Goodreads asked Courtney Hunt:

What’s your advice for aspiring writers?

Courtney Hunt In my experience, there are three ways that writer’s fail. The first is not to finish their work. Not revising is the second. And not understanding the promotion requirements the third.

There are many obstacles to finishing work. Self-doubt seems to be the big monster here. I’ve never met a writer that didn’t suffer from crippling self-doubt from time to time. There’s no way around it, you must only go through. Keep on going to the the end, let nothing stop you.

I don’t pretend that this is easy, by any means. All of modern society seems hell bent on keeping us away from the keyboard at times. There’s no way that a harried, overworked, over-stressed stay at home dad or working woman, whether as a retail cashier or in the executive suite, can pound out 10,000 words a day. But maybe they can cram it in at the corners of their busy lives somehow.

Starting a daily writing practice is the first, and sometimes the hardest step. Chuck Wendig’s blog post on his amazing blog, Terrible Minds, worked for me. The key is setting the bar low enough that it’s not impossible to jump over on the worst days. I started my own daily writing practice of 350 words and continued for a 274 day streak.

Professional writers suffer from this too. There are plenty of days when alphabetizing my spices or organizing my kitchen cabinets seems more appealing than fighting to get the words down. I’m used to it now. I feel restless and cranky on days when I don’t write.

Writers write. No way around this requirement. Must be done.

Once a writer does reach the most blessed words in the english language “The End,” many newbie writers are surprised to realize that this is not, in fact, the end at all, but rather a new beginning. This is true both for self-published writers and for traditionally published writers. You need an editor—both a developmental editor and a copy-editor, maybe more. And you need to be able to take their advice because you all have the same goal—to make your story the best that it can be. Self-published writers have other tasks here too—cover art, formatting, etc. Many don’t want to put the effort into revision and, especially self-pubs are guilty of this, slap the book as is up on Amazon or the e-retailer of choice, sit back, and wonder why it doesn’t sell.

Once the book is live, many authors turn to promotion. This is far too late. It’s never too early to create your website, start tweeting, face booking or whatever other social media accounts you need. You must engage with your readers early and often, to build your readership. It’s not terribly costly in terms of money but it is a time sink.

Then, of course, this process must be repeated, over and over again, for the rest of your career. Promotion and getting words on the page become a daily focus and a sometimes impossible balance. Maybe you learn something as you go along, but, there always seems to be something more to learn, some new skill, that must be applied to the new work. None of us ever reach mastery in the craft of writing. There is always something new, something different to learn, with each new project.

I often have multiple projects at various stages in the revision process also. There are a lot of moving parts. I often feel that, if only I could give up sleeping all together, I’d manage to get it all accomplished. A well-balanced life is our great modern myth. You’re as like to find a unicorn in your backyard as you are to create a truly balanced life.

But if you want a richly creative life, and to leave a legacy with your words, well, then, you know what to do.

Put your butt in the chair, your hands on the keyboard…and write.

About Goodreads Q&A

Ask and answer questions about books!

You can pose questions to the Goodreads community with Reader Q&A, or ask your favorite author a question with Ask the Author.

See Featured Authors Answering Questions

Learn more