18 things beginning writers must do (without complaining!)

If you think this is the usual writing advice, then fine dear Writer, skip to number 7!


As a literary agent and writing coach, I get hundreds of manuscripts every month and there is just one Big thing every writer worries about, irrespective of the genre they write in or the stage they are at. ‘Will I get published, Priya?'


This feeling is reasonable given the enormous effort it takes to write. Besides, the casualness with which one is supposed to wait, cope with rejection and move on genuinely hurts. I wish it was different and better but it is what it is. There are things even agents can't change and often, we feel the pain of our clients' work getting rejected, or even delayed.


In this post, I want to talk about nothing too Big or serious but that thing that works for all writers, especially beginning. If you are a professional writer or just read about writing, you know it is said by someone in some other words.


What should writers do to write a book, especially if you are a total novice and want to get published traditionally?


I feel your pain but let me also warn you that all the 18 things will not be brand-new brand-new but what's more important is that doing them should hurt, a lot. So, if you love writing and getting published just enough, and don’t care about the pain to live your dream, then let’s get started!


1. Study any book or story you find terrible (make-notes-type-study, compare-with someone-else's-notes-type-study, write-one-sentence-chapter-summary-study)


2. Study any book you found forgettable (like above)


3. Study any book you loved (and hated, including your work with a likeminded person who doesn’t give a damn about your feelings! Ha-ha-ha-ha)


4. Read books by writers and teachers/coaches on storytelling ( buy a book or two and let the authors know if you liked their work; be fair)


5. Read books on how to write in a genre you don’t care about (yes, it gotta hurt!)


6. Read books on how to write in the genre of your choice (do the previous task first)


7. Ask your mother and father-in-law if you can make a career out of writing (Don’t react, don't even ask anything additional and just move to any of these tasks)


8. Pursue courses online on how to write a story in your genre (free ones will do yes!)


9. Pursue courses online on how to write a story not from your genre (that’s the dirty work, don’t skip this)


10. Write about writing (not yours, like at all!)


11. Write about books you like (in not more than 100 words! Not even 101; just give yourself a deadline NOW)


12. Google any of this (get distracted? Sure!)


13. Google how to write a pitch for a nonfiction manuscript (this is actually more important for fiction writers; learn to sell yourself)


14. Google how to write a pitch for a novel (I assume by now you know show v tell, inciting incident, view point character, general v specific, and hook sentence. If not, then you probably missed tasks 5-9 from this list. Well-done-well-done!)


15. Talk to someone about a book you liked (the goal is to ensure they buy it; keep trying with new readers and teach yourself marketing the street way)


16. Listen more, talk less (I told you someone said this in these many words)


17. When a professional editor tells you, ‘OK, hold on, this is what you need to do and this is why,’ then DO IT! (unless you are able to justify your choices and the editor agrees too)


18. Treat a writer who earns a living off their writing for coffee and just ask them, ‘How was your day?’ (Pretty please, if you do this, will you please tell me all about it?)


I will be surprised if any of these happen to be original-original! Jokes apart, if you have never heard of anything from these 18, then leave a comment and let us know! Or rather try doing it and let us know? It has to hurt-hurt, no?


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