Review: DIY MFA: Write with Focus, Read with Purpose, Build Your Community

DIY MFA: Write with Focus, Read with Purpose, Build Your Community
DIY MFA: Write with Focus, Read with Purpose, Build Your Community by Gabriela Pereira

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you’ve been following me very long on the interwebs, you will probably know that I am HUGE supporter and collaborator with DIY MFA. Gabriela’s vision of making writing accessible for everyone who wants to write makes me so very happy. If you don’t already know about DIY MFA, please take a moment to check it out, sign up for her email list, and get ready to take your writing life by the horns.

DIY MFA boils down the MFA experience into three components: Write with Focus, Read with Purpose, Build Your Community. And her website, her book, her podcast, her newsletter, everything points the way to being the best, most prolific writer you can dare to be.

This book captures the heart of the DIY MFA mission and delivers it in a brilliant package. The amount of solid writing advice and actionable information in this book is almost overwhelming! Gabriela crams all her most powerful creative advice between the covers here and delivers a solid, continually reference-able resource to help you up your writing game, no matter what your goals are.

I am a firm believer and stalwart follower of the DIY MFA philosophy. I love the empowerment and encouragement that the DIY MFA community offers. If you aren’t familiar with DIY MFA yet, you NEED to buy this book. It truly is the most perfect and succinct introduction to the life-changing and writing-life-transformational experience you never knew you needed.

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Review: Finish Your Book in Three Drafts: How to Write a Book, Revise a Book, and Complete a Book While You Still Love It

Finish Your Book in Three Drafts: How to Write a Book, Revise a Book, and Complete a Book While You Still Love It
Finish Your Book in Three Drafts: How to Write a Book, Revise a Book, and Complete a Book While You Still Love It by Stuart Horwitz

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m not gonna lie, when Stuart Horwitz approached me with a request to participate in the editing of his newest book, I may have squealed with unadulterated glee like the little fan-girl I am. I have been through this book a few times now and each time I find a new nugget of wisdom that I want to diligently squirrel away to reference during future projects. I already reference Book Architecture all the time in my work as a freelance editor. Now I’ll be adding Finish Your Book in Three Drafts: How to Write a Book, Revise a Book, and Complete a Book While You Still Love It to my “essentials” shelf.

Stuart’s break down of the process of building your manuscript is empowering; it’s freeing. You’re not bound to creating an outline or to following a linear path when you’re writing anymore. The tools he shares in this book (series grid, theme target, punch list) can help you make sense of the writing you have already done and be intentional about where and how you build and layer the significant moments as you continue to craft your manuscript.

And, bonus, Stuart’s book, Finish Your Book in Three Drafts, shows you how to know when you’re done, how to give yourself permission to put down the pen on a project.

The storytelling element of this particular volume makes it different from other books I’ve read on writing, outlining, and crafting your manuscript. Stuart’s pith and wit made the subject matter all the more enjoyable.

I highly recommend this book (and his other titles) to anyone who wants to develop their writing process, who wants to look at their craft differently, and who wants to finish their manuscript while they still love it.

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Stop pretending art is hard

This post is inspired by the DIY MFA Street Team Question of the Week

This week, Gabriela from DIY MFA challenged her Street Team members to think about creative myths that keep us from diving in and doing the work of writing. She listed these 5 myths about creativity:

  1. Creativity is an exclusive club, and you can’t be part of it.
  2. Creativity is innate–you either have it or you don’t.
  3. Creativity is driven by chaos, so there’s no way to control it.
  4. Creativity is all about getting that one “Big Idea.”
  5. Creativity is focusing on an idea until it’s perfect.

But I know of another myth, one that encompasses all of these and more, one that we all use when we’re too tired or too scared to do the writing (or painting or playing or dancing or singing or whatever your medium is).

