Do's and Don'ts of Writing
1.) Do make writing a priority. It is so easy to let other distractions get the better of you. The phone. The laundry. The dishes. Email. Facebook. There is absolutely no end to the number of things which can take up our time. Problem is, the laundry gets done, but the writing doesn't. You can get your kids or husband to load the dishwasher or throw the laundry in the dryer. But only you can write your book.
2.) Don't forget your friends and family want to help you. I had been working on my novel for years and years (and years...) off and on. I loved my characters, I knew where I was going... but I could never seem to keep any momentum. A dear friend who is not a writer, didn't give any sage advice, or know any publishers ended up being the single most important factor in getting my book done. She faithfully called me every day, and asked me, "Have you worked on your book yet?" Having a "book conscience" made all the difference in the world. I think three days was my maximum tolerance of saying no...because then I had to answer her when she asked, "Why not?"
3.) Don't assume you can proofread and edit your own work. You can't. You've been living with this manuscript intimately for a long time. (Hopefully looking at it every day!) You simply aren't going to see every typo, every missed set of punctuation marks, every "teh" that was supposed to be "the." Get help. There are professional editors out there who will work freelance. If you don't have the money but you know other writers, offer to trade proofreading/editing services. I personally prefer to have at least six other pairs of eyes going over my manuscript. No one sees everything. Even the professionals! These days, I can't help but notice how many otherwise high-quality magazines will still have a typo sneak through.
4.) Don't let your ego make bad decisions for you. I had a friend, we'll call him Tom, who heard that I'd published a book, and he asked me to proofread his novel for him. I started to... but every page was covered in missing punctuation, grammar mismatches, incomplete sentences. It was obviously a former screenplay he wanted to turn into a novel. "Cut to director and producer. Pan across audience" are not the words of a best selling author. But when I told him that his manuscript wasn't even ready to be proofread, much less ready for print, he got offended - and went to print with it. Good writing is about more than having a big ego.
5.) Don't lose patience. Writing is a craft. It is an art form. Beautiful things take time. Michelangelo's sculptures were not created in an afternoon. Neither were DaVinci's paintings. It took 182 years to build Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. You are going to put one word after another, then scribble them out, then write different words. Your characters are going to defy your wishes and expectations and outlines.
6.) Don't censor yourself. I got the most surprising advice from a college English professor. When someone in class told him I was having trouble saying what they wanted, he told us, "when your brain keeps stopping you, and you start second guessing yourself and you can't seem to get anywhere, that's your internal censor. Give him a shot and a beer and tell him to go to sleep for awhile." I couldn't believe our professor was telling his students to drink! Only in Wisconsin... But his real point was that, if you edit while you're writing, you'll never get anything written down. Spill all the words out onto the page, and then organize and delete and replace and supplement later.
5.) Do keep calm and carry on. Expect a lot of rejection. Believe in yourself, and believe in your work, and the people who helped you craft your book into the best shape you could make it. In today's publishing environment, Dr. Seuss wouldn't be able to get a publisher, and would be striking out on his own.
6.) Don't expect everyone to love your book. You are going to get good reviews, you are going to get bad reviews, you are going to get middling reviews. Listen and learn from all of them.
Jeanette Watts only lived in Pittsburgh for four years, but in her heart, she will always be a Pittsburgher. She missed the city so much after her move to Ohio, she had to write a love story about it.
She has written television commercials, marketing newspapers, stage melodramas, four screenplays, three novels, and a textbook on waltzing. When she isn’t writing, she teaches social ballroom dances, refinishes various parts of her house, and sews historical costumes and dance costumes for her Cancan troupe.