A Message for My Young Padawans

Hi, guys.

I thought it would be a good idea to get acquainted. There’s only so much information I can post in the forum and I wanted you to have an opportunity to know a little bit about the person who’s going to be tearing your work apart.

I’ve called myself a writer since I was 12 years old. Throughout my teens, I dreamed of becoming a bestselling author—I would have a bestseller by the time I was 30 and eventually score an Academy Award for adapting my own novel for the screen.

None of these things happened, of course.

I’m 33 now. I’ve published one short story. I have written one novel, but it’s so full of holes Clint Eastwood could take a shot at it and miss. It’ll probably never see the light of day.

On the other hand, I have landed multiple assignments writing feature magazine articles for a Colorado non-profit. I am regularly hired as a grant writer as well. I even spent about six-months back in 2009 contributing movie reviews to an online Christian magazine before it folded.

Every morning, I get up before the kids and write for an hour. I’ve completed a handful of short stories, all of which sit at various stages of readiness, all of which I plan to submit to publishers. I even have one such short sitting on the desk of a magazine right now, waiting for a response.

This is the typical daily life of a writer. It’s not what I imagined when I was 12, but I still wouldn’t trade it. I do it because I love it, just like you.

As we begin to work together, I want to give you some pointers I wish someone had given me when I was still in my teens.

First: read a lot. If you already do, great, but I want to challenge you to read outside your favorites. If you like Stephen King, try reading Anne of Green Gables. Read the classics. If you like CS Lewis, try a book called Auralia’s Colors by Jeffrey Overstreet. Overstreet shows how you can emulate Lewis without copying him. Challenge yourself. Find a list of Pulitzer-prize winners and read those. You’ll be amazed what you’ll discover. The more you read, the more you get a grip on that elusive idea of what works and what doesn’t.

Second: write a lot. I know you’ve heard that before, but I don’t think you’ve ever heard it like this:

THE GAP by Ira Glass from frohlocke on Vimeo.

Third: find a hobby. This can be anything, and it doesn’t even have to be creative. Find something you enjoy and do it every day.

A good hobby develops your discipline muscles, and writing well requires discipline. It takes days of sitting at the keyboard time after time writing one terrible paragraph after another. You do it because you will get better. You do it because small moves yield big results.

Personally, I like to run. During the week, I go out and run four miles during my lunch break (unless I have a meeting). When I started running, I started with a mile. Three months later, I was up to four. Six months later, I had lost 40 pounds.

When I started that novel, I committed to 1,000 words a day. Some days I wrote more, some days I wrote less. Sometimes, I even skipped a day. When I finished, it clocked in at 109,000 words. Want to know how long it took me to write it? Four months. That’s all. I started in September and I was finished before the Super Bowl.

This is an adventure we’re going to take together. You can do this. I already believe in you.

Now let’s get to work.

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