Skip to main content

7 Things I've Learned So Far, by Traci Borum

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers at any stage of their career can talk about seven things they’ve learned along their writing journey that they wish they knew at the beginning. This installment is from writer Traci Borum. Traci Borum teaches Creative Writing at the college level. She's written for Today's Christian Woman magazine, as well as the New Texas Journal.

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers (this installment written by Traci Borum) at any stage of their career can talk about writing advice and instruction as well as how they possibly got their book agent -- by sharing seven things they’ve learned along their writing journey that they wish they knew at the beginning.

Image placeholder title

Traci Borum teaches Creative Writing at
the college level. She's written for
Today's
Christian Woman magazine, as well as the
New Texas Journal. Currently, she's working
on a women's fiction series and
also runs a writing blog.

1. Never give up. Rejection is gut-wrenching—we all know that. The odds against unpublished authors are staggering. I read somewhere that literary agents can receive upwards of 400 query letters per week. Then why even try? Because the odds decrease to 0% if you don’t. If I don’t submit query letters, it’s a guarantee: I have zero chance of getting published. So, be tenacious. Let nothing stop you. Keep writing, and put yourself out there.

2. Know Your Weaknesses. Even best-selling authors have trouble with verb tenses or wordy prose. In order to improve as writers, it’s a must that we learn to recognize our individual weaknesses. Years ago, my creative writing teacher took the time to circle all the passive verbs in my story. Until that moment, I had no idea that passive voice was a weakness of mine. But when I recognized it, the light bulb came on, and I set my mind to correcting that weakness. Sure, I still gravitate toward too much passive voice. But now, I can recognize it and correct it.

3. "Just Do It." That classic phrase from 80s Nike commercials has been turned into an eye-rolling cliche. But it so perfectly describes the self-disciplined mentality writers must have. No excuses; just do it. Jack London once said: "You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club." I’ve found three particular "clubs" that help me: 1) set specific writing goals and stick to them; 2) browse over yesterday’s work to get re-inspired; 3) give myself a reward as incentive. Whatever it takes. Just do it.

4. Don’t be a one-hit wonder. For me, a specific sort of panic sets in each time I finish a novel. It's the irrational feeling that I'll never write another book again. One powerful antidote to counteract that sort of panic is to have an ongoing brainstorming "file"—a rich reserve of ideas, plots, characters. Whether kept on your hard drive or in a notebook, every writer should have one. That way, the well won't ever run dry.

5. Realize that not everyone will "get it"—and that’s OK. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that only a select few people seem to “get” my passion for writing. Everyone else‘s eyes seem to glaze over with disinterest. Or, worse, they look upon me with judgment, and wonder why I would devote so many hours to a silly hobby. But I’ve learned to shrug my shoulders and not allow them to bring me down. In fact, quite the opposite. I press on in spite of them. Many times, their lack of support has given me just the incentive I needed to finish a novel, or to get more queries out there. And, thankfully, I have plenty of people in my life who do “get it.” And they’re all the support system I need.

6. "A sentence must earn the right to live." That quote came from an editor (unknown) who lectured at a writers’ conference I attended years ago. It’s one of the most valuable pieces of advice I’ve ever heard.

7. If you’re bored, the reader will be, too. Sometimes when I’m writing a scene, I try too hard. I force a scene to work when I know it won‘t. For example, in my last novel, I wanted something important to occur at a birthday party. It was a child's party, and I had the cake, the party games, even a clown. But I was bored stiff as I wrote it. There was no spark, no energy. So, I listened to my "inner editor" and kept working on it until it was no longer boring. Mission accomplished!

2014-writers-market

The Writer's Market details thousands of publishing 
opportunities for writers, including listings for book publishers, 
consumer and trade magazines, contests and awards,
literary agents and more. At the WD Shop, you can find
the most recent updated edition for a discount.

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

Image placeholder title

Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more. 
Order the book from WD at a discount.

Your Story Writing Prompts

94 Your Story Writing Prompts

Due to popular demand, we've assembled all the Your Story writing prompts on WritersDigest.com in one post. Click the link to find each prompt, the winners, and more.

How Inspiration and Research Shape a Novel

How Inspiration and Research Shape a Novel

Historical fiction relies on research to help a story’s authenticity—but it can also lead to developments in the story itself. Here, author Lora Davies discusses how inspiration and research helped shape her new novel, The Widow’s Last Secret.

Poetic Forms

Saraband: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the saraband, a septet (or seven-line) form based on a forbidden dance.

Karen Hamilton: On Cause and Effect

Karen Hamilton: On Cause and Effect

International bestselling author Karen Hamilton discusses the “then and now” format of her new domestic thriller, The Ex-Husband.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: The Ultimatum

Plot Twist Story Prompts: The Ultimatum

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character give or face an ultimatum.

6 Things Every Writer Should Know About Sylvia Beach and Shakespeare and Company

6 Things Every Writer Should Know About Sylvia Beach and Shakespeare and Company

Sylvia Beach was friend to many writers who wrote what we consider classics today. Here, author Kerri Maher shares six things everyone should know about her and Shakespeare and Company.

How Writers Can Apply Business Tools to Their Writing

How Writers Can Apply Business Tools to Their Writing

Author Katherine Quevedo takes an analytical look at the creative process in hopes to help other writers find writing success.

Nick Petrie: On Following the Most Compelling Story

Nick Petrie: On Following the Most Compelling Story

Award-winning author Nick Petrie discusses how he listened to the story that wanted to be told in his new Peter Ash thriller novel, The Runaway.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 596

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a punishment poem.