11 Things Writers Don’t Hear Often Enough

You don’t hear any of these things enough. So listen now.

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1. You’re going to be the first person to tell your story in your own unique way.

2. Just because you’re not confident enough doesn’t mean your story isn’t good.

3. You create your own definition of success. There is no “standard” of what it means to make it in writing.

4. You don’t have to be “like” or “as good as” any other writer.

5. Frustration, disappointment, and shame are perfectly normal and acceptable emotions.

6. Self-doubt is part of your journey, not your defining element.

7. You don’t have to pretend to be OK when you’re not.

8. Your best is enough.

9. Everyone fails. Not everyone gets back up and goes again.

10. People’s opinions of your work don’t necessarily reflect their opinions of you as a person.

11. Your dreams are worth the risk.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

Why We End Up Writing What We Don’t Want to Write

It’s always a balancing act.

Anyone who has been fortunate enough to get paid to write knows that your first day on the job can be a bit of an unsolicited wake-up call. You’re very excited to Write For a Living — finally! But it becomes very clear, very quickly, that you don’t have total freedom when it comes to deciding what you get to write about. Especially when you’re brand-new to a company or industry.

This is how it is regardless of your job description. You get in and realize that you’re still very lucky to be able to do what you enjoy — but it doesn’t always manifest the way your dreams promised it would.

So you do the work you’re assigned, you hope it’s worth the hours, and you return home after the sun has gone down and pray you have the energy to drop another 1,000 words into your WIP before you fall asleep. You can’t just neglect it now. Can you?

The reality is, you don’t always get to write what you want to write. Yet you still have to figure out how to create space in your life for the projects you’re fully passionate about.

When there’s something in front of you that you’re not all that ecstatic about working on, honestly, you just have to set aside your apathy and do it anyway. You’ll be surprised at how invested you can become in a project once you really get into it. Your perceptions cloud your expectations. That’s why you just have to dive in, and see it for what it truly is, instead of what you think it will be.

And then you have to leave room in your schedule for the things you already know you’re going to write with as much enthusiasm as you can manage. That’s not an easy thing to do, because by the time you’ve met your obligations for the day, you’re too worn out to create freely on your own time — no matter how much you might want to.

There are many ways to “solve” this problem. You can do what many writers at least strive to do — spend most of their time writing on behalf of someone else, until they no longer have to.

You can refuse to write what you don’t want to write, and focus all your energy on the things you do want to work on — with the understanding that just because you’re passionate and willing to work hard doesn’t mean it’s always going to turn out the way you want.

And then you can learn to make both fit into your life. Your ‘day job,’ for example, might let you write anything you want, even though it’s not a steady or significant source of income, while you spend your evenings supplementing that with less-than-ideal freelancing work. Or flip that around — write what doesn’t excite you during the day, and leave the fun stuff for Saturday mornings.

Sometimes, it’s all a balancing act. You have to let yourself enjoy writing while also building up your portfolio, creating business relationships, and, let’s be honest, paying the bills. The fun stuff doesn’t always let you do all these things. But you can’t cut yourself off completely from your personal creative time. That’s not good for you or your future readers.

We write what we don’t want to write, sometimes, because we have to.

But it’s good practice. It’s good for our brains, for our work ethic, for our futures.

It’s not always ideal. But it’s always worth it.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

The Deal With Disappointment

You’re allowed to feel it.

We’ve all felt it.

That overly sour cocktail, frustration mixed with anger mixed with doubt and despair. We call it disappointment. It’s one of many things we try our hardest to avoid in our careers and throughout our personal lives, even though we’re well aware everything we do puts us in danger of experiencing it.

Creatives especially have to come to terms with their decision to pursue careers that can’t happen without bouts of disappointment along the way. Things happen. You finally let yourself hope that your hard work is going to pay off … and then it doesn’t.

How do you deal, when things don’t go your way? How do you get past feeling like you just want to stop trying to hard only to let yourself — or others — down?

