Everyone Has A Story

By Leslie Welch

Before I was an author, I was a video producer. In 2011, I was filming promo videos for a conference. While the crew set up lights and the backdrop, I nervously fidgeted across from Peter H. Reynolds—a New York Times Bestselling author and renowned illustrator. Star struck? That’s a big understatement. After we reviewed the interview questions, I blurted out that I was a writer.

From my personal experience, there are a few ways successful authors react to the confession of a hopeful writer. Some give you a condescending “that’s great,” or “best of luck.” Others brush it off like it’s a phrase they’ve heard a thousand times (which they probably have). But Peter’s eyes lit with genuine excitement.

“Everyone should write a book,” he said. “We all have a story to tell.”

I remember thinking, “If I ever publish a book, that’s the message I want to share, too.”

Now that my debut novel The Goodbyes is in the hands of readers, I’m proud to carry Peter’s message forward.

My Advice to Aspiring Authors

To start writing a book, you need three things: an idea, something to capture your words, and a lot of dedication.

We live in a time when our stories can reach the world without the blessing of another person. Electronic books have changed the rules of publishing. But to be a good—or great—writer, the rules haven’t changed.

Here are a few tips I’ve collected on this journey:

  • Don’t edit until the first draft is done. Make notes if you must. The first draft is supposed to be a disaster. If you get bogged down chasing perfection, you won’t finish. Embrace the mess—fix it later.
  • If you’re writing for insta-fame, you’re doing it wrong.
  • Write something you want to read. If you think it’s too weird or too honest for the world, you’re doing it right.
  • Connect with other writers. Follow them on Twitter. Build your community; you’ll need their support when you feel like giving up.
  • Read your dialogue out loud.
  • Reject the rejection, but consider the criticism. If someone’s telling you there are issues with your story, take a step back and try to see it from their perspective.
  • Throw in a 180-degree twist if you don’t know where else to go.

The Timeline of Becoming a “Good” Writer

After I finished my first book, I had an unwarranted sense of hubris. Convinced that agents and publishers were going to be fighting over my manuscript, I “knew” I was different from the writers who spoke about rejection and perseverance. It didn’t take long to find out that I was exactly like them.

Becoming a good writer is like growing up. When you start off, you’re a cocky teenager. You know best. You may even think the rules of this industry don’t apply to you.

Then, you finish a book and graduate to your early twenties. Eager, motivated, excited. Your first rejection humbles you a bit. A few more rejections dim your spark. A few dozen suck any radiance left into a black hole of self-doubt.

If you’re serious about writing, you keep going into middle age. You look back and think your first attempts were amateurish. The realization that you were guilty of tropes and predictable plots embarrasses you. You start listening to the experts. You may even trunk your first book and start another.

I’ve written some embarrassing combinations of words. I know I’ll write more in the future, but I trust the process now. I write the crappy words to get to the good ones. This is the place where freedom starts and you really start writing.

Peter was right; we all have a story to tell. And if you’re dreaming of becoming an author, I’m cheering for you!

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