Of course, you’re a writer if you write. The act of putting words down on paper to create a story is the very definition of being a wordsmith, but what takes you from wannabe writer to writer, and then upgrades you to a serious writer?
Spoiler alert, actually writing is only a small part of it.
10 Signs You’ve Upgraded To Being A Serious Writer
1. You’re not afraid to show others what you’ve written.
2. Receiving rejections from agents and publishers no longer stings (as much).
3. Sending a query or submission doesn’t fill you with (complete) fear.
4. You’re happy to pass on the advice that you’ve learned to other writers.
5. You’re writing daily or regularly enough that actual pages are being added to your MS.
6. Ideas for stories come thick and fast. Your creative brain is always on.
8. Walks and commutes to work are soundtracked to writing podcasts instead of music.
9. Your TBR pile now includes non-fiction books about editing or the craft of writing.
10. You have money put away for writing courses and/or professional edits.
A writer might start off their journey as a wannabe, daydreaming about ideas or noting down a few lines of purple prose every now and then. One day, they might decide to give writing a "real go" and get as far as a terrible first draft that languishes in a drawer. It might be years later still before they learn more, practice more, and apply those skills to the next manuscript, the next draft, the complete rewrite, and the endless edits before finally typing, “The End”.
If they're consistent and work hard, they may even get to write “The End” on multiple manuscripts, but being a serious writer isn’t about completing as many WIPs as you can, it’s about what you do with those pages of gold afterward.
No true wordsmith wants to spend all that time writing a book that no one else will ever read. Give your MS to family, friends and beta readers. Submit to publishers. Enter writing competitions. Launch a blog. Start your own writing podcast. You might not see all the signs in yourself yet, but even if you can only cross off one or two on the list above, you're well on your way.
Be a wannabe until you're a writer, but then don’t forget to upgrade to being a serious writer and do something with what you’ve written.
— K.M. Allan
K.M. Allan is an identical twin, but not the evil one. When she’s not writing, she likes to read, binge-watch too much TV, and take more photos than she will ever humanly need. Visit her blog at kmallan.com to discover the secrets of the universe, or at the very least, some good writing tips.
So you’ve finally done it. Written a book after hours at the keyboard, filling in plot holes, shedding tears, drinking cups of tea, and fending off self-doubt. You’ve even made it through beta readers who questioned your genius and still found typos.
Your book is perfect, and more than ready to be snapped up by a publisher. Sure, there will be some rejections, but you’ll welcome those because you’ll need a rejection slip to hang on your wall and keep you humble when you’re rolling in royalties and five-star reviews.
But that publishing deal hasn’t come. It must be them, you tell yourself. There’s no way it could be your book—it’s perfect!
You decide to take a look at the MS, just to confirm that it’s still as wonderful as you remember. Then you see it, the reason those form rejections have been coming in thick and fast. Your MS isn’t perfect. You’ve looked at it with fresh eyes, the realistic eyes that can see the mistakes. Those amateur mistakes, such as…
Otherwise known as not giving the reader any credit and explaining everything. You want them to know why Jessie hates Carl as soon as they’re introduced. No using curt remarks to build tension, or dropping hints to create some mystery, you’ll just explain it all then and there!
Same deal when it comes to connecting the intricate threads of your mind-blowing plot. You can’t be subtle with those threads or rely on the reader to make those connections. What if they miss something? Can you trust the reader to work things out for themselves? Yes, yes you can.
As the author, you may want to authorsplain the finer points to get the story onto the page, but that’s what the first draft is for. Tell it to yourself, then cut it back and find the right balance. Test with beta readers how much little info you need to give in order for a reader to understand what you mean, and then allow them to fill in the blanks. It makes for a much more satisfying read.
This is one of the basics of writing, but it can be tricky to master. Info-dumping, especially in the first few chapters, is a mistake all amateur writers make, some without realizing they’re doing it.
It’s another one of those elements you’ll need during the first draft so you can work out your plot, but after that, you’ve got to use your other drafts to break the info up. Don’t use a page long narration from your MC to explain the situation she’s in, foreshadow it, drop cryptic hints, have a short but sweet conversation between two characters that gives you one half of the story, and the rest of it later.
As the writer, you know that the info is important to the plot, but it doesn’t need to be dumped on the very first page! Save some for the middle, bring it all to a head at the end. Let your characters and the reader live in the moment and find out what they need to know at key points only—not all at once.
Hands up if you over describe how a character gets from Point A to Point B? I’ve done it, in fact, I can’t help including almost every single detail when it comes to my characters' movements.
It may be part of my early draft writing process, but I really don’t need to keep in my later drafts that my MC heard the doorbell ring, put down his cheese sandwich, slid the chair back from the table, walked through the living room, wrapped his fingers around the silver knob, and pulled open the door.
Save the stage directions and the lengthy descriptions for when you need to invoke some real imagery, or to make a payoff work. The most important thing the reader needs to know is who is at the door, not a step-by-step of how the MC answered it.
Extreme Scene Setting
Some writers can set the scene of a book so well it’s almost as if it’s another character. For us amateurs, you’re better off mastering how to give the reader only what they need to visualize the setting.
The trick to this is adding just enough detail to create a sense of space or what the place looks like while allowing the reader’s imagination to do the rest.
For example, they might need to know a living room has a couch because a character is sitting on it, but they don’t need to know about the rug, the coffee table, the lamp, the TV, or the fake plant sitting in the corner. Unless the lamp you painstakingly describe for five sentences is going to be the murder weapon (in which case, you and Professor Plum better hightail it out of there), stop wasting words spelling it out. Most readers would have seen a living room and will get an understanding of what one looks like with a few choice words.
While it may take an experienced eye to spot these amateur mistakes—and even more practice to stop making them in new drafts—mastering them will make you a better writer. One who will, hopefully, one day, also have an acceptance letter to hang on their wall.
— K.M. Allan
About K.M. Allan
K.M. Allan is an identical twin, but not the evil one. When she’s not writing, she likes to read, binge-watch too much TV, and take more photos than she will ever humanly need.
Visit her blog to discover the secrets of the universe, or at the very least, some good writing tips.
These are posts made by friends of Wordrefiner. I am grateful to share these with my guests.
"I'm very pleased with all your efforts. Twitter promotion and proofreading were beyond what I expected with a book review. Your suggestions throughout the process of refining both books helped me immensely. I look forward to working with you again." A.E.H Veenman “Dial QR for Murder” and “Prepped for the Kill”