Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Only "How to Write" Lesson You'll Ever Need

michaelsnyder's AvatarI’ve met a lot of folks asking eager, “newbie” type questions. And as much as I hate anything that reeks of “the answer” or “ten easy steps” or any kind of “secret ingredient,” I do indeed know most of the answers, all of the steps, and many of the secret ingredients.

I realize I should be charging big, big bucks for this. But I’m feeling kind of charitable today. So here goes…

#1 You must love to read. Every minute that you’re not reading something should include at least fifteen seconds (or more) of wishing you could be reading. (Listening to audio books counts.)

#2 You must want to write more than you want to be a writer (or want to have written).

#3 You must write. A lot. More than you think you need to. A million words is a good starting point.

#4 You must find time to read more and write more…and then find time to do even more of both.

#5 You must learn to juggle total confidence with abject humility. (It helps to be both fearless and terrified too.)

#6 If publishing is your goal, get a new goal. Writing better is the only goal. Don’t write for markets or toward trends. Don’t write for your spouse or your enemies or your mother. Write for the page; that’s it.

#7 You must actually care…care enough to read and to write while everyone else is watching TV…care enough to change your schedule and get your work done…care enough to fake confidence when you need it and stare down fear when you can’t…and you must care more about the words on the page than what other people think about them. If you don’t care, no one lese will. And if you do care, most people still won’t. You have to care enough to overcome all that nonsense.

#7.5 Do NOT take my word for it.

Extra credit: Learn the art of napping. Unless you sell a million copies…and you probably won’t…you’re going to need it. And if it bums you out that you probably won’t sell a million copies, go back to step one and start over.

Extra extra credit: Despite that last sentence, be prepared to have to go back and start over every single day. I certainly do.

Michael Snyder resides in Tennessee, works for a living, plays the guitar, and writes some of the most unique books on the market today. If you're a genre-locked reader, you may not see the appeal in Mike's novels. But if your mind is open to the heroism of the average Joe and the beauty of the plain Jane, if quirky, flawed characters steal your heart faster than Harlequin hunks and biker babes, you're in for a treat.

My Name is Russell Fink and Return Policy, Mike's first two masterpieces. The third is in edit.

Add to Technorati Favorites
Bookmark and Share


  1. I love the reading part. Definitely love the reading part!!!

    Thanks Mike!

  2. Brings to mind something and that is, submit to the cause not the cure and have patience with yourself, or maybe it's to early for me to be talking to people but anyway Thanks Mike.

  3. Ouch. I needed to hear that this morning. I love the reading part too. My only writing wish is I didn't need to waste time earning a living. Really puts a crimp in my reading and writing time.

  4. All very good advice. I was especially intrigued with #6, since so many newbies come into this craft with the wrong idea: "If publishing is your goal, get a new goal."

    I once called down an advertiser who promised big bucks by writing articles for some publication I never heard of before. Of course you had to put in money to get this windfall. We all have to watch out for unscrupulous deals like this.

    Great post, Mike. And Linda.

    ~ VT

  5. So glad you decided to be charitable with us today! Thanks for sharing, Mike.

  6. Mike Snyder is a straight-up writing rock star. And I have the photos to prove it!

    I think I may have to give the audiobooks a try. I'm certainly not having much luck with the visual kind at the moment, and I do have two hours of commuting time each day.

  7. Good stuff. Convicting, but very, very good. ;)

  8. Mike's on the road, but he asked me to post his response:

    "Wow, thanks for all the very kind comments. As I read back through the post I was struck at just now much I need to go back and take my own advice...AGAIN!"

  9. Thanks for dropping by, Mike! Great advice, as always!

  10. Hmmm. Number 7.5 is a good one.

    Well, they're all good. Especially #4. And #5.

  11. Thanks again, all those dropping by to leave comments...and the to the Culture Club (of the Authorial Persuasion) for inviting me to the party in the first place.

    And yeah, Sandra, I'm especially keen on #7.5!


  12. Actually, I think it was the extra credit on napping that I thought came under 7.5 on first glance. Definitely taking your word. It's a good one. ;)

  13. Nice post, Michael. And I like #6. That point is oddly motivating. :)

  14. Excellent tips - every one of them!

    In particular, I appreciate your endorsement of audio books as I've found myself getting hooked on them lately. I've also found, much to my surprise, that they actually help my writing far more than traditional reading has, as there's something about listening to the word choice, inflection, etc. that just speaks to me (though I'm sure that's an individual thing).

    I also find I can get far more "reading" into my schedule (meaning more time to get may way toward that million word goal) - errands and drives are more productive. The treadmill is less daunting and I can listen myself to sleep without waking my spouse.

    Finally, with so many of these titles available for online borrowing from libraries and book rental services, incredibly economical.

    Thanks again for a great collection of tips!

  15. colleen walsh fongOctober 18, 2010 at 2:20 PM

    Great post! Especially the writing part. Every once in awhile I feel like my writing improves from one sentence to the next.

  16. I need to add more reading time in my schedule as well. I love the napping part and writing. I also love being in my studio creating and so I need to do more of that... Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us.

  17. Really excellent stuff. Yes, yes and yes to all points. I think these should be given to anyone who ever says they want to be a writer (when they really mean they want to write a best seller / Booker Prize winning novel etc).

  18. Wordsmith&Amp...Yep, I agree. I too pick up different things when listening to books. What's really interesting if you haven't tried it is listening to book you've already read (or vice versa). I'm doing that right now with Nick Hornby's Juliet Naked and hearing all sorts of subtleties I missed the first go-round.

    Colleen, Clara, Sandra...thanks much for stopping in and the kind words.

    Guess I'd better go write...or read...something.

  19. OSHA 10 hour Every once in awhile I feel like my writing improves from one sentence to the next.