Recently, I’ve been brainstorming different articles to add to my blog, and this one seemed to be the most obvious. My journey as a writer started thirteen years ago, and along the way, I’ve had highs and lows. I’ve known the struggle of being a new writer, wading through the deep waters, so here’s some advice that I wish I’d been given.
1. Write what you know
Everyone is saying this, but the thing is, it’s solid advice. Trying to write about things that you don’t know is hard, and to do it well, you often have to do mountains of research—and in the process, you get so buried in it that you end up not writing it anyway. You may think that there’s nothing exciting enough to write about, but that’s where imagination can come in. Take something you know and tweak it with things that didn’t happen. Change one detail and see where it takes you.
2. Aim to write every day
Procrastination is a writer’s biggest enemy. Either there’s nothing to write, or there’s a lot to write but no motivation. There’s the excuse of “oh, I’ll write extra tomorrow!” but the thing is, most people don’t. Even if it’s one sentence, getting your ideas down on paper will build up the habit.
3. Write things down
Often times I’ll get an idea, and I’ll just let it sit in my head for a couple of days as I decide whether or not to run with it. Many writers have so many ideas for stories, but they don’t want to write them down because they already have so many others. Don’t fall into the trap of letting it sit in your head. The worst feeling is when you forget an idea because you haven’t written it down.
4. Find sources of inspiration
“All writers are readers.” This is a popular quote, and it’s true. Read (or watch or listen to) what you love—and make notes. What do you love about it? What did you think was going to happen at the beginning versus how did it turn out? Things like that are invaluable to writers because they can help you shape your own ideas and stories.
5. Pick a genre
This seems self-explanatory, but sometimes it’s hard for a writer to know what they want to write. Do they like Fantasy? Crime? Romance? Teen fiction or adult fiction? A big instigator of writer’s block is when you don’t have a proper theme, genre, or message in your story. If you try to stuff so much of what you love into the story, and it’s overloaded with different things, it’s at risk of crumbling. Aim to stick to one theme, one message, and one journey. There will always be more books to write.
6. Start with draft zero
A lot of people are scared of sharing their writing with others. They don’t want to be judged, and that’s a natural fear. I was recently in a writing class, and the instructor shared that whenever she writes a book, she writes a Draft Zero. This is the draft that makes no sense. It’s the outline in the form of prose, full of spelling mistakes and continuity errors, and half-finished scenes. And that’s okay. Once the story has been written down, you rewrite and rewrite and rewrite.
7. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Asking for help comes in many forms. There are friends and family, mentors, beta readers, professionals, and more. Sometimes it’s scary to open yourself up to criticism, so start with people you trust, and take that step out of your comfort zone. Nine times out of ten, it’s worth the risk.
What’s more, beta reading is a free, voluntary thing that both readers and writers will do. Sometimes, you can swap stories with people, other times they’ll offer to read your work for nothing in return. You’ll never know unless you put yourself out there.
Self-editing is in no way a suitable replacement for professional editing, but it’s a good step on the way. What you’ve written isn’t set in stone, and by no means do you need to delete everything but setting some things aside (a character that doesn’t fit or a scene that’s just filler) is extremely helpful in the writing process. Having a “scrap” document or folder
9. Keep it consistent
Consistency is a struggle for many new writers. Whether it’s the continuous flow of the plot, the maintenance of character description, or even the basic laws of the world you’ve created, keeping things consistent is the best way to keep the reader engaged. Nothing is worse than a character that constantly changes appearance (unless it’s purposeful!) or a magical species that can’t decide what its rules are. If you have trouble remembering details, keep a notebook or document with those things, and add to it as you go.
10. Don’t give up
This, I think, is the best and worst advice. It’s something that everyone needs to hear, but it’s the hardest to follow. How can you just not give up? How do you muster up motivation when there is none?
There are a bunch of strategies that people use. Some go for a walk; some work on something else; some power through, leaving the part they’re stuck on and writing the next part. Personally, I have a method of turning off all electronic devices one day of the week. On that day, I’ll exercise, I’ll meditate, I’ll do a puzzle, I’ll read a book. Whatever it is, it’s offline, and I find that ideas come to me. I’m not staring at a blank screen on my computer or mindlessly watching TV, and I can write my ideas down in my notebook for later. I find that it’s a lot less pressure. Whatever works for you, try to find it. Explore the different strategies and see what works best for you.
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