I grew up with an imagination too big for the little girl trapped inside a rather ordinary, non-magical body. Having read stories by C.S. Lewis, J.K Rowling, and the man himself, J.R.R. Tolkien, I dreamed big. (And by BIG, I mean dragons!) There wasn't anything that I didn't feel I couldn't accomplish after reading those stories. All except one thing, to write my own story.
Now, I know what you're thinking. "But H.A. aren't you supposed to be lifting us up? Telling us how to do it!?" Well, here's the thing. I don't know how to do it. I don't know the perfect formula because I'm still working on finishing my first draft. That's right. I haven't finished my YA Fantasy novel yet. The key word is yet because I still believe that I can do this. Even better, I believe in you. (Yes, I'm talking to you. Don't roll your eyes at me! Just sit down and listen!)
Here are a few things I've learned along the way. From one doubtful writer to another (unless you've got confidence. In which case own the shit out of that confidence, and NEVER let it go!)
On to the list!
I know every writer says this, but I can't stress this enough. You don't have to go full-blown crazy as I do. With the floor covered in index cards, sharpie dotting your arms and a very questionable cup of coffee either from that morning or last night. Just do a little something. Simple notes. Anything at all, just to keep all your dragons in a row.
Learn your audience:
It doesn't matter what you like to write, this is important. Whether we like it or not, trends are a "thing." Now, that's not to say you have to write those trends because screw them! You can write whatever the heck you want! However, knowing what trends are prominent in your genre will help you get a better understanding of what ideas are working and which ones…well aren't. Don't be afraid to push the limits, and don't be scared to do it your way. Just keep up with your genre and know what's going on.
Learn your weaknesses and strengths:
These go hand in hand. You can't possibly improve without knowing where you excel and where you flatline; which brings me to my next topic!
Share your work:
This has been the hardest thing for me. For years, I cowered away in my tiny dark cave hoarding all my work, guarded by my dragon, never allowing a single bit of my work to see the outside world. I wasted so much time, never sharing my ideas or work, all for what? Just for me to be exactly where I am right now, still finishing my draft. Don't get me wrong; sharing is scary. I have a near panic attack every time, but sharing my work got people talking. It got people asking questions. It got them telling me (Some even screaming it) that I was good. Honestly, that has made all the difference. It helps silence the little voices in my head who tell me. "You can't do this." Those little voices who get me to spend two hours reading the same paragraph screaming that it's awful. There will always be those who don't believe in you, but there will always be a sea of people who do, but you can't find them until you start sharing, which brings me to my final thought.
Make friends and network:
This one sounds like it doesn't belong here, but I promise you, it does. For years, I have always struggled to talk about my writing with my friends. Not that they don't support me, but more like they just don't get it. They don't get the hours of painstaking exhaustion looking over the same sentence, or the countless nights of no sleep where I worry about that scene I wrote five hours ago. Joining twitter gave me that opportunity to meet other writers, just like me who have a slight addiction to coffee, GIF use, and the occasional writing meltdown. We all understand the struggle.
We've all been there, and we are all here to support your journey, whether your journey is just beginning or nearing the end. There is always a writer ready to swoop in and make all the difference.
That's all I've got. My dream is to inspire those as I have been inspired and I know that whoever is reading this, is going to be a great inspiration.
Shout out to my very own saving grace, the #writerbaetribe for screaming a lot louder than the rude voices in my head. You three make all the difference, and I am so thankful.