Here’s my advice. I hope it eases your pain, at least a little.

You’re allowed to be disappointed. It’s a completely normal human emotion, just like anger, sadness, fear, and joy. Don’t feel like you have to pretend you aren’t feeling this way. Come on — you hoped for something and it didn’t happen. That’s upsetting, no matter how big or small this thing is that you dreamed of. And don’t let anyone try to tell you you’re not allowed to be upset. You are.

Sure, you can quit. Maybe you’ve tried one too many times, and you’re just done. No one should ever tell you that you aren’t allowed to choose that outcome. Should you give up on your dreams entirely? No. But maybe you’ve been trying to get a book published, and it just isn’t happening. There are other ways to get your work out there. You might just have to reframe the way you look at your future. Go at it from a different angle. It’s possible your disappointment can open up a new door for you.

You can’t fully rely on your expectations. Things don’t always go the way you plan, and that’s rough. Yes, you can — and should, as much as you can — be optimistic. You are allowed to hope that things go the best way possible for you. But remember, as a writer, that your imagination often takes things a little too far. That’s not your fault. Just lower your expectations. Not so much that you stop hoping for good. Just enough so you don’t forget it’s possible to fall.

It’s not the end of the world. That’s the last thing you want to hear right now. I know. But at some point, maybe you’ll be able to use it as fuel to power your next endeavor. Disappointment can wear you down, but you don’t have to let it break you. You can move forward, and you will. Rejections, failed projects — all of it can feel like a terrible ending. It’s not. It’s just an unfavorable outcome. There will be many more good and bad endings, but they always lead into new beginnings. Eventually.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

How Can a Writer Plan for the Future When the Future’s So Unpredictable?

But seriously, how?

You don’t know.

You wish you did. You think you do.

But you don’t.

All writers have dreams. We’re good at imagining hypothetical scenarios that may or may not happen — it’s how our brains are wired, so to speak. We can picture in our heads where we want to end up. Signing copies of our own books in a bookstore. Speaking at a writing conference. At the front of a room, responsible for teaching young writers. On the scene, ready to report the details of a breaking news story.

Any of these things could happen. Or not.

When I was 17, I composed a private journal entry in which I laid out everything I was going to accomplish in the next five years. Most people don’t make plans like this, but I wanted to. I needed some certainty in my life. I craved it.

That journal is in a box somewhere in storage, but I remember bits and pieces of that plan. Mostly, I was going to have an agent before I finished my English degree three years from then. That’s what I wanted. That’s what I’d been told I could make happen, if I worked hard enough.

That — and many other plans I laid out on paper that day — did not, or have yet to, happen.

I am a writer — it is my profession. But I do not write in any capacity I would have expected to write within all those years ago. Nothing’s like I planned.

But is that really so bad?

OK. Fine. You get it. Plans change. The future is uncertain. Writing, as a career, is pretty weird.

But. How. Do. We. Deal?

How are you supposed to set goals and keep writing when everything could change tomorrow?

What if the book you want to work on never gets published?

What if the pilot you’re pouring your heart and soul into never gets made?

What if your dreams never come true?

What if?

What if?

Then what?

You write.

When you’re tired of working on the same story and it’s no longer the thing you believe you’re meant to do, you write something else.

When things throw you off course and you no longer know what you want to do with your life, even if no one else ever sees it, you still write anyway.

When you’re not sure if you’re good enough or unique enough or worthy enough, when it doesn’t seem like you should even bother, you just keep writing, because there’s nothing else.

You write poems. Songs. Plays. Epic fantasies. Anything. Everything. Until one day, something clicks.

There’s no planning for the future. It just happens.

You write your way onto the right path somehow. It happened to me. It will happen to you.

As long as you never stop writing, it will remain part of your future. Maybe in a big way. Maybe in a very small one.