Art is hard

This myth… this is what we’re really thinking when we tell ourselves we don’t have what it takes, when we tell ourselves that we’re not good enough, or that we’re too “left-brained” to be creative. We think that the act of creating, whatever it is, it’s going to hurt. We buy into the idea that if we’re going to create something significant, something worthy, that we have to suffer for it. And if it’s easy or if we enjoy it then it’s not really art.

We’ve been fed this narrative our whole lives. But it’s bigger, older than just our generation. The trope of the starving artist was already popular in Puccini’s day. Why do you think La Boheme was such a hit? The artist must suffer and die for the sake of their art. If not, then what good is it really?

It’s ok to enjoy the creative process

Allow me to release you from the thrall of this myth. Art does not have to be hard… Art can, nay it should be drawn from the deepest seat of your pleasure and joy.

That’s not to say that you won’t be challenged by creating, or that you won’t have to practice parts of your craft to improve. But it never has to be hard. You never have to suffer in order for it to be “good.” You can come to the computer or the canvas or the keyboard or the stage joyfully. If you don’t, you have to ask yourself if what you’re trying to achieve is really worth it.

The key is confidence

Perfection is hard. Not making mistakes is hard. Measuring up to someone else’s standards is hard. But these things are not art. They don’t serve art. And they don’t bring us joy in the practice of them. Instead they make us overly cautious and afraid to try new things.

When we’re tentative and nervous and just looking for acceptance, it’s easy to feel like we’ll never measure up to the standards and expectations of the “creative club” we want to join. But if we can talk ourselves over the fear of rejection and criticism and just enjoy the process of learning as we create… That’s where the magic happens!

Stop pretending art is hard. – Amanda Palmer, The Ukulele Anthem

She’s dead right. We have to stop pretending that we’re not ready yet. Dive in. Have fun!

(Hey! Did you know that Gabriela has a book coming out this summer? Check it out and order your copy here!)

Want to know more about how to up your writing game? Sign up for the Writing Refinery email newsletter. You’ll also receive a free Character Detail Sheet that can help you learn everything you need to know about the main character in your current WIP!

6 qualities of a successful writing life (the only 6 you’ll ever need)

This post is part of the DIY MFA Street Team Question of the Day series. For more information about DIY MFA, visit

Everybody has a formula for success, don’t they? If you want to be a writer you have to do these five things. You have to follow these seven steps in their exact order, and if you do you’ll have unlimited success.

It kind of reminds me of those chain letters that then became emails that then became social media memes… you know what I’m talking about. “Make a wish, then copy this letter five times and send it to five of your friends within twenty-four hours. If you do, your wish will come true. If you don’t you’ll have thirteen years of bad luck.”

Most of us are savvy enough to spot a scam like that nowadays, and we aren’t as quick to pass it on as we might have been when we were young. But sometimes we get fooled. Sometimes the thing we want is so tangible and the success that others have had is so obvious that we become convinced that the magic formula must surely work this time.

These are not the steps you’re looking for

A quick Google search will show you what I’m talking about. Four pages deep and more (that’s just where I stopped looking), with list numbers ranging from five to more than two-hundred, and evoking the names of famous and highly successful authors like Stephen King, people are driving traffic to their blogs and attracting customers to buy their exclusive courses, all in the name of making you a better writer.

The formulas range from ridiculously simple to strenuously ambitious (Stephen King writes 2000 words a day and his yearly reading list is… monumental), but they all promise the same thing. Follow their formula if you want to achieve success.

And we buy into it every single time. But… tell me, how’s that working out for you?

Can you ever think of a time when you took someone else’s writing advice and it didn’t work?

Formulas for becoming a better writer are sort of like New Year’s resolutions. They seem like a really good idea at the time. I mean, it works for Stephen King, right? And who doesn’t want to be a successful writer? But come March or April when you’ve been burning the candle at both ends trying to get your 2,000 words a day written and you don’t feel any more glamorous or successful, what do you do then?

