us dread the hours of rewrites and editing. Yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we do not do it for the readers. We write because it’s what we like to do. All jobs have aspects that are less fun than others, but that does not mean that all aspects are not fun.

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  • You're very welcome, Franz.

    You are right, we all do need to support each other.  It's very difficult to get your work noticed when you have not gone the traditional route of agent or regular (non-indie) publisher.  The more I can do for my fellow Indie authors, to help mention their works, the better.

    These sites where we can get together and exchange ideas or encourage one another are indispensable in my eyes.

    Thank you for starting the threat.  Please take time to comment on mine, titled "I'm wearing my "N" out"  hee hee

  • Hi everyone. Sorry for the late reply on getting back to you all, I've been busy trying to organize a few new things on my website.

    First off, that you all so much for the awesome feedback.  I know beginning the writing process was very difficult for me, and I enjoy helping those following the same path with as much information as I can give.  Being an indie author is something to be proud of, and it is not a competition, and therefore we should all support each other in getting our names out there and getting noticed.

    I'm very glad that this post could help all of you.  Please, let me know if there are any questions you would like me to answer for you.  Thank you all again for the support

  • All you say is so right. I find I use a mental chisel to create my selected, important word, pathways towards positive end points. I feel it is often a continual step in the dark, but then gradually the light catches and the solitary process is rewarded.

    So important too to exercise the words by changing gear into blog banter and another genre ie: poetry or the well crafted short story. Clears a block too! 


  • Hi Franz. I joined Indie writers just so I could tell you what a great article this is. I've been published for a long time, but this reminded me of the important reasons I worked so hard to get published. Thanks! Have a great day.

  • I know what you mean.  For the last few years now, I've been writing Christian Romance Drama (although only published through CreateSpace last year) and I love it.  

    Hopefully you will not take so long to get your first fictional novel out there. 

  • I truly believe we all have stories in us. I'm now working on turning my two alcoholic books on the addiction in our family into Self-Publishing on Create Space after doing my last 3 that way. I'm taking then off the publisher and bringing then down half price. I want the message out more than the money.

    Once that is completed, I will no longer write memoirs. It is now fun working on my first fictional. What joy making up characters, events and juicy plots!

  • I'd say you got off to a flying start, Alberta.  3247232971?profile=original

  • Hi Sharon,

    I had no intentions of every writing myself, until my father, Brigadier General, Albert L. Gramm died. I wanted to leave the family a book on his military history being one of the commanding officers of the 26th Yankee Division during WWII fighting in Metz, Lorraine and The Battle of the Bulge. From their I opened up about my losing my husband and daughter to their alcoholic addiction. Then, I ended with a Narrative Non-Fiction from 34 addicts on how they recovered. Not bad for no one wanting to write.

    alberta Sequeira


  • Thank you for all this invaluable advice.  It shall be taken to heart.  

    Since I am a new published author on the scene having published my first book with CreateSpace last March, I value anything I can soak up on becoming a successful author.  At first, it was enough to have seen three books published last year and to be able to hold those books in my hand.  Then the joy was to actually have them read by someone else, but I fear I have caught the fever (hee hee).  

    Please continue to teach those of us who have so much to learn.  Again, thank you, Franz McLaren.

  •  Thank  you for the detailed information. :)

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