1. Read. Read a lot. I can’t imagine being a writer and not reading. I read everything from non-fiction to autobiographies to children’s picture books. I am always looking at how other authors use language.
2. Set aside time to think. I have to do this. Once I get an idea going, I need time to just sit and think about it. This looks differently depending on where I am. Sometimes I think in my office. Sometimes I sit on my patio in my favorite rocking chair. Sometimes I think while I’m watching an old movie. This step for me is crucial because this is when I let the idea marinate in my imagination. This is where the story starts to grow.
3. Research. I love to do research for a book, but I have to be careful not to get lost in this step. I can spend hours reading articles and following links that interest me. The research is important to me because I want my readers to have something real to connect with in my books. Good fiction must have a touch of reality to be believable.
4. Map out the story. I have to do this. I know that not all authors follow this step, but for me it is necessary. I don’t have to outline every detail, but I at least want a basic road map of the book. I like to have a sense of where I’m going before I start the journey.
5. Be ready to trash the map. Now, having stated rule #4, I have learned to let the map go and follow the lead of my characters. There is something wonderful about letting go of control and giving myself over to the world I’ve created. Sometimes, it’s better to let the characters dictate their actions to me. In fact, as a writer, I want this to happen. When it does, I know that my story is now a living organism with a life all its own.
6. Don’t revise while writing. I had a hard time with this one in the beginning. I was so worried about grammar and vocabulary that I’d spend all my energy on correcting and editing every line that I wrote. It took me a long time to figure out that was why I never finished a book. I was burning out before I really got started. Now when I write, I just write. I let the story flow onto the page. I just want to get the words out of my head. I want to paint those scenes before I lose them. I don’t worry about the language mechanics until the end.
7. Have fun. This is my favorite rule because writing is too hard and too painful not to enjoy. I love to write. I have to write. It’s who I am and I can’t imagine not doing it. I love to hide out in my home office with my favorite music playing while I slip into my imagination. As long as I’m having fun, that’s all that matters. I write for my own pleasure. If others read and enjoy my work, that’s just wonderful, but I can’t allow that to motivate me. No, I write because I love it.