7 Things I've Learned So Far, by Pamela Wechsler

Pamela Wechsler, author of MISSION HILL (May 3, 2016, Minotaur Books), shares the 7 most valuable lessons she's learned during her writing career.
Author:
Publish date:

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,”where writers (this installment written by Pamela Wechsler, author of MISSION HILL) 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.

Pamela Wechsler, author of MISSION HILL (May 3, 2016, Minotaur Books) spent over fifteen years working as a criminal prosecutor at the local, state and federal levels. She has served as an assistant district attorney and assistant attorney general in Boston, and she was a trial attorney for the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.. She has investigated and prosecuted a wide variety of crimes, including: murder, witness intimidation, sexual assault, drug trafficking, stock market manipulation, and political corruption. Pam grew up in the Boston area and is a graduate of Tufts and Boston University School of Law. Currently, she is consulting on television shows, and working on the second Abby Endicott novel.

Mission-hill-book-cover
Pamela-Wechsler-author-writer

1. There’s no right way to write a novel. Everyone does it differently. Some writers prepare extensive outlines, mapping out each chapter in detail, while others develop the plot as they go along. Some authors edit their work as they go along, others finish a complete draft before making any revisions. Some people write chronologically, from start to finish, while others write random scenes without regard to where they’ll fit. Don’t compare yourself to others and worry that you’re doing it wrong—because there is no wrong or right.

(How many literary agents should a writer send their work to?)

2. Writing is a craft. Educate yourself and get a working knowledge of basic principles—read literary criticism, take a class, or go to author readings. Before you start writing your novel, think about point of view, setting, plot, and character. Familiarize yourself with the concept of narrative distance. Consider what tense you want to use to write your story, and what time span you want to cover. You don’t have to know all the answers upfront, but it’s important to know your options.

3. Writing is solitary, but it doesn’t have to be lonely. Take a workshop, join a writing group, or find an online network. Talk about writing, read your pages out loud, and listen to others. It’ll make you feel less alone and it will make you a better writer.

4. Criticism is a gift. If someone is willing to read your work and give you feedback, take advantage of the offer. It doesn’t matter if your reader has an MFA or is a literary scholar—you just want someone who is honest. People who tell you how brilliant you are will make you feel good, but they won’t make you a better writer.

Image placeholder title


Join the Writer's Digest VIP Program today!

You'll get a subscription to the magazine, a
subscription to WritersMarket.com, discounts
on almost everything you buy, a download,
and much more great stuff.

5. The first ten pages of your book are critical. If your reader doesn’t get hooked by then, they’ll stop reading. Maybe the excitement really picks up in chapter 5, or you have a kick ass ending, but it doesn’t matter—no one will get that far into the book if they’re not hooked after the first couple of chapters.

6. Writers write. Keep a schedule, set a goal, and stick to it. It can be 1,000 pages a day, or two pages a week—whatever works for you. Try to sit in front of your computer every day, at least for a couple of minutes. Soon, something good is bound to happen.

(How many markets should you send your novel out to?)

7. You’re going to hit the wall. When you feel like you have nothing left to say, get out of your head and get out of your house. Go somewhere to refuel: see a movie, visit a museum, go for a walk—whatever will help you clear your mind and get your creative juices flowing again.

------------------

Check Out These Great Upcoming Writers' Conferences:

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 3.39.23 PM

Your new complete and updated instructional guide
to finding an agent is finally here: The 2015 book
GET A LITERARY AGENT shares advice from more 
than 110 literary agents who share advice on querying, 
craft, the submission process, researching agents, and
much more. Filled with all the advice you'll ever need to
find an agent, this resource makes a great partner book to
the agent database, Guide to Literary Agents.

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

Arisa White: Putting the Pieces Together

Arisa White: Putting the Pieces Together

In this post, Arisa White shares how she was able to piece together her past with her present, how some works freed her to write, and more!

Adapt vs. Adept vs. Adopt (Grammar Rules)

Adapt vs. Adept vs. Adopt (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use adapt vs. adept vs. adopt with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

wow no thank you

Nuggets of Humor

Bestselling humor author Samantha Irby talks about her writing process and finding funny topics for essays.

April PAD Challenge

2021 April PAD Challenge: Guidelines

Announcing the 14th annual April Poem-A-Day Challenge on Poetic Asides. Here are the guidelines for this fun annual poeming challenge that starts on April 1.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: Call for Submissions, Free Downloads, and more!

This week, we’re excited to announce a call for submissions to the WD Self-Published Book Awards, free resources for writers, and more!

Flash Fiction Challenge

2021 February Flash Fiction Challenge: Day 28

Write a piece of flash fiction each day of February with the February Flash Fiction Challenge, led by editor Moriah Richard. Each day, receive a prompt, example story, and write your own. Today's prompt is to write a story using only dialogue.

Nicole Galland: On Returning to Familiar Characters

Nicole Galland: On Returning to Familiar Characters

Bestselling author Nicole Galland explains what it was like to dive into writing a series and how speculative fiction allows her to explore her interests.

6 Tools for Writing Nonfiction That Breathes

6 Tools for Writing Nonfiction That Breathes

Nonfiction author Liz Heinecke gives her top 6 tips for crafting a nonfiction book that will really capture your subject.

Flash Fiction Challenge

2021 February Flash Fiction Challenge: Day 27

Write a piece of flash fiction each day of February with the February Flash Fiction Challenge, led by editor Moriah Richard. Each day, receive a prompt, example story, and write your own. Today's prompt is to write something that makes you laugh.