Most people either give up completely, or go through a minor identity crisis. How can we call ourselves writers if the way we write doesn’t match the way Stephen King (or Ernest Hemingway, or Ursula K. LeGuin, or F. Scott Fitzgerald) do it?

The myth of someone else’s journey

There’s no one-size-fits-all list that you can apply to your life that, if you meet the requirements, allows you to call yourself a writer. Sometimes the advice you receive is just advice. It might not work for you, or it might, but it will never be able to bestow on you the identity of writer.

Your best bet, if you really need someone else’s advice to get your writing habit jump-started, is to read all of those lists of steps, pick steps from each of them that you like, and try them on for a while. And then when they stop working for you, instead of falling into a pit of despair that you’ll never be a “real writer”, just toss them out and make a new list. The only steps worth saving are the ones that work for YOU.

In the end there’s only one thing that qualifies you to be a writer (I know I said six… they’re coming, promise). What Stephen, Ernest, Ursula, and F., have in common, the tie that binds all of us writers together… We write.

So now here they are, as promised, six qualities that, if you master them, will lead you to a successful writing life…

Six qualities of successful writers

  1. Do we write every day? Some of us do.
  2. Do we write a certain number of words each writing session? Some of us do.
  3. What kinds of books do we read? All kinds.
  4. When do we write? Early in the morning, late at night, on our lunch breaks, in the stolen moments we get while hiding from our children in the bathroom…
  5. How do we write? Into a voice recorder on our morning commute, on the back of a napkin while waiting for a blind date, in a special notebook, on the computer with Scrivener or Word or OneNote or Write or Die or….
  6. Are we published? In ezines, magazines, fanzines, Big Five publishing houses, on blogs, on Amazon, NOT on Amazon, self-published, or not published yet…

Don’t be afraid to make your own list. Tell me what works for you, because you may have thought of something I haven’t tried yet, something that is really helping you get words on the page or a better chance at a publishing contract. We can all learn from the processes that others have. And maybe one of those processes will bring us success. But if you were worried that you might not be doing this writing thing right, I’ve got news for you… you totally are!

Every writer is different. If we were all the same, the world of fiction would be so utterly boring! We all start from different backgrounds of race, wealth, education… these and a myriad of other factors contribute to our journey to success. You could follow all the steps that Stephen King has for being a better writer and still not measure up to his success. Or worse, you could fall out of love with the capricious muse and stop chasing your passion to create. How tragic.

So write! Just write. Don’t look for validation or a fast track to success. Put words on the page and then share them with the world. That’s all that is required of you. Make your art. Tell your story. Find your voice.

(Hey! Did you know that Gabriela has a book coming out this summer? Check it out and order your copy here!)

Want to know more about how to up your writing game? Sign up for the Writing Refinery email newsletter. You’ll also receive a free Character Detail Sheet that can help you learn everything you need to know about the main character in your current WIP!

Pocket full of (writer’s) kryptonite

writer's kryptonite
This post is part of the DIY MFA Street Team Question of the Week series

Last week we talked about playing to our writing strengths. Knowing your storytelling super power can help you identify the types of stories you like to write as as well, and give you an area of expertise to focus on.

But as Superman has been teaching us since 1938, any super power comes with its kryptonite. It’s a balance of power. Superhuman strength comes with superhuman weakness, otherwise we’d all be monsters.

What is your writing weakness?

So what’s your writing weakness? If you don’t already know what it is how do you find it? It’s hard to look at yourself under the harsh light of honesty and name something you’re not good at. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably really good at pretending that your weaknesses don’t exist. But that doesn’t make them go away.

Take a moment to consider your weaknesses, without being self-deprecating and naming a “weakness” that’s actually a strength (you know you do that, too… it’s practically a hallmark of being a writer). More than likely, your writer’s kryptonite is closely linked to your writing super power. Think about it. Superman’s weakness (kryptonite) came in the form of crystals from his home planet of … Krypton!

