The number one question I get asked as a published author is, “What advice would you give to other writers?”
I’m going to be honest: most of the time when this is asked of me, I want to scream, Don’t ask me that! Don’t you know that I spend most of my time in a dark hole, talking to fictional characters in my head—and my cat—about my problems, which almost always circle around the fact that I have no idea what I’m doing?!
But then I force myself to take a deep breath, smile, and remember that other authors have shared some amazing insights with me throughout my journey, so I can just repeat what they have shared and sound like I know what I’m talking about (also, because screaming at people in public is frowned upon). Because the truth is, all advice comes from someone around us who has taken the journey already, discovered heartache and freedom along the way, and then been brave enough to pass it on.
So I will continue the trend. Here is some of the best advice on writing that I’ve received.
There Is No Secret Formula
You can’t imagine the number of hours I have lain on the floor of my office, or bedroom, or random coffee shop (I’m not allowed to go there anymore) and wondered, What’s the secret to writing a great novel? The time it would save me, if someone could just type out the instructions, hand them over, and end my suffering.
But the problem is, there isn’t a grand secret that the greats are hiding in some locked cellar, being guarded by dwarf ninjas and a fire-breathing dragon. The only secret is there is no secret. Which is a big bummer. Everyone is just figuring it out as they go along. They are following their hearts, listening to their Muses, and trying their best to write something they believe in. They are all just doing the work.
Of course there are some small tools that help—tricks of the trade, like different methods of dealing with writer’s block (which I will get to) or better ways to build strong characters. These are all fine, good, and even helpful notes, but at the core, the only way to write a great novel is to do the work. Every day . . . unless of course you are reading this and have, in fact, found a secret formula. Then please share in the comments below, thus making the world a better place.
Intention Is Everything
Intention has become a pillar in my career. When I first started writing, I was young and in love with everything about the process. I could write for hours that bled into days that had me losing track of weeks. But now I often struggle to pull myself out of bed, brew my coffee, walk the thirteen stairs that lead up to my office, and sit in my chair. Because I know once I get up there I’m going to have to write.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love it. But it’s also work. And like I mentioned before, the only way to write a great novel is to do the work. So intention becomes extremely important. I’ve created little cues for myself that help set my intention for the day. Silly things like, I wear contacts most of the time but wear my glasses when I write. I intentionally wear glasses so my intention for the next couple of hours is clear. When I wear glasses, I write. It tricks my mind and gives me a structure to create within.
I often go away to write. I lock myself in a hotel for two or three days to get as much work done as possible. My body and mind know that once I cross the threshold of that hotel room, the intention is to work nonstop. Something about these practices really helps me focus and get the work done. Intention is key.
When in Doubt, Kill Someone
If you’ve ever heard my father, Ted Dekker, speak on writing, then you have probably heard him say this: “When in doubt, kill someone.” This is one of the methods I use to deal with writer’s block. Whenever I get stuck in a space where I’m not sure where to take the story next, I play a game with my own imagination.
I think: Okay, so I’m stuck. Well, what if I kill my main character? Of course I can’t do that; the reader would hate me. Okay, well, what if I give her cancer? Or what if she gets hit by a car and loses the ability to walk? Oh, or what if I kill the man she just fell in love with? The one she’s been searching her entire life for, the one that almost got away? Yes! Or maybe he’s the one who gets diagnosed with cancer? Or maybe he’s secretly a dwarf ninja? (Note: I realize all of this is extremely depressing and dramatic, but just go with me.)
My point here is that once you start throwing hurdles at your own imagination, that creative juice that seems to have dried up tends to stir. That little monster opens an eye, and then both, and before you know it, you’re back into the story and dreaming up scenarios faster than you can write them down.
It’s about pushing your limits and seeing where the creative side of you will venture. And it’s important to mention here not to be afraid of where that creative spirit leads you. Sometimes it can be hard to step out of the boat and onto the waves, but if you trust in yourself and the leading that is calling you, I think you’ll be surprised to find you can actually walk on water.
If You Are Writing, Then You’re a Writer
I heard someone say once, “The only path to being a writer is a simple one, and it just requires one step. To write.” (I really wish I could remember who said this, because it would be great to be able to give them a shout-out here).
This idea revolutionized the writing journey for me. I started to have a conversation with my inner Muse that was something like this:
ME: “So, wait, you’re saying I’m already a writer?”
ME: “But I’m not published yet.”
MUSE: “Are you writing?”
MUSE: “Then you are a writer.”
ME: “But what if I never get published?”
MUSE: “Getting published doesn’t make you a writer; writing makes you a writer.”
This meant that I could let go of the expectations that I placed on myself to “succeed” and just write. There was so much creative freedom in that, and I gained confidence in my writing by simply acknowledging that I was already a writer.
Maybe you’re wondering, Well, if I don’t ever get published, then what is the point? And honestly, that isn’t a question anyone can answer for you. That is all part of the journey, my friends. It comes back to the basics of why you write.
Personally, I write to discover truth. To learn with my characters, to dream bigger than I can on my own, and to stretch my mind to see the world and people differently. I write to face my fears, to overcome my demons, to walk on water. Maybe that’s too esoteric for you, and that’s okay, because why I write is specific only to me. The real question is why do you write?
So there you have it. Some words of wisdom passed from others to me, and maybe to you. Now let’s keep the sharing going. What advice would you give to other writers around you?
Rachelle Dekker was inspired early on to discover truth through the avenue of storytelling. She graduated with a degree in communications and spent several years in marketing and corporate recruiting before making the transition to write full-time. She lives in Nashville with her husband, Daniel, and their diva cat, Blair. Rachelle’s latest novel, The Calling, is available today.
Remko Brant had never been so sure of anything as escaping the Authority City with Carrington Hale. But bravado comes easy when you have nothing to lose. Now a husband, father, and the tactical leader of the Seers, Remko has never had so much at risk.
As he and his team execute increasingly dangerous rescue missions inside the city, they face growing peril from a new enemy. Recently appointed Authority President Damien Gold claims to be guiding a city shaken by rebellion into a peaceful, harmonious future. But appearances can be deceiving. In order to achieve his dangerous ambitions, Gold knows he must do more than catch the rebels―he must destroy the hope their message represents . . . from the inside out.
With dissension in his own camp―and the CityWatch soldiers closing in―Remko feels control slipping through his fingers. To protect those he loves, he must conquer his fears and defeat Gold . . . before one of them becomes his undoing.
Rachel is generously offering a copy of The Calling to one commenter. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.
|Details on this week's incentives here.|