8. You have an outline for your writing project. Even if it is only a rough sketch with only an emotional arc written on the back of an envelope, or on a napkin. Having some inkling of what you want to do helps to keep writer’s block at bay.
7. Have a character questionnaire completed for at least your main character/POV character. This questionnaire can be as simple as the POV character’s name and physical description. Or, it can be a full biographical sketch complete with major childhood events and any psychological issues.
6. Have a very thick skin. Yes, you need to begin developing a thick mental skin right now. Even if you have never completed any writing project you must protect your inner Muse by taking critique well. Meaning, hear what is said about your work and not take it personally. You may need to put down your work for a couple of days and come back to it once you’ve digested the critique. You may also need to turn to a trusted writer friend and bounce the critique off of them to ensure that you received the message you think you did from the critique. Why is this #6? Because if you don’t have a supportive circle of writers around you you will need to create, or find one.
5. Create/find a writing circle. In these new and revolutionary days in which publishing is no longer ‘kind and gentle’ (if it ever was), your manuscript needs to be as perfect as you can make it before an agent, or a publisher reads it. Meaning, your story arc is honed and sharpened to the specifically right one that works for your book, characters and setting. That your characters’ voices are clear and distinct from each other. That your theme is clearly depicted throughout the book. That your story has complexity with added sub-themes and/or plots that support the central theme of the book. A supportive writing circle, or group, can help you do just that without the cost of a structural book editor (which can be costly; sometimes as much as 20 – 40 cents per word depending upon the length of your document).
4. Be prepared and know that your first-draft is not your masterpiece. The first-draft is just that…your first pass at telling this story. Think of your story in terms of a human pregnancy — it has 3 trimesters — just like your story. The first one is your first-draft. The second trimester is the phase where you REST. You move entirely away from the story for as long as a month before going back to it (this applies to longer works such as a novel). This resting time is to give you distance from your work so you can look at it objectively. While you may never be able to be completely objective giving yourself time will allow you to see things you may not have seen shortly after completing the first draft. The third trimester is the editing phase where YOU go over your work and add in scenes to more fully develop and flesh out characters, or the plot. Where you add in characters (or remove them) to make the story more realistic. You may need to go in and re-work your theme as you see holes you left, or red herrings that go nowhere (because you may have been rushing through the first pass as getting the story out). This is the stage where you identify your book’s team.
3. Every great book took a village to bring to market. You need an editor. You need a book cover designer (if you’re Indie), you need a book formatter (if you’re Indie). You need a fact-checker (if you’re with a publisher this generally is embedded in the several editorial passes they conduct for your book. [Publishers usually have 4 – 5 editors go over your book to ensure there are no typos, grammatical errors, wrong facts, etc. Indie authors — you’ve got to find a team that will help you have the same types of checks on your manuscript.] You need beta readers; people you trust to give you an honest opinion. You don’t need to know your beta readers personally but you do need to feel comfortable with them and how they process what they read. So, research online folks whose book reviews you appreciate. You should also be mindful of the types of genres your beta readers usually read. You ideally want beta readers who currently read the types of books you are asking them to read — unless you want someone totally outside of your genre’s opinion. That has value also. People who don’t read the genre will generally pull out things that are story/plot holes, or character flaws. They read the story. People who read the genre you have written will do that as well (usually) but they tend to focus on things that make, or break, the genre rules. These beta readers will keep you true to the rules of engaging your readers in your work’s genre.
2. You must have discipline. Without a writing ethic of writing on a regular basis (at least once a day), it will be difficult to finish a project in any kind of timely manner. ‘Nuff said.
1. You have no idea how tomorrow’s scene will turn out. Putting your characters’ collective backs against the wall is the best thing you can do for your readers, and therefore, your story. No one likes a predictable story. If you, the writer, cannot figure out how to get your characters out of the mess they’ve created for themselves you are doing great! You may need to do some research online to figure out how to pull yet another rabbit out of your writer’s toolbox. But hey, this is what you signed up for when you decided to become a writer!