First and foremost, there is only one thing you need to do in order to be a writer. Do you want to know what that is?
I know what you’re thinking. That sounds too easy. After all, most of you are doing that already. (If you haven’t written anything yet, go write a paragraph, then come back.) There is a stipulation to that advice, however. That piece of advice is on how to be a writer, generally speaking. If you want to be a good writer, a little more work is required.
(A glimmer of hope: if you’re reading this post, you’re willing to do the work.)
There are eight tips that I want to provide you, and here’s the first one:
Tip #1: WRITE.
Yes, write. The same advice given above.
But, don’t just write to write, write with a purpose. Establish a goal, and then write with that goal in mind. Is your goal to publish a story? Then do it. Is your goal to write five hundred words each day, just on that story? Then do it.
Nothing is keeping you from writing whatever. Nothing is keeping you from writing a certain number of words per day. Keep going with your goal, and you’ll build yourself a habit. Habits are a good thing to have when you’re learning how to write.
Tip #2: READ.
This is a no-brainer. Every writer, and each writing blog, book, and pamphlet will tell you to read stuff. But why do we read stuff? We read stuff to write stuff. You read about writing, you write, and then you read others’ writing. This is a simple method, consisting of learning your craft, practicing your craft, and then examining how others practice the craft.
Immerse yourself in the world of writing when you’re a beginner, and it will be much easier to become a part of that world when you’ve developed your skills.
Tip #3: LEARN TO EDIT YOURSELF.
Learning to recognize mistakes in your writing makes you a better writer. You begin to understand that it’s okay if your writing isn’t perfect, and that it doesn’t have to be at first. After all, you can edit it later. This understanding quiets your inner editor (for the time being), and allows you to write quickly.
Learning to edit yourself doesn’t remove the need for a professional, however. Every writer needs another set of eyes on their story. It’s just necessary. Sorry. Find yourself a writing group (more on that below), or hire a professional editor to take a look at your story once you’ve gone through a complete self-editing process.
Tip #4: LEARN TO KILL YOUR DARLINGS.
This phrase has an entirely different meaning, so put the kitties down.
“Killing your Darlings” is writer-ese for deleting the sentences, paragraphs, and sometimes whole chapters that you are fond of. I keep a separate Word document in which my murdered scenes dwell, and when I read what I’ve deleted, I discover that those passages weren’t as good as I thought they were. In my first manuscript, (and the others to follow), there were several spots that I was in love with, but they had to die for various reasons.
So, kill the darlings, write better.
Tip #5: LEARN TO ACCEPT CRITICISM.
One day, you will reach a point in your writing journey when you want to share your writing with the world.
These days, it’s as easy as pressing a button on your keyboard. Despite how easy the publishing process is, not everyone is going to froth at the mouth when greeted with your literary masterpiece. Regardless of whether you self-publish, or go the traditional route, criticism is bound to arrive at your doorstep. In order to be a great writer, you need to learn to accept criticism.
Often, when you examine the criticism, you’ll find that whoever wrote it hit the nail on the head. Now, sometimes, you will receive criticism that’s absolutely false — but, that’s another post.
Tip #6: DRINK IN KNOWLEDGE.
I separated this piece of advice from Tip #2, because you can read about writing all you want to, but are you actually learning something?
Writing is not something you can pick up one day, then create a masterpiece the next day akin to Tolstoy or Dostoevsky. It takes a lot of work, and you never stop learning. There is always more information out there that you can absorb, and it will make you a better writer.
Is it a lot of work? Yes. Is it worth it? Definitely, yes.
So, get out your search engine, and start working!
Search for websites and articles that pertain to your problem, and genre of writing. Search for books, magazines, anything that will increase your knowledge base. Venture into your local library, and ask your trusty librarian to point you in the direction of reference books as well.
(A bit of advice: always be wary of what you read on the World Wide Web. Even me.)
Tip #7: FIND YOUR PROCESS.
Finding your process means finding the writing methods that work for you. Maybe you’ve heard about the terms “plotter” and “pantser”. Those terms are attached to the kind of outlining methods that you use. If you prefer to outline before you begin a new story, then you might be a plotter. If you prefer to dive right into your story and discover it as you go, you’re probably a pantser.
I could go on and give you a more detailed explanation — but, that’s not what we’re talking about, so that’s another post.
Once you find your process, writing becomes much easier. You know how you write, what helps you write, and what doesn’t. A wealth of information opens up to you because, again, you know what helps you and what doesn’t.
Tip #8: FIND A WRITING GROUP.
Writing can be a solitary journey, and it gets a little lonely sometimes. That’s one of the reasons joining a writing group is a good thing. Find yourself a gathering of supportive, knowledgeable writers that (preferably) write in the same genre as you, and make connections. Having friends that know what it feels like to be a writer can come in pretty handy at times.
Plus, writing groups often offer critique sessions that can improve the quality of your work.
So, there you have it. Eight tips on how to start writing. Now that I’ve given you these tips, you don’t have an excuse now. You’d better go write something.
What are your favorite writing tips? What writing project are you working on now?
Read more posts in this series:
- How to be a Writer (Part Two): writing on a busy schedule