You can make all the plans you need to. What you can’t do is fall apart when things change. Writing will get you through it. You just have to trust your creative instincts, and find the path that suits you. It might be the one you’re most passionate about. The one that will support you financially, for now. The one that will serve as your springboard to where you really want to be.

Write, always. Your future is uncertain because your life is a story. You’re not supposed to know the ending. You’re not supposed to figure out how all the loose ends fit together yet. Not now. Someday.

Until then … you know what to do.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

Everything Changes When Writing Becomes Your Full-time Job

That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

We all start out in the same place.

Sitting in our bedrooms, writing our way from dreams to goals to accomplishments one word at a time.

It’s a hobby. Until it isn’t anymore.

When I quit freelancing, I made my full-time writing job my main career focus. As the weeks went on, that meant I had to choose how to spend my evenings and weekends. I could spend them working on my own writing projects. Or I could scale back on those extra projects and split my time between my job and my “me” time.

Lately, I’ve been choosing me time more than extra project time. And at first, that worried me. Did I suddenly no longer care about my book? Was I going to abandon it for good?

The answer is, of course, no. As a writer, you learn the importance of diversifying not only your income, but your creative time. I’ll always rely on those extra things to keep my creative energy up and fuel my internal motivation outside the office.

In reality, something big had shifted without my noticing. Suddenly, writing was no longer something I did on nights and weekends to keep my bank account alive. It was, officially, my career. I went to work to write. There was a time I wondered if I’d ever even want to do that. It’s not always feasible to come home from a long day of writing and continue writing. It’s not always realistic, or necessary.

How do you balance this — writing all day and then coming home to write for personal gain (e.g., trying to finish writing that stupid book)? That’s advice for another post. I’m still figuring it out. I don’t have all the answers. But I do know it’s a tough transition. You hear so many stories about aspiring creatives spending all day doing boring work, only to come home and pursue their dreams through exhaustion and doubt. Many people’s stories turn out that way. But they don’t always. They don’t have to.

This isn’t a hobby anymore. It’s also not something to work “toward.” It’s real. It’s not always exactly what you want it to be, but it’s something. It’s a bigger part of your life than you might have ever believed it could be.

Is it worth it? Yes. If that’s what you have worked toward, or are in the process of doing so, it’s a dream worth chasing. You just have to know, going in, that you might have to reframe the way you look at this thing that was once your hobby or part-time gig. It’s not bad. It’s just … different.

There are still days I get frustrated. Because you really do get too tired, too mentally exhausted, to push yourself as hard as you want to. That’s not laziness. It’s normal.

It’s still a struggle. But that’s what we sign up for, when we decide to be writers. We accept challenges we aren’t even aware of yet. And we face them. And sometimes, we even conquer them.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

How to Write the Perfect Story

It’s simple, really.

If I asked you to describe “the perfect story,” what would you say?

Could you even come up with an answer?

Maybe. Maybe not.

If you’re here to learn what a perfect story is, and how to write one, I have what I hope is a fairly straightforward strategy for you to follow.

It’s simple, really.

All you have to do is sit down.

Spend 2-3 months trying to come up with a story idea no one else has thought of before.

Spend the next 6 months researching every small detail so your first draft doesn’t need fact-checking.

Spend 2 years writing and rewriting the same first chapter until it’s just right.

Spend the next 3 decades trying to make that first draft spotless.

And the decades that follow, well, you just have to spend them wondering if your story is even good enough to show to other people.

Yeah. That’s probably not going to happen.

Because guess what? It’s not possible.

You can’t write “the perfect story.” There is no such thing.

Every single story ever told has flaws. And just because one person doesn’t mind them being there doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

You can’t spend your whole life trying to write the perfect first draft. You will never finish it.

And if by some miracle you do, the moment you or someone else finds something “wrong” with it, you’ll spiral into an endless obsession with trying to “fix” it.

You can’t fix something that is not broken.

