1) Get to know your characters. “If you don’t believe that they’re real, why should you care about them?” Mitchell asks. He suggests writing your characters’ autobiographies or, better yet, letters from the character to yourself. In doing so, Mitchell notes that you will no longer have to think about how a particular character will respond to a situation. If you know their histories, you can better form their futures—from the actions they will take to the idioms they will use.
2) Do NOT ask yourself what you can do to get published. Rather, Mitchell advises to ask yourself: “What can I do to make this book work?” A book should exist in its own realm with its own set of goals. It is in working to achieve the goals set forth by the text that authors find their greatest success. As Mitchell put it, any given editor will have a desk covered in books that are begging to be published. But only a few books seem to have been written for themselves; those are the ones that stand out.
3) Expect that you cannot plan everything. “Stay open to the happy accidents,” Mitchell says. Ideas, themes, scenes and characters that you did not originally foresee to turn out in a specific way could turn into greatest assets of your novel. Writing is an art and genius occurs sporadically, even subconsciously.
4) Learn from your work. Mitchell affirms that “each book is the teacher you need.” Your work not only demonstrates the achievements but also could showcase your weaknesses. It is only natural to look back on your past work and think, there is so much that could have been done differently. Something you were once boastful and proud of could seem shameful and misguided later on. However, Mitchell encourages aspiring authors not to get discouraged but to embrace that your work evolves. Your work evolves and it is you, its author, who can best discern its shortcomings and therefore learn how to avoid them in the future, because writing is “one of the few jobs that you never finish getting better at. Ever. No matter how good you get.”