Ok. So a lot of people tell aspiring writers to read, which is excellent advice. A lot of people tell aspiring writers to get English degrees, which is good advice, or to not get English degrees because you should do a degree that actually leads to a job, which is sensible advice*. A lot of people tell aspiring writers to be friendly and professional to all publishing people, to blog and be internet friendly, to have hobbies which are not writing, to write the stories that you love to read, to learn grammar rules so you can be all the better at breaking them, to only write plans if you like writing plans, to follow your instincts, to write wholeheartedly and give each story everything you have. Great advice, all of it.
But the best advice I ever received came from the author John Marsden.
About five years ago he did a talk at my old high school. My sister and I went up to talk with him after. He was friendly and polite, my sister was a quiet mouse, and I was a babbling crazy fangirl. I somehow ended up telling him that I wanted to be a writer. Or my sister did. Later, as we were walking away, he called out, "You’re the one that wants to be an author?"
The advice he called out after me was one word long.
That word has stayed with me ever since. Because no matter how good your intentions are, none of the rest of the advice means anything if you don’t persevere. A lot of the time I write with all this other stuff talking away inside my head, telling me that I’m not a very good writer, that the story is never going to be as good as I want it to be, and also that there are very extremely important things I should be doing right now at this exact minute, like practising my singing and wandering round the house and feeding the dishwasher. You know, important things.
On the days when I get stuck and confused, on the days when I would rather be doing anything except writing, I tell myself to persevere. And when I persevere, more often than not, things sort themselves out.
And that’s how novels get finished.
*I’m not sensible. I did an English degree. I’m still trying to work out what the hell to do with it.