Hello, fellow writers!
It’s 2019 and I’m sure a few of you out there are thinking, “Aha! This is the year I’ll finally write a book” or something like that. This time for sure, you’ll become a bestselling author.
Hold your horses. Seriously, calm down and let’s take a minute to look at this.
First things first, and yes this sounds mean, do you have what it takes?
Being a writer most certainly isn’t an exclusive club but writing for fun and being a writer, in my opinion, are two very different things. You can write stories for the fun of it or you can write stories with the intention of seeking publication. They are two different beasts.
Writing for fun is by no means a lesser form of writing, just different. It’s more relaxed. There aren’t deadlines (from a publisher or yourself). There aren’t hours upon hours of editing and revisions. There aren’t beta readers. There isn’t the crippling pain of writing a query letter or entering a contest. It’s just sitting down with a pen and expressing yourself naturally…which is awesome!
Writing for fun also means no weekly word counts. It means no daily effort. When you write for fun, you can create amazing stories but more often than not, they aren’t revised. Totally fine. They’re for you and maybe a loved one or two.
You can also write for fun and do revisions and create a very cool, memorable project for yourself. Like a memoir only for you or your descendants some day.
The intent to publish changes things though as does writing as a job. I’ve both written for fun and now I’m writing because it’s my job. Writing for fun meant not many people would see my work. But now it’s my craft. I want to polish, make it mine, employ various stylistic choices, and fiddle with the art of sculpting words into powerful stories.
It’s no longer “I have a story that might be cool” it’s “I have created this story and I must hone it. I must elevate this to its highest possible level”. And that’s a very different feeling. There’s a sense of urgency. It requires more discipline than writing as a hobby or for fun. There are suddenly consequences even if only within yourself.
So let’s say you want to start writing as more than a hobby or you want to start out on your path to be a writer today, this year. Where do you start? What do you do? How do you become a good writer?
The most important thing you do is write. You cannot call yourself a writer if you don’t write. Whether you feel like or not, write. Whether you have inspiration or feel stuck, write. Whether you’re tired or energized, write. No matter what you have on your plate you need to write every single day.
Pick prompts. Write stream of consciousness. Free write. Work on a project. Every day needs to have a chunk of time that you sit down and write. Start at fifteen minutes and yes, I mean this. If you are not used to writing, you will end up spending two hours typing every so often. You will just stare at the screen. Work up to it. Start with fifteen minutes of writing and gradually work up but during your allotted time, write.
Don’t Dwell On Mistakes.
This goes out to experienced writers too. Writing is for writing, revising is for revising. What that means is that when you write you are creating a story. When you are revising, you are polishing it up. That’s where the magic of the story takes place.
It’s very easy to get hung up on how one sentence sounds. It’s so easy to get stuck on word choice. It’s too easy to want to write it perfectly the first time. It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that we are not perfect and that our first draft, our baby will never make it onto the shelves. Because it isn’t supposed to.
Any small or big mistakes you make while writing that first draft can and will be fixed if not by you, by a beta reader, by an editor. So don’t panic. Don’t try to write it perfectly the first time. Just write.
Write What You Like
This is along the same path as write what you want to read, which I definitely believe. But this also means write what you like without thought to what you are supposed to write. As a dark fiction writer, this is something I struggle with a lot. There are certain expectations of me. There are certain things that people I personally know would hate reading in print because of their perception of me. There are “taboo topics” that you shouldn’t touch on (necrophilia) that I do in some of my horror.
But at the end of the day, I have to write what I want to write. It’s my work. It’s my passion. They’re my words. And if I cave to the emotions and wills of others, then my work isn’t my own anymore. It’s theirs. I’m the only chef. I have input from lots of very helpful peers but again, at the end, I’m the one who decides how I want the dish to taste.
But don’t just read fluffy stories or stories that are fun. Read stories from every genre, especially the one you’re writing. Read critically. Notice what each author is doing. Does it work? Does it not?
Taking note of the things you like and don’t like as well as various writing techniques helps you become a great reader. And a great reader at least has the capacity to write well because you know what you like and…as seen in the previous tip, knowing what you like steers your words in the right direction.
And that’s it. Could I go on and on and on? Oh yes. Will I? No. If you’re new to writing, you’ll be searching up and down Google for tips anyway. I want to give you four simple, authentic tips that I still use and that you can use throughout your entire writing career.
I’m not going to lie and say “write catchy titles/lines/blah” or “don’t use these words” or “make sure you follow this formula” because that’s wrong. There is no formula. This is an art form. This is creative.
Too many writers are stuck on trying to fit writing into a box and that’s not fair. If you’re going to write seriously, be serious about it. Many of us struggle and fight to hone our craft. You should too. It’s an art and what kind of art doesn’t require a little frustration now and again?