12 Things I Wish I’d Known About Writing Fiction

By DiAnn Mills @DiAnnMills

I started writing seriously in 1996, and over the years I’ve learned the hard way a few truths about creating fiction—and a lot about myself. I wouldn’t change any of the life lessons. But perhaps these 12 discoveries of what I wish I’d known back then will help you understand a writer’s life.

  1. Research doesn’t mean a jaunt to the library or speeding across the internet. It means doing everything possible to walk in your character’s shoes. Even the uncomfortable things.
  2. Characters are merely talking heads on a blank piece of paper until they crawl into my soul and start speaking to me.
  3. Journeying into a character’s life means accumulating every piece of physical, mental, and spiritual knowledge that motivates the character into realistic and unpredictable action.
  4. Emotional pain knocks at the writer’s heart and bleeds onto the written page through the victories and challenges of a character’s life.
  5. Readers don’t want to read about my characters; they want to be the character.
  6. A perceptive writer understands all the weirdoes in her family are a compilation of herself and outstanding story fodder.
  7. A savvy writer knows that cutting the flab in their manuscript adds muscle and reduces the fat.
  8. A writer’s tools are his words—add to them daily, keep their usage sharp, memorize their meanings, and learn to spell them like a first place winner in a spelling bee.
  9. I hope to one day know the difference between lie and lay or sit and set. Until then, my characters will rest and stand.
  10. Some critics are like boo birds that sit on their lofty power lines and drop their critiques on those beneath.
  11. Success is a hundred pages without an adverb.
  12. If I don’t change and grow into a better person at the end of each novel, then I can’t expect the character or the reader to change and grow. In reality, I’ve failed.

So those are the 12 items that have helped me overcome challenges and move forward in my writing career. Are there any on the list that you expected to see but are missing?