As 2009 winds to a close, I spent some time considering the things I've learned about writing over the course of the past year, with one book on submission and a second in the works:
1. Books don't write themselves. The screen will be just as empty of words tomorrow as it was yesterday if I don't put any there today.
2. It's easy to consider myself a writer without actually writing anything.
3. Ideas need time to percolate. The subconscious mind continues to work and create between writing sessions. If I make use of odd free moments just to picture a scene and the characters in it, things go much more smoothly the next time I sit down to write.
4. The internet is the greatest threat to my productivity, even more distracting than frantic college freshmen and whiny four year-olds. I can tame it, however -- at least temporarily -- with a timer and a smidgeon of self-discipline.
5. The oft-repeated strategy of tricking myself to write by telling myself I'm only going to write for fifteen minutes or a half hour really does work. Starting is the hardest part; once I get going, time flies by and I find myself reluctant to stop.
6. I can't write out of sequence, no matter how stuck I am. I can, however, start a new chapter without knowing exactly what will happen in it.
7. Scrivener is the most amazing writing software EVER.
8. Readers of historical fiction don't care how many obscure historical facts I know if these details bog down the story or deaden my characters. Conflicts and crises keep readers reading, not descriptions of banquets or slashed sleeves. Detail enhances the flavor of the story, but can never compensate for a lackluster plot.
9. Celebrating other writers' successes and publicizing their books makes the wait for my own sale easier to bear. My turn will come -- and if it doesn't, I've spent my time in a positive way and nurtured new friendships in the process.
10. I might have picked the absolute worst moment in the history of publishing to try to sell a debut novel, but I'm incredibly lucky to have the time, resources and support to pursue my dream.
11. I can do it again! I do have a second novel inside me, and a third and and maybe even a fourth...
12. It doesn't matter how many people believe in me if I don't believe in myself.
Writers, what have you learned about writing this year? Please share! And here's to 2010 -- may it be a year of personal growth and dreams fulfilled for all of us!