Four Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Writing
Cary J. Griffith, author of Wolf Kill, a Sam Rivers mystery, gives some good advice for aspiring authors and tells us what he wished he knew when he started writing.
I don’t have the market on writing advice cornered, but over the years I have followed four basic writing rules that have proven useful for me.
Practice. First and foremost, if you love to write, do so. Presumably you write because it’s your passion. Feed it. I’m a strong believer that, in the final analysis, our passions abide and are in many respects satisfying ends in themselves. In the book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell promotes the idea that you can only become an expert at something (e.g. writing) after 10,000 hours of practice.
If you believe the best books are written by skilled craftspeople, you need to develop your skill. The more you write, the better writer you become. Good writers produce good books, and, generally, good books get sold and published.
Persevere. If you really want to get your book published, you will. To be sure, it won’t happen on your schedule, but, by hard and ceaseless effort, you will succeed. In Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth makes a very strong, scientifically supported case for how perseverance always wins the day. If you couldn’t find an agent for your novel, don’t be dissuaded. Perhaps you should write a sequel? Perhaps you want to revisit your effort and revise it for the 16th time? Regardless, if you keep trying and keep writing, good things will happen.
Network. You need to talk to other writers and people in the industry. Again, if writing is your passion and interest, this part should be easy. Reach out to local authors you admire, attend their readings, and buy and read their books. Take a writing class at a local college or literary organization.
Sometime in the early 2000s I joined the local chapter of the National Writers Union (NWU). They had monthly meetings covering various topics. In 2005 I attended one at which the managing editor of the Minnesota Historical Society Press was presenting. Afterward, I pitched her on a book idea and she liked it. Eventually, the Press published it and now, more than a decade later, we have sold more than 20,000 copies of Lost in the Wild.
Write a good book. A long time ago I attended a writing meeting at which New York Times best-selling novelist Steven Thayer offered this sage advice, “First and foremost, write a good book.” At the time, the advice sounded obvious. Isn’t it a given that we all want to write the best possible book? But since hearing Steve’s advice, I have reconsidered its wisdom. Anything can be improved, even the last draft of your latest masterpiece.
In summary, it’s best to remember that writing is a journey, not a destination. Enjoy the ride.
Award-winning author Cary J. Griffith grew up among the woods, fields, and emerald waters of eastern Iowa. His childhood fostered a lifelong love of wild places. He earned a B.A. in English from the University of Iowa and an M.A. in library science from the University of Minnesota. Griffith’s books explore the natural world.
In nonfiction, he covers the borderlands between civilization and wild places. In fiction, he focuses on the ways some people use flora and fauna to commit crimes, while others with more reverence and understanding of the natural world leverage their knowledge to bring criminals to justice. He lives with his family in a suburb of Minnesota’s Twin Cities.
You can pre-order your copy of Wolf Kill here. Or enter the GIVEAWAY for your chance to win an advance readers copy.