I’ve been writing short stories and novels for two years now, and though that’s not very long, I still have a few absolutely essential pieces of advice. If I could go back in time, I’d warn myself not to make these four mistakes. Then kill Hitler.
- Don’t call yourself an “aspiring” writer
If you look at Twitter bios, amongst the “bacon lover”, “coffee addict” and “Hufflepuff” tags, you’ll see a lot of people describe themselves as an “aspiring writer.” This is a mistake.
Quit aspiring and get writing. If you are already writing, you’re not “aspiring”, you’re doing it! You’re either a writer or you’re not.
And a writer isn’t just someone with a publishing deal or a best-selling series, a writer is someone who writes. If you manage to write stuff, you’re a writer. If you’re brave enough to share what you write with anyone, you’re even more of a writer. All the other stuff – book deals, prizes, publication – that might come or it might not, but if you work hard and keep writing every day and keep trying to get better, you have a shot.
Go change that bio now. “Writer”. One word.
- You don’t need to read everything to write something
I mean obviously you should read widely if you can, but if you can’t, that doesn’t mean you are precluded from writing. I don’t read a lot. I mean I do, but much of that reading is not paperback novels, it’s websites with detailed timelines of the Dune universe, articles on Wikipedia about mythical lost cities and long, rambling blog posts with writing advice.
Just because you haven’t read everything in your genre doesn’t mean you are precluded from writing in it. Especially in fantasy, horror and science fiction, there can be a fixation on reading every single entry in all the famous trilogies and series’, but the only requirement for being a writer is that you write. It doesn’t matter what you write. Reading is great, but it’s not the ID card you need to get into the club.
- Don’t tell people what you’re writing about
Every time I tell someone about a great story I want to write, it’s like I’m pouring the idea down the drain. It’s weirdly satisfying at the time, but at the end I’m left empty. My motivation to write that story is completely gone, and I’m left feeling like I’ve just deleted a whole manuscript from my brain.
For me, I only get to tell a story once, and I’m a much better writer than I am a storyteller. Once I say my story out loud, it evaporates. It’s a bit like that video where the racoon is excited because it has a big ball of cotton candy, but then it tries to wash the candy in some water.
Sorry, I should have warned you that this video was traumatic, but I hope it serves as a warning. If you have a story to tell, keep it inside you till it bursts out, then make sure there’s paper (or a keyboard) in front of you. You’re a writer, so communicate your amazing ideas in your writing. Otherwise you’re not only ruining your own creative process, but spoiling your story for your audience. And no one likes spoilers.
- Social media is an endless stormy sea, so send up a flare
You absolutely need to be on social media. Sure, there might be some amazing young writer out there who is so good that they don’t need to market themselves at all. This hypothetical writer – let’s call her “Amazing Anna” – doesn’t need to tell anyone about her work. It’s so good it promotes itself. However, for every author like Anna, there’s a million more (and that number is probably not much of an exaggeration) that need to market themselves online.
There’s going to be a learning curve involved. Social media can be hard. Many of you might not know what Instagram is, how Pinterest works or why anyone would ever send a Tweet. Well it’s time to learn! You’ve learned and mastered a whole language, and you’ve written a whole book. You can spend an afternoon overcoming your technophobia. There was a time when you didn’t know the difference between “their” and “there”, but you figured it out. Now it’s time for you to learn the difference between a scheduled Facebook post on your author page and a Story on Instagram.
Your reward for this? You send up a flare. You put something out there that people can see if they’re looking. That’s your first goal. One day you might be so good at social media that you create a firework show that people see from miles away, but for now, you just need to make sure people who want to find out about you and your book can do that. And when they want to buy it, there’s plenty of links on all your blogs, pages and reviews that point them in the right direction.
Thanks for letting me share this Stuart. I love Horror Tree and wish you all the best in 2018!
Thomas Welsh is an award winning urban fantasy and short story author based in Scotland. He was the winner of the Elbow Room fiction prize for ‘And Then I was Floating’ and has also been published in ‘The 404 Ink F Word Collection’, ‘Pseudopod’ and ‘Leicester Writes’. His fantasy trilogy ‘Metiks Fade’ debuts in March 2018 with book one, ‘Anna Undreaming’ published by Owl Hollow Press.
Pre order on Amazon UK now: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Anna-Undreaming-Thomas-Welsh/dp/1945654082
Pre-order on Amazon.com now: https://www.amazon.com/Anna-Undreaming-Metiks-Fade-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B078N662J5
“Sometimes the ash catches a spark and sometimes the flame splutters back to life.”
Lacking a better target, fate’s hammer falls on a heart already smashed to shards. That heart belongs to Anna, a young, apathetic student weighed down by the drudgery of her daily routine. Seeking an escape, she comes across a stranger called Teej who promises to open her up to a whole new world. A world of Aesthetes: writers, musicians and artists who are so preeminent in their respective fields that their abilities allow them to alter the very fabric of reality. The magical worlds they create are known as “Hazes” – possibility spaces where the world becomes dream, and the dreamer is God.
Seeking to escape tragedies in her past, Anna forsakes her old life to enter the dangerous world Teej has shown her. As a Metik, his job is to police the dream. To protect people from the Aesthete’s, and even challenge them within their own domain when they threaten the lives of the innocent. And to do that he needs a bodyguard. An Undreamer. Someone who can demolish Haze’s. A fighter and a warrior who can tear down the dream world. Teej believes he has found his new protector and guardian. His new Undreamer is Anna.
“In a world of dying light, you’re a bonfire in the night.”
As Anna travels through Haze’s – from endless deserts of purple sand to run-down bars on the moon – she learns that there’s as much beauty in the world as there is horror. With a complex conspiracy at work within the community of Aesthete’s that threatens to undermine reality itself, Anna will have to look deep within herself – and eventually will have to face the horrors of her own past – to save her old world as well as her new one.
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