The Top 10 things you need to know about writers

1. Writers love to read. Most writers have “to be read” piles that they will never get through in their lifetime. Yet we keep adding to it. And we have “keeper shelves.” That’s shelves of books we want to keep because we want to read them again. Or maybe just take them out every now and then to hold and remember the pleasure they gave us to read them.

We also have lots of research books. History books for historical romance writers, books about weapons and poison for mystery writers, science books for science fiction writers.

2. Writers are interested in everything. That’s another reason our bookshelves are overflowing. As they say, “Everything is grist for the mill.” You never know what might end up in one of your books, so everything is important to know. That tidbit I read today might become an important item in a future book. I see a book about ships or cannon or 17th century food and just know it is something I’m going to need.

3. Writers can happily spend hours in office supply stores. After all, they are filled with the tools of our trade, paper, pens, pencils, ink, notebooks, in all colors and sizes. Okay, so maybe most of us no longer write in long hand on yellow lined tablets, but the feel of those things, the smell, the nostalgia, is irresistible. And what if there is some new product there that might inspire us to write?

4. Writers bemoan the slow demise of the brick and mortar bookstore. This is another place we can spend hours at a time. And where many of us spend way too much money. Unfortunately, not enough people are spending enough money in them so we will have to buy many of our books on line, or in digital format. But we bewail not being able to hold that real book in our hands, look through it, read the back cover, and the first few pages, before we buy it. Sure, we can do most of that on line, but there’s nothing like browsing real shelves and discovering new authors. That’s not so easy to do on line. And you just can’t get that new book smell on line, either.

5.  Writers love to talk about writing, their process, and ideas. We love to talk about the craft of writing, what each of us has learned along the way, and the books we’ve read.

6. Writers don’t like to talk about the book we are currently writing. People often ask us what we are working on now. We will happily tell them in a few words what we are writing, but we don’t want to go into detail. We don’t want to tell you all about the story. We don’t want to tell you how it ends. First of all, we may not know ourselves yet! Talking about the book seems to drain away its vitality, its freshness. We want to save that for the page. We want to get that down in the writing. We don’t want to dissipate it by talking about it.

7. Writers have a lot of ideas. We are inundated with ideas. We are drowning in ideas. Ideas come at us from everywhere and in every waking moment. And in dreams, too. How many of us have written books based on a dream we had? Which is why some writers groan when someone asks, “Where do you get your ideas?” Anything, everything, can inspire an idea. I’m working on a book now that was inspired by the name of a creek I saw driving along in Texas. Lack of ideas is not a problem with writers. But not all those ideas are worth writing a whole book about. The problem is sorting through that plethora of ideas, finding the ones that will work, the ones that can be fleshed out into an entire book, and, most importantly, the ones that can hold our interest for the weeks or months it takes to write the whole book.

8. Writers do not want to write your idea. (See #7.) If it is such a good idea, you need to write it yourself. It came from you. It’s yours. It should grow from you. Not from me. I’ve heard of writers being approached by people who say, “I have a great idea for a book. If you write it, we can split the profits.” Right. So you have this idea that you want me to work into a plot and spend months researching and writing and then give you half the money? Again, see #7. Besides, even a good idea can be written so many different ways, we could each write a book  based on the same idea and have two totally different books. It’s been done.

9. Writers are self disciplined. The nice thing about writing is that there are no particular hours you have to be working. You can take a day off any time you want to. But we know if we take too much time off, that next book is not going to get written. But it’s more than that. We are driven to finish the project. Once it is started, it has to get done. I may have to badger myself every morning to get to work, but then I get my pages done. I set goals for myself. Two pages or two hours staring at the page without checking email or Facebook, whichever comes first. Once I have those two pages done, I have my permission to quit for the day. Sometimes I do. But more often, I try to get a little more done, to get closer to the end of the book, to finish this scene, this part. I am not a fast writer, which is why I try to get just two pages done a day. But I can often get a lot more than that done, 5 or 10 pages, when the writing is going well, or when I am getting close to the end. But no matter how many pages I get done today, I still have to write at least two pages tomorrow.

10. Writers have to write. It’s not like we really have a choice. What Mark Twain said about smoking can easily be applied to writing, “It’s easy to quit smoking (or writing). I’ve done it a thousand times.” So have I. I get a bad rejection or see miserable sales and swear off. That’s it. I’m done. I’ll be better off spending my time working on my art or my weaving. Or cleaning the house. Or watching TV. Two days later, I’m back at the keyboard. Well, this is such a good idea, I just have to get it down!

These are my top ten. Anyone have another one to add to the list?

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