1. It’s a first draft. It’s okay if it sucks. Get over it. Write a second draft. It will suck to. Get over it. Write a third draft… you get the picture. One day you will stop hating your draft. That’s when you know you’re ready for someone else to see your work.
2. Get a critique group as quickly as you can. When you’re in the second/third draft stage, you’ll need a second pair of eyes to edit, re-write or simply to soothe. You’ll need a group of people that tells you that really, the writing is good and no, you aren’t yet ready to query. You need a critique group that understands your down days, your writing slumps and the sleepless night you had chasing the monsters. They will be there at your most trying times. They’ll keep you honest. They’ll motivate you. They’ll keep you grounded. They’ll let you soar.
3. 10,000 hours of craft building. There’s no substitute for writing. You write and write and write. Writing is the only way you get better at it. There are no short cuts. Malcolm Gladwell’s theory on the 10,000 hours of building a skill, whether you agree with it or not, is motivating enough to get our fingers on the keyboard. It makes me feel better that it would take me 10k hours or about 6 years (at 8 hours a day without any vacations) to become a somewhat decent writer.
4. You are a student. For life. Get used to it. Whether you’ve written a smashingly good draft and are in a query process or still struggling through your first draft, be in student mode. Attend workshops. Take courses. Read Writer’s Digest. Learn how to write that opening sentence. Learn how to build that believable character. Learn how to deal with a sagging middle and write a page turning climax. None of these come to us at first try. It takes practice. The easiest way of getting the practice is to get to a workshop. Jump at every opportunity (funds permitting) to learn.
5. Be kind to yourself. Life happens. Summer vacations happen. Work happens. It’s okay. Have faith. You’ll return to your writing. I wish, more than anything else, that I hadn’t wasted so many hours berating myself over the time I’d wasted seeing the Swiss countryside. That time would have been so much more productive writing!