Your story is not broken. It is a story. If it’s a first draft, sure, there might be some things you don’t like, or your editor tells you to do something over. Welcome to writing! This is how it works.

A “good book” is not a perfect book. It is good. Ask me my three favorite books, and I can tell you something that bothers me about each of them.

Don’t listen to anyone who says an imperfect story isn’t worth reading, or writing. I honestly don’t know when we started expecting storytellers to be perfect, but it really needs to stop.

You don’t have to be perfect. You just have to do your best. And improve your best work.

If trying to write a perfect story stops you from writing, it’s not worth it. The perfectionism part, I mean. You’re letting something so trivial hold you back. Why? Because you’re worried about getting criticized? Then why are you writing a story you want to show to other people? Criticism is part of the game. Not everyone is going to like your stories. Is that really such a bad thing?

When you are writing a first draft, all that matters is that you’re telling the best story you can tell, the best way you know how to tell it, right now. Improvements come later. Criticism comes later. Right now, it’s just you, and your unfinished story, alone.

Finish it. No matter how imperfect. It’s very freeing. And pretty amazing, too.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

4 Types of Rejections All Writers Have Found In Their Inboxes

Sigh.

Rejection. Is. The. Worst.

You know it’s just part of the game.

But still.

You’ve probably gotten some of these rejections before. How did they make you feel?

The “it was nice working with you, but please go away”

“Hey, thanks for all your hard work, but we’re switching to an internal model and won’t be outsourcing any of our production to freelancers anymore. Bye.”

This isn’t the most traditional type of rejection, but it’s more common than you might think. In most cases, they’re not just saying this to get you to stop working for them — freelancers are kind of expensive … but it still strings. More than one well-paying, trustworthy client has dropped me this way, and even though it’s usually not your fault, you can’t help but wonder: “Did I do something wrong?”

The “thanks for trying, but …”

“Dear writer, thank you so much for your submission to our publication. Unfortunately, your work has not been selected for publishing.”

These are usually the “template” emails — the generic, “we’re sending this to mass quantities of people who are all getting rejected, we don’t actually care” emails. I wish writers never had to see these. I understand why they happen. I was … fortunate? … enough to work for a small magazine where I could actually respond individually to every person who wasn’t getting their work published. It was a lot less terrible, as an editor, to send rejections when I was genuinely trying hard not to discourage them too much.

The “we’re not accepting submissions right now”

“Thanks, but we’re not selecting any new work for publication at this time …”

Maybe their submission forms were outdated. Maybe you got a date wrong. Maybe they just need an excuse not to bother with you. It’s these kinds of rejections that are most frustrating for me. Does it mean I can submit again later? Did I do a bad job and you’re just not telling me? I need to know! Well, this is just how it goes. In some ways, this is also the easiest type of rejection to react to — you just move on to another publication with slightly less deflated hopes.

The “we actually sort of care about you but still no”

“I’m glad I got the opportunity to look over your work. You’re a great writer, and I hope you’ll continue to create well thought-out content like this. This piece doesn’t quite meet our requirements — we’re looking for something about topics our audience members are interested, like x. Feel free to browse our archives to get a better idea of our scope and style, and please, submit again when you’ve come up with something.”

You’re probably not going to get rejections like this. They’re the least painful to write, but extremely time-consuming — I just threw this together as a shaky example, and it still took longer than most editors will have time to craft. There are probably some editors out there who really do wish they could say yes to you, but just can’t. You’ll be OK. You’ll find somewhere else.

Rejection is terrible. But in a world full of writers who have dealt with it before, at least you’re not alone.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

11 Writing Regrets You Could Have One Day — But Don’t Have To

You might regret the things you don’t try.

