1. BE KIND. Read for your fellow writers and offer good, honest critique. It’s easy to look down on someone else’s work when you yourself are long past the stage of development where everyone either longed to suggest you get another hobby. Be generous with praise, but be genuine.
2. PLAY WITH THE NICE KIDS. There was an unpublished writer I greatly admired. For a bunch of psychological reasons I won’t go into, I felt like such an idiot around her. Glaring red flags went up. I was so enamored with this person, my work suffered horribly. Pat attention! Those red flags are there for a reason.
3. STICK UP FOR YOURSELF. If you’re serious about writing, put yourself out there in critique groups. Listen to everything and fight the uncontrollable urge to defend your work. If the criticism is valid, it just is. But don’t be a pushover.
4. TEACHERS KNOW EVERYTHING. Not everything, but teachers have a bigger and better toolbox and they know how to use those tools. Best of all, they want to teach you how to use them, too.
5. DO IT AGAIN. Writing is like cleaning a bathroom. No matter how well I thought I'd done it, my mom always found something I missed and made me do it again. Be ready to write and rewrite to get noticed. Then, after you have an agent and a publisher, you’ll rewrite again.
6. GUARD YOUR STUFF. With computers and their tiny vast minds, it’s easy to think of them like a piggy bank. When you need to find where you said something really cool, you just give it a shake and there it is. As amazing as computers are, they aren’t foolproof. Use a back up service. Hell, print it out and put it in the safe deposit box in case the house burns down. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.
7. ROLLY POLLIES & BAKING. Don’t forget to layer in the small stuff, such as noticing things like rolly pollies or the design of wrinkles on your protagonist’s forehead, what her hands look like and why. Then taste your batch of words, smack your lips together. What does it need to become richer? Chocolate is good, but sadly isn’t always the answer.
8. GO FISHING. If you want to be a good writer, go fishing. You can learn a lot about writing just dangling a line in the water. Sensory detail, order and pacing are vital. Above all, patience will come in handy after you’ve written your novel and are ready to sell it.
9. TAKE GOOD CARE OF IMAGINARY FRIENDS. Those voices you hear in your head are a gift. They provide an understanding of your characters that can never be attained with process gimmicks, charts, or outlines. They are windows into souls that exist only to have their stories told.
Kim Boykin writes stories about strong Southern women, and her “beauty school” novel titled The Wisdom of Hair will be released in the Spring of 2013. Learn more at her website, kimboykin.com