1. Don’t think you will be able to remember that great idea in the middle of the night. You won’t. Write it down.
2. Don’t write your story in your head; apply your bumglue and sit down and write it out. A little bit everyday if possible.
3. Don’t edit prematurely: write it all down as it comes to you, you never know when a ‘stupid idea’ actually works itself into a plot point or theme that ties everything together, in an original and interesting way.
4. Don’t tell everyone/friends/family the details of your story ideas before you write them down and/or send them off; not only will you read things into their reactions that could put you off before you even start, but you could also be diluting your ideas by speaking it out loud before you get it onto paper where it belongs. Also, you let yourself in for a world of pain where every time you see these people they will a) ask you how that book about the grandmother with the weird prosthesis-lust is going or b) give you some suggestions they thought of for your story (with no credit required: yeah right!)
5. Don’t be too hard on yourself: take a break when it’s not working and don’t heap the guilt on. Push yourself on with rewards not recriminations: I get to have a Wagon Wheel if I get to 3,000 words unedited.
6. Don’t put off inspiration: if she hits you hard, give yourself 5 minutes to get the basic idea down, even if Great Aunty Gwen is going to be here any minute, or you’re on holidays and just about to take the kids to the beach. 5 minutes won’t hurt, and if you grab that elusive idea, no matter how briefly, it will put a little zing in your step.
7. Don’t think you are too old: you’re not; or that it’s too late: it isn’t. The older you are, the more wisdom/experience/maturity you can give to your writing. Be open to opportunities and they will find you at any age.
8. Don’t give up your day job and don’t take that quip personally. Having kids and a mortgage provides some people with the pressure they need to write and pay their bills. For other people it just provides the pressure to paralyse them. Plus, having a day job is an excellent way to hear conversations and experience the conflicts and dynamics that are so interesting in fiction.
9. Don’t keep things in the bottom drawer or the back burner forever. Take them out and dust them off; perhaps they will reinspire you all over again, perhaps they can be recycled into something longer/shorter/better. Perhaps they will just show you how far you’ve come.
10. Don’t give up.
11. Don’t read writing magazines/manuals/workbooks to the exclusion of writing: it’s just a form of procrastination. Those tomes can inspire you to great heights but in the wrong frame of mind, they can cast you into the depths of ‘I’m-no-good-depression’ particularly articles written by superstar writers who sat down and figured out an entire bestselling series in a cafe! Reading everything feeds your writing, but sometimes reading Writing books replaces your writing.
12. Don’t write a list, Alyson Hill, and forget to take your own advice. Idiot.