Where Should you Invest your Time? So you think you’re a writer?

We were all newbie writers at one point in our career, so where should our time be spent?

Yesterday, I introduced the concept of time and brought up how energy and money correlate to them. Today I want to talk specifically about time spent while just starting to write.

I take a stance when giving advice that most writers want to be a full-time author. Many people don’t have aspirations to this effect, so keep that in mind, but I think the advice I have is for all types of writers; those that want to turn this writing “thing” into a full-time career, all the way down to someone who just wants to write for the fun of it, or only have one story in them to tell.

I also have a bit of a hard-line stance when it comes to certain topics. I tend to use a little bit of hyperbole, and I make blanket statements about many things. I stereotype for ease of categorization. This doesn’t, however, detract from the validity of my advice. Of course, there will always be exceptions, but I tend to go with a no-nonsense simplified style of advice. Exceptions are against the rule and as such waste an incredible amount of time going over the minutiae of exceptions. It’s also a solid 20% activity.

Ultimately, everyone has to make their own way. Learning is a never-ended cyclical process, and I prefer to give advice to get people a little irritated at my tone till they go away to “prove me wrong” only to realize I was right the whole time.

The number one most important thing for a writer?

Read

That’s it. And I’m dead serious about this. If you don’t spend most of your time reading at the beginning of your career, you’re doing something wrong.

The fact of the matter is that most writers want to tell stories because they already love reading those same stories, and they want to add to the zeitgeist of the written lore. Be it fantasy, adventure, mystery, romance, erotica, or non-fiction, if you don’t read, you aren’t a writer.

Reading will teach you sentence structure if you don’t already know it. Never did well in English when you were young? Neither did I. In fact, I failed the first semester of Senior English class in High School (Sorry Mrs. Udall), but you don’t need to memorize sentence structure to be a good writer. Just read a ton, and you will absorb it over time.

Reading will teach you story structure. Did you know that all stories follow a similar structure or formula? They do. This doesn’t mean that you can’t bend or break the rules, but most fun stories out there follow a formula. They aren’t unique snowflakes. This is because we, as humans, have an innate desire to hear the same types of stories over and over.

This stems from our caveman days when stories were told over the nightly campfire. It’s so innate to us that when we hear something that isn’t a correct story, even if we have never learned the structure before, we know that a story doesn’t “work.”

Reading will also help you increase your vocabulary, learn your genre conventions, (not only do all story share similar structures, but each genre has its own conventions, or obligatory scenes, that have to be in there otherwise it doesn’t count for that genre.) There are too many benefits to list here, but suffice it to say, if you don’t read, you can’t write.

I’ll spell that out more clearly, so ready up your fingers for the hate. If you don’t spend at least the same number of hours per week reading as you do writing, you’re not progressing your skills.

And that goes doubly so at the beginning of your career. Hopefully before you even decided to write you’ve already ready hundreds, if not thousands of books. If you haven’t, stop, and go read more. Read a book or two a day for a few months. Once you’ve read at least a hundred books in your genre, only then would I consider you ready to truly write in that genre.

Remember “wax on, wax off” from Mr. Miyagi? Go read 100 books then tell me that my advice is wrong 🙂

Till tomorrow,

Tom

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