If I’m honest, my main writer’s kryptonite at the present time is finishing what I start. Simple as that. I’m sure there are craft-related weaknesses in my prose, dialogue, and story-building that I could work on (I mean, nobody’s perfect, right?). But I can’t get feedback on things like that if I don’t actually complete a project and turn it over so that others can read it in the first place.

Turn those writing weaknesses around

Best thing about knowing what your writing weaknesses are is that you can figure out how to combat those weaknesses. Superman, knowing that kryptonite leaves him vulnerable and weak, chooses to avoid it. There’s not much he can do to change his weakness. But you! Your writing weaknesses are totally beatable. How? Take a class, get some feedback, practice practice practice!

It’s also important to remember that your writer’s kryptonite will change. As you begin to identify and combat your writing weaknesses, new ones will crop up and need your attention. The awesome thing is that you’ll be strengthening your craft with each weakness you take on and overcome!

So let’s empty our pockets-full of kryptonite and get on with the business of becoming stronger writers telling the best stories we can.

(Hey! Did you know that Gabriela has a book coming out this summer? Check it out and order your copy here!)

Want to know more about how to up your writing game? Sign up for the Writing Refinery email newsletter. You’ll also receive a free Character Detail Sheet that can help you learn everything you need to know about the main character in your current WIP!

What’s your Storytelling Super Power?

storytellingsuperpowerIf there’s one thing I learned from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, it’s that when you’re up against tough odds, it only makes sense to play to your strengths.

To be sure, having a crack team to support you makes a huge difference. But there’s only so much Ron and Hermione can do for you. At some point you have face the dragon. And when you do, you’ll be totally on your own. The only way you’ll be able to defend yourself is if you know your strengths.

Discover your writing strengths

Knowing what kind of stories you are drawn to can help you figure out which projects to focus on. There’s nothing worse than spending hours banging your head against the wall over a project that you’re not equipped to handle. Sometimes you can gain valuable experience from working on things that you’re not good at. That’s how we grow and gain new skills. But there’s absolutely nothing wrong with playing to your strengths, with knowing what you’re good at and doing that thing.

Not to mention, unless you’re a complete masochist, nobody enjoys forcing themselves to do something they’re not good at. The good news is, at least with writing, you don’t have to! You can figure out what you’re good at and focus on those kind of projects and your readers will love you for it! Why? Because you’ll get better and better at telling those kinds of stories… and the enjoyment you take from creating projects that resonate with you on that kind of level will shine through in your writing.

Why your storytelling super power matters

Me? I’m an underdog. Well, I like underdog stories. My favorite movies are Field of Dreams and Empire Records, both stories with characters trying to overcome tough odds and beat the establishment. (“Damn the man! Save the Empire!” Am I right?) And my current WIP will end up reflecting that. Full disclosure, though, it doesn’t right now! I had been trying to write a Survivor story (think Castaway or The Fault in Our Stars). But after taking the quiz and taking stock of where I was at in my manuscript, I realized my main character was telling me she was an underdog and that she wanted a few changes made to her story to reflect that.

The result: Now my story has a clearer direction! You don’t always have to throw out what you’ve been working on when you realize it should be something else. Sometimes, a few tweaks or the introduction of a new antagonistic force will make all the difference. For me, the key was to NOT give the main character everything she wanted right away, and to raise the stakes so that she has to choose between what she wants and who she loves.

What’s your storytelling superpower?

Wondering what your storytelling strengths might be? Gabriela of DIY MFA and I developed this awesome quiz to help you figure out which stories interest you. I recommend you give it a try! Click here, answer 7 simple questions, and find out what your strengths are.

Once you’ve taken the quiz, hop back over here and let me know what your superpower is! And then dig in and figure out what that means for your writing! Just knowing what your strengths are won’t make your stories stronger. What strategy do you have to play to those strengths?

(Hey! Did you know that Gabriela has a book coming out this summer? Check it out and order your copy here!)

