The more you write, the better you get. That should go without saying, but discouragement can dim our perceptions, so I’m coming right out and saying it:
Every hour you spend writing makes you a better writer.
I talk a lot about the learning curve of your first novel. If you’re like most people, as you work your way through your first book, you’ll look back every so often and shudder at your earlier chapters. It’s tempting to go back and try to polish your old writing up to your current level of proficiency. Don’t do it! Believe it or not, you can write a novel from beginning to end without stopping in the middle to go back and fix it. In fact, I recommend you don’t stop.
Make notes instead. Scrawl in the margins. Use up a whole pad of yellow sticky notes if you must. But don’t spend time “fixing” your old pages until you finish the entire book. Why? Because by the time you reach the end, you’ll be a better writer than you are now. So save the “fixing” for later and do it all at once, rather than trying to constantly improve everything all the time.
In Malcolm Gladwell’s number-one bestselling book Outliers, he says that you need to spend 10,000 hours at something to become an expert. You’d have to do something 20 hours a week for a decade to hit that. But you know what? That’s doable, even with a full time day job — if you want it badly enough.
One of his examples is the Beatles, who performed live more than 1,200 times before they made it big. Bill Gates started programming when he was 13. Was he a child prodigy — or did he just get an early start and put in massive effort before he became an expert?
Ten thousand hours — as a writer, that works out to a LOT of pages. You won’t be an expert writer until after you’ve finished several books, so cut yourself some slack. In the meantime, you can focus on learning the craft of writing. Every day, you’re getting better. Remember: you can write a novel — and you will — one hour at a time!