Took me a little while, but here we are, finishing what we started.
Write the book you want to read.
This one should be pretty obvious, but sometimes it seems like people aren’t quite getting it. It’s often pretty obvious when a writer isn’t really invested in what they’re working on. The question I often ask myself when I see something like this is, “why did this writer see this through to completion?” I filter this sort of content out pretty quickly in my own writing. If I’m not into whatever it is I’m writing, I just stop. You should, too. Trying to write something you wouldn’t want to read won’t do anyone any favors (unless of course you’re writing a paper for a class, in which case you’re doing both yourself and your grades a favor by finishing).
When you’re interested in what you’re writing, chances are that your readers, whoever they are, will be, too.
Get author book jacket photos taken now, while you’re young. And get the negatives and copyright on those photos.
I can’t really speak to this, since I’m still young, and the part about negatives is becoming more and more obsolete every minute (unless you’re having your picture taken by an artiste). I will say, though, that if you have a picture of yourself that you think would make a good book jacket photo, owning the copyright can’t hurt; you never know when someone might come out of the woodwork and want money because you’re using a photo they took of you at a party years ago. Copyright, in this digital age, is more flexible in a lot of folks’ minds, but that’s not really a subject for this venue, or at least not for this moment. If you want to read something intelligent about copyright, go find an article by Cory Doctorow.
Write about the issues that really upset you. Those are the only things worth writing about. . . . Life is too precious to spend it writing tame, conventional stories to which you have no personal attachment. . . .
This goes along well with point 10, above. It’s natural to learn a lot about any issue that you’re passionate about, especially if it upsets you, and if you’re really upset, really impassioned about an issue, then chances are very good that your passion will rub off on your readers. Note that just because something upsets you doesn’t mean it has to be an emotionally fraught subject. The death of a parent, for example, is very upsetting, personally, and it’s possible to write a very powerful piece on the subject, but such a fraught subject can, at times, be emotionally taxing to readers as well as writers. Go ahead and get upset, but provide emotional balance, or you’ll turn your readers off and wear yourself out, to boot.
. . . Whether we envied or pitied this guy in the cold, he kept painting. Adding details and layers of color. And I’m not sure when it happened, but at some moment he wasn’t there. . . .
Having a final takeaway message here, I think, is irrelevant to the story, but since I’m going point, by,point, I’ll just reiterate something that’s been said by every writer everywhere pretty much. Don’t give up. Some people will love what you do, some won’t. Some people won’t get it. Among those people, there will undoubtedly be publishers and agents. Ask yourself, though, if you’re writing for them, or if you’re writing for yourself. If it’s the latter, you’re more likely to find some success, because when you’re making art for its own sake–when you’re doing it because it’s what you want to do and what you need to do–that’s when you, the artist, will disappear in the minds of your readers. Then they can see what you’ve done as a whole piece, without the distraction of your being there.