Want to know more about how to up your writing game? Sign up for the Writing Refinery email newsletter. You’ll also receive a free Character Detail Sheet that can help you learn everything you need to know about the main character in your current WIP!

When the going gets tough, real writers…

This post is part of the DIY MFA Street Team Question of the Week series

You know the saying… “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley…” (Thank you, Robert Burns). It’s our way of mourning the death of every New Year’s resolution… If you’re anything like me, you start out the year with the best intentions (#writeeverydamnday). You may have even had a plan for how you were going to accomplish your goals.

But what plan doesn’t run into kinks? Sometimes the kinks are nothing more than the common cold or sleeping through your alarm a couple of times, but other times major life stuff comes up that you can’t just get around dealing with. That’s how life goes. We all know it’s true. Having a plan for how you’re going to accomplish your goals when everything is going smoothly is one thing. What’s your plan for when everything “Gang aft agley”?

What Real Writers Do

If you’re the kind of person who never makes a false move, you’re probably not reading this blog, and obviously I’m not writing this post for you. Honestly, you’re the person we all aspire to be… but you’re also the person who makes the rest of us feel shitty when real life gets in our way. Why can’t our lives go perfectly, too?

Lofty goals of writing  (Stephen King writes 2,000 words a day, “and only under dire circumstances do I allow myself to shut down before I get my 2,000 words.”) are all well and good, but come on. Who has the time/energy/resources to live up to Stephen King’s standards?

So if you don’t live up to that prescriptive method (or anyone else’s list of things that “real writers” do) does that mean you’re not a real writer? Or that you don’t take your craft seriously?

No freaking way. You should always have goals, always set out for the top of the mountain. The good news is, you don’t have to feel shitty when you have to stop before you get there. Because let’s face it, it’s gonna happen. And your writing life (career/identity/dream/whatever you call it) should be built to take it. How?

My friend Gabriela at DIY MFA* calls it “Honoring Your Reality.” Also known as Elisabeth’s Second Commandment: Don’t compare your journey with someone else’s.

The secret is recognizing what you need in order to be the most happy, healthy, productive person, and doing that. It doesn’t matter that Stephen King writes 2,000 words a day. How many words a day can you write? Or maybe it’s how many words a week? Whatever your number and time-span is, own it. Be proud of yourself for getting any words out at all. IMO, some words are better than no words. The actual number and time spent writing varies from moment to moment.

Honor Your Reality

For me, the more I allow myself to do what I need to do, the easier I find to make time for the things that really matter to me. And right now, writing is one of them. But sometimes it’s making sure I’m well rested. And sometimes it’s going out with my friends and having a new experience. Because those things, even if they take away from my writing for a day, will make me a better writer in the long run.

Who writes well when they’re exhausted? And who writes creatively and with nuance when they’ve been shut away from the world for too long (well, besides Emily Dickinson)? But see? Even she honored her reality. She could have said, “I’ll never be a real writer because I haven’t seen enough of the world.” And we all would have missed out on the beautiful brilliance of her voice and her perspective.

And sometimes there are even heavier issues than just being worn out or needing to get out for a while. Sometimes life throws you a real curve ball… When that happens you have to give yourself the space and grace to do what you can when you can. The alternative is living with pain and guilt and shame. And, having been down that road before, I’d advise against it.

So you, yeah you. What’s your reality? What do you do when the going gets tough and you’re struggling to find the time to write? Do you make yourself feel terrible for it? Because you should stop that right now. Figure out what you need to be the person you want to be. And then go do it! That’s what “real writers” do. We write. And we also live.

(Hey! Did you know that Gabriela Pereira of DIY MFA has a book coming out this summer? Check it out and order your copy here!)

Want to know more about how to up your writing game? Sign up for the Writing Refinery email newsletter. You’ll also receive a free Character Detail Sheet that can help you learn everything you need to know about the main character in your current WIP!


Why I write

Write what you loveI’ve been a reader since very young. At 3 years old, I memorized Peter Rabbit… literally knew which words went with which pages, even though I wasn’t associating words with meanings quite yet. I knew that story so well, backwards and forwards, what happened when… we have a recording of my 3-year-old voice “reading” the story to my aunt, and when I get to the end of it, I just start the whole story over again…

I think that being a reader, falling in love with books and stories, is part of how one becomes a writer. There’s something magic about the way that words unlock the world. They lift you out of your current experience and thrust you into another place and time, be that world fictional or utterly real. We are transported by the words on the page, made to think of something other than ourselves if only for a moment. And once you connect with that magic in such a personal way, who can resist the draw of being able to harness the power yourself?

I wrote my first book when I was in elementary school about dolphins, on construction paper and stapled together, complete with researched and organized chapters and oil pastels illustrations. (If I can find it, I’ll post pictures here.) After that I was hooked. I created stories in my head and in spiral notebooks, about horses and unicorns in elementary and middle school, and about angsty love and rejection when I was a little older. Nothing that was worth publishing, most of which I would never share with anyone, not even my most trusted companions. I stopped writing in college (got distracted), but I picked it up again a few short years later.

Now I write light YA fantasy, crafting strong female characters to speak directly to that angsty, rejected teenager I was all those years ago. I’m planning a self-publishing adventure this summer (follow my progress at and the fulfillment of a promise I made to myself as a teenager to publish something that I wrote.

How we came to this land of writing matters for one very important reason. Your writer’s origin story is what you should fall back on when the going gets tough. If you’re serious about succeeding in this often frustrating and soul-crushing world of publishing, you’re going to have to remind yourself why you started in the first place.

For me, when I get scared of sharing my writing because I’m anticipating the painful process of internalizing feedback (growth HURTS, people, it’s why they call them “growing pains”) and getting better as a writer, I think of that teenage me, shiny-eyed, expressive, and innocent. She wanted these stories to be told because she wanted a story to relate to. When I suffer through the painful parts of this process, I do it for her.

Who do you do it for?

*Just FYI, the fab Gabriela Pereira of DIY MFA is releasing a BOOK in June. Learn more about it here.

Own Your Process

This post is inspired by the DIY MFA Street Team weekly prompt.

We live in a magical time. No really, we do. This age of information makes learning a new skill, improving your craft, and finding your tribe remarkably accessible. All you have to do is a quick Google search and you’ll be flooded with more ideas and connections than you could have time to work with if you spent the rest of your life sifting through them all.

So it amazes me when people stay stuck in a rut, when they don’t reach for what they’ve always wanted. It’s right there in front of you! Grab it!

I am one of those people sometimes. It took me nearly a decade after I graduated from college with a BA in English Literature to branch out and decide to reach for my dreams. Still, the more I connected with others who were doing what they loved, the more I realized that it was possible. And one day I just couldn’t sit idly by any longer. I had to give my dreams a try.

Now, just because all of the information you could possibly need is there for the taking doesn’t make the process of achieving your dreams easy. But you can do this thing called being a writer, and you can do it successfully, if you own your process.

What Do You Need to Succeed?

What do I mean by own your process? I mean know yourself. Know what you need in order to be successful. Do you need to enroll in an MFA program and have some external authority riding you to make sure you meet your deadlines and work on your craft? Go enroll then! There are plenty of programs out there willing to teach you what you want to know, willing to give you the structure that you need to make the most of your writing.

But if you don’t have the funds or the flexibility in your schedule to make an MFA program work, does that mean you’ll never become the writer you want to be? No way! You just have to know what you need and then go out and get it.

Do you need writing instruction? There are blogs (ahem) like this one that give you tips and advice for crafting a better narrative or strengthening your main character. Do you need inspiration? Cultivate a reading list of authors you love and authors who can teach you something about your own writing as well.* Do you need motivation and accountability? Look for writer-friends who will make sure you put your butt in the chair and do your work. They might be people you know in your hometown, or they might be people you know on the web.

When I decided it was time to seriously pursue my dreams of writing and owning my own business, I went straight for whatever advice and help I could find. I found the DIY MFA community, to level up my writing game. I began intentionally setting aside reading time for books on writing and editing. I connected with the Editorial Freelancers Association to ask questions and get advice from other editors who are out there doing what I want to do. And I have an accountability buddy who meets me on Google Chat at least 3 mornings a week, to make sure that I get up and write/revise/outline, whatever I need to stay on target for my goals.


Whether you go to a traditional program or cobble your own MFA together (like I am) in the space you have to do it, you are the one doing the work. The writing is yours, and the ideas are, too. You don’t actually need the permission or validation of an outside party to get started. You just have to have the willingness to try something new, to take a risk, learn a new skill, to fail and try again. As I said, these are magical times. All the resources you need are at your fingertips, just waiting for the spark that YOU give them to come to life.

*Just FYI, the fab Gabriela Pereira of DIY MFA is releasing a BOOK in June. Learn more about it here.


You have permission to suck

Give What You HaveI hope you don’t feel neglected, readers. I’ve been deep in the world of my own writing for the past few months, and so I’ve been pretty silent here. I have been sharing the pain of creation with you, the epic struggle that is taking words on the page and making sense of them. It’s not easy. It’s bleeding your heart’s blood onto the paper and then expecting that paper to get up and ask you to dance.

In the process of all of this bleeding and struggling and creating, I’ve been listening to podcasts and reading advice articles from published authors. I’ve been gleaning advice and encouragement and inspiration for myself and also to pass along here to you! But let me tell you, not all of it has been very encouraging.

Growing Pains

There are some good resources out there that help to make sense of this phase of writing that I like to call the “growing pains” phase. But most of the people who have made it seem to have forgotten what it’s like to be there, to be working on your FIRST novel, to be hoping that one day you’ll be on a best-seller list, to be completely unsure that you’ll ever achieve your dreams.

They all talk about it, to be sure. Every one of the podcasts I’ve listened to or advice columns I’ve read talks about the fact that the “growing pains” phase really sucks. That it’s painful and horrible and you’re often embarrassed to admit that you ever wrote that last piece of drivel, let alone that you published it. They forget to remind you that they once were in your shoes and that they had to fail in order to succeed. It’s almost like they pretend that phase of their writing careers never REALLY happened.

The confusing part is that in the traditional publishing world debut novels are never first novels. And they forget to tell you that sucking is an essential phase that you have to go through in order to get better. This part where your writing is awkward and you’re still discovering your voice, this is where you gather your true audience.

Warts and All

If you want people to read what you write, you have to start sharing it. Only then will it get better. Only then will people be touched by what you have to say. Only by sharing your first, heartfelt, awkward, and authentic attempts at the thing you care about will you connect with people who genuinely care about what you have to say.

It’s what we love in our characters. We love the vulnerability of characters that don’t always get everything right, that aren’t the most polished and professional. We love them for their flaws. I’m not saying that your work should never become more polished, but it’s part of the process. Show the bumps in your process so that they can be smoothed. Give people the opportunity to see you grow! And who knows who you will encourage in the process.

You Have Permission

You have permission to write that first, bad novel. You have permission to publish it yourself. Sure, it may fail spectacularly, but if you don’t try you don’t learn. If you don’t put your writing out into the world to start getting feedback, how are you ever going to get better?

So go ahead, write that first novel. Work on it, love it, put your heart into it. And then try not to be crushed if it’s not a flying success. No one expects you to succeed on your first try. You’re making space for yourself to grow, to become the storyteller you were meant to be.

You started writing because you have a story to share. Well, someone out there is waiting for that story, and the next one, and the next one. Get started. Share your voice with the world.