Even if blessed with raw natural talent, most of us need to spend time learning the craft of writing. It can feel overwhelming at first but there are lots of small steps that aspiring authors can take:
1. LEARN HOW TO WRITE
Attend a Creative Writing/Fiction Writing Course – A great first step in the writing journey. Usually part-time, evening courses and held at local colleges of further education. More often than not, taught by authors and writers so can be a wealth of useful information. Writing courses tend to cover invaluable topics such as:
– Plot Structure
– Character Development
– Writing a Synopsis
– Different Genres
Sharing work with other aspiring authors can often lead to the generation of new ideas and further inspiration. Another benefit is that many critique groups are formed from those that meet on writing courses.
Creative writing courses are a great way to educate yourself on the rules of ‘writing’ and the underlying reasoning for them. But once you understand the rules, don’t be scared to break them! Many authors think outside the box and break some or all of the so-called rules when writing their novels and secure worldwide success and/or critical acclaim.
Follow Author Blogs – One of the best ways that an aspiring author can learn and gain further inspiration is by accessing information from successful authors. Many authors now have blogs that cover a whole variety of topics including:
– Search Engine Optimisation
– Plot Structure
– Character Development
– Author’s Personal Journey
Start by searching for your favorite author and follow their blog. They also offer an insight into how they’ve become a successful author (and of course this hasn’t normally happened overnight). Consider mastery (copying the strategies and traits of someone that is already successful) and glean some excellent tips from successful authors.
Author blogs that I’m following right now are:
And if you need any further inspiration to get started, subscribe below to this blog for great writing tips and my personal journey from mum to author. (www.mctaylorauthor.com)
Good Writers Read – It stands to reason that authors and writers need to read. A lot. And in all sorts of genres. Aside from books, try to read magazines, newspapers and periodicals. Read on your kindle. Read a paperback. It doesn’t matter. Reading inspires us, generates ideas and improves our wider vocabulary, sentences and description. Reading someone else’s words challenge your ideas and beliefs. You can get some fantastic ideas on what to read from Goodreads or the Richard and Judy Book Club for starters.
So what are you reading? Share in the comments.
Good Writers Listen – Always make the best use of your time. Listen to other people’s conversations. Make note of anything interesting that you overhear.
Podcasts can be another productive way to increase knowledge. I’ve been listening to Darren Rowse’s Pro-Blogger podcasts recently. That’s really helped me evolve this blog. If you type author or writer into your podcast app search function, you’ll find all sorts of topics related to writing, creating an audience and marketing a book.
Remember when you were a child and you’d say ‘do the voices’? Why not try listening to books on Audible where stories are brought to life by actors. It brings a whole new dimension to writing books. Aside from that, as with reading, it offers inspiration on creating characters and ideas to use within your stories. It’s wonderful for those that love the use of language and dialogue too.
I listened to Relentless by Simon Kernick recently on Audible. There’s a great interview with the author at the end of the audio-book and you’ll be surprised to hear his original inspiration for the book.
Start by Writing Short Stories – A useful exercise to try if you haven’t already. Use an idea to hook the audience in quickly, create characters and a plot structure with a start, middle and end, get feedback then edit it. Mastering the short story puts you in good stead for the transition to creating longer stories and novels. Being able to tell a story in a short amount of time is a skill, not to mention the fact that chapters are essentially short stories.
2. WRITE AS OFTEN AS YOU CAN
Like everything, writing is a skill. The more that you practice, the better you get, the easier it is to get into ‘the flow’. Some writers like a routine and allocate time to ensure that they write regularly. Be realistic though and don’t beat yourself up if you can’t write every hour of every day. It doesn’t mean that you’re not a writer/author despite what you may hear or be told. For me, writing a blog means that I write daily, but whatever works for you is fine – whether that be writing a daily journal, short stories, blogging or a novel in equal measures.
Unless you’re a full-time successful author, chances are that you have to work. Another thing to add to the mix are children. Both of which take our time away from writing. Take advantage of opportunities when they crop up. Think of bus, train or airplane rides, early mornings, breaks at work and child-free occasions as chances to put pen to paper.
Tell those closest to you when you’re writing so that they give you the space and time that you need. Ultimately there are lots of people out there that call themselves writers or authors. But it’s the doers that set themselves apart from the dreamers. So, if you want to be a writer, get writing and complete that first draft. After all, you can’t edit an empty page!
3. FIND A CRITIQUE GROUP
As an aspiring author, it’s essential to find a critique group to provide feedback on your work. Otherwise how will you grow and improve as an author. You also need to be prepared to review and give feedback on other people’s pieces of work. Initially, you may find a critique group arises from a college course, writing workshop or convention, a local writing group or one of the many on-line critique groups. Later, as you establish yourself, you may find one through one of the professional writing associations.
Let’s be clear. Critique groups are not there to massage your ego! They’re there to articulate different ways to write, to identify flaws and inconsistencies in your characters and plot, highlight grammar issues, info dumps, awkward or unauthentic dialogue, unnecessary characters, lack of character emotion and development or a poor back-story.
On a positive note, you’ll find that critique group members will suggest fresh or different ideas to improve your writing. To benefit, you’ll need to be completely open to constructive criticism. Take the time to absorb the feedback and perceptions from your critique group before you decide how to utilize it to improve a piece of writing.
Be sensible and listen to feedback but also trust your gut and have guts. Remember that as the author, you always get the final say.
4. KEEP A NOTEBOOK OR JOURNAL
Essential! Start writing those ideas down now. Everywhere and anywhere. I now keep a notebook by my bedside table for night-time inspirations because you can be sure that by morning, I’ll have forgotten. Another way is to use your note app on your mobile phone. Whatever works, do it. If it offers inspiration, note it down. It could be ideas for stories or twists that come to mind, quotes, characters, people you see/meet, conversations you overhear, events, tickets, feathers, shells, locations, photographs, leaflets, booklets, lines or descriptive text from a book that you’ve read, feelings and so on. Don’t forget to people watch all of the time too.
Some writers and authors go a step further and keep a daily journal where they explore their feelings. Many report that this helps them with empathizing with characters and writing with emotion.
5. PURCHASE THE ARTISTS AND WRITERS YEARBOOK
Essential for anyone completing a manuscript or wishing to submit articles for publication. It’s published every year, providing up to date information on agents and publishing houses. Be aware that different agents accept work in different genres. The lesson – consult this book first before sending any work or manuscripts to an agent. If you send the wrong type of writing to an agent, they won’t look at it – simple as that! Additionally, they may require very specific work and information from you (for example one chapter and a synopsis). If you don’t stick to their stipulation, you’re wasting your time. The yearbook also sets out some guidelines on how to write a synopsis, again invaluable when you’re about to submit a manuscript to an agent/publishing house.