Writing, like driving a car, is not a particularly special skill, though it is useful. Anyone who can hunt-and-peck through the pizza-crumbs on a keyboard or shove a ball-point around a piece of paper without their hand cramping like Fred Sanford's during an arthritis attack can churn out a plot and some characters.

But then comes page two. Allow me to water-board my metaphor further: average writers are like people who drive to Walmart. Good writers tear up the course at Le Mons.

The real work of writing comes when the interest of the reader is at stake. You've got to keep them turning pages. You've got to make them want to see what happens next. If you don't derive perverse pleasure from keeping people in suspense, don't be a writer. It's that simple. Spill the beans too quickly and you bore your reader to death. Dump information and characterization onto the page like my two-year-old daughter dumps ketchup on a french fry and the little paper-clip guy on Word will scowl at you for wasting his talents. Poor or inexperienced writers do this all the time, which is why they have difficulty getting more than a few pages in. They have nothing left to say, no more 'gotcha' moments in their bag. It's a surprise party for the reader where all the attendees follow them around all day en masse and shout 'surprise!' when they arrive home. The reader will shake their head and smile politely, say 'thank you', then tell everyone to get off their lawn.

Note I did mention 'inexperienced' writers. Everyone makes these sort of doofus mistakes when they start out. What? You think Stephen King or Isaac Asimov popped out into the obstetrician's awaiting hands with a quill pen in their fat baby fingers? Assuming you could read the earliest pre-experienced works of Bradley or Joyce or Fitzgerald or Orwell, you would come to a singular conclusion: doofi all. The difference is that people who can write learn and grow and stop making those kinds of elementary errors. The reason we don't see those early blunders from famous writers is because they threw them out. They weren't in love with everything they committed to paper. They understood that they weren't the best they could be.

So if you still want to write, you should always think you suck at it. It will make your writing better. If you aren't willing to do that, be prepared for a lifetime of polite smiles and be sure to stay off people's lawns.

Treat your writing as a job, not a hobby. Don't wait for inspiration. Inspiration, to paraphrase one of my favorite bad movies, is 'for love-play and cattle'. Set a time to write and stick to it. Do it daily, or at least five nights a week. It's okay to take a day off every now and then, but don't make a habit of it. One advantage to writing is it can be done anywhere. Going to Hawaii for a little vaca? Spend an hour before bedtime at the hotel and jot down something. It doesn't have to be much. Some writers I know set a word goal for themselves and diligently hover over the keyboard for one or two-thousand words a day. I try to spend at least two hours total, regardless of whether I write one sentence or ten pages. This works for me, but may not work for you.

Find the best time to work. Obviously, you have to conform your schedule around a day-job and family matters. If you have to get up two hours early to get in some writing before heading off to the factory, do it. A night owl? Stay up late and tickle out a few before hitting the pillow. Find whatever fits your rhythm and go with it. And remember that your writing is not the lowest priority you have. You shouldn't ignore your kids or significant other to write. And if you smell something akin to limburger-encrusted feet wafting from you kitchen, stop and do the dishes. But the vacuuming can wait another day if you're on a hot-streak. And try little things while you write to help the juices flow. Listen to music that fits the mood of your current project. Have a snack (keep it healthy and high in protein - nuts are great).

I write late at night. This is mostly out of necessity, because my kids are unconscious after 10 pm and all of the other daily work is done. I live in a fixer-upper and I am the fixer-upperer as well as the in-house chef and maid (though I don't look very flattering in the frilly outfit). My day is usually pretty full, but I make time every night to write. While writing, I often do what I call '10 and 10'. That is, I find an interesting show to watch on Netflix or Youtube and watch for ten minutes, then pause and write for ten minutes. Rinse and repeat until I'm satisfied or until I pass out. I have yet to wake up on a Mexican tour bus in a mariachi costume, so I'm not worried...yet.

The most important thing to remember is: if you want to write, WRITE. You will learn a great deal about structure and flow just by trial and error. Reading is important, of course, but no one ever bowled a 300 just watching Earl Anthony strut his stuff on ABC sports. You've got to hit the lanes and pile a few into the pins. And take criticism.

But that's another topic.

Have a great week, everyone!