1. Talking yourself out of trying something new.

2. Getting too comfortable.

3. Not taking a chance on a big, scary idea.

4. Letting other people’s actions and words stand in your way.

5. Not listening when someone who cares about you says you’re doing a good job.

6. Only writing what you think other people will like/care about.

7. Never telling the one story you’ve always wanted to tell.

8. Giving up too soon.

9. Letting yourself believe you’re too old; too young; it’s not the right time; it’s too late.

10. Not daring to try again after you’ve fallen short of success.

11. Forgetting the real reason you started writing in the first place.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

What Happens When You Stop Trying?

Just stop trying, go ahead.

The language we use when talking about our plans matters more than you might think.

You say, “I’ll try to write a book this year.”

You say, “I’ll try to start posting on my blog again.”

You say, “I’ll try to set some writing goals and be more productive.”

But do you really mean to turn these words into actions? Or are you just saying words?

I get that when you say, “I’ll try,” what you probably mean is that you’re determined not to give up no matter how discouraged you might feel. Trying, to you, might mean that you’re going to move forward with a project or assignment knowing that you very well might fail.

If “I’ll try” helps you accept that not succeeding is a very real possibility in anything you promise to do, I suppose you’re not wrong.

But from my perspective, giving yourself permission to fail isn’t always a good thing. It can be, in some cases. In others, it also gives you permission not to work as hard as you could.

For some people, “trying” just isn’t quite enough.

Like everyone’s favorite Jedi Master points out, sometimes, you have to make a choice. Are you going to go all in — or not at all?

Do, or do not — there is no try.

Stop trying. Start doing.

Writing is a verb. An active phase of creating something using words. You can try to start something, or finish it. You can try to publish something, win an award, become successful.

But there’s no point in even trying if you’re not fully committed to actually following through.

I want you to stop trying. But I don’t want you to quit. I want you to sit down, think about the one writing-related thing you want to prioritize this year, and I want you to say, out loud, “I will do this thing.”

You won’t try to. You won’t say, “Maybe I can do it this year.” No. You’re going to do it. Why? Because no matter the reason(s) you think you can’t, I bet you can. I really do.

Don’t let “trying” hold you back.

If you do it, and fail, that’s OK. Get back up and do it again. As many times as you have to.

Go all in. Do.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

Sometimes Writes Are a Little Selfish – and That’s OK

Embrace it.

Sometimes, writers are a little selfish.

We occasionally start new projects because we’re interested and excited about them, not because we think others will benefit from them. At least, not at first.

We sometimes provide writing advice we ourselves need to hear, instead of doing it just for someone else.

Sometimes, we’re terrible people.

Except not really. We’re simply human.

A lot of the time, we consider ourselves first, and others second. It just so happens that our ideas are relatable enough that we simultaneously end up serving others more than ourselves.

Does that make us bad people? Of course not. If you haven’t noticed, writers talk about themselves a lot. It’s not always because they mean to or because they think they’re better than everyone else (I suppose there are some who think that way …).

It’s because they’re talking about writing from their own perspective. It’s like when I share a professional writing experience with you to talk about a lesson I learned or to give you an important reminder. I thought of it because it happened to me first. I’m just passing along the “wisdom.”

We’re all a little bit selfish. As long as that’s your starting point, and somewhere along the way you transform “I’m doing this for me” into “other people can really get something out of this, and I might, too,” you’re not in the wrong. You’re completely normal. Congratulations! You are not a robot.

Not everything you do, say, or write has to be about your audience. You don’t ALWAYS have to put them first. At least, not AT first.

If you have an idea for a story, and you want to write that story regardless of who may or may not want to read it at some point in the future, for goodness’ sake, write the story anyway!

If you want to start a blog to build up content to show prospective clients or employers, but you might also be able to help other people or provide a service for others in the process, let that be your motivator. Don’t put off starting a blog because you’re not sure it will fit into a “popular enough niche.”

Embrace your selfishness. Your humanity.

I’m going to dare to say, it might make you a better writer. A more relatable creative. As long as you’re going about it honestly, and constructively. You can write things for yourself and still do great things for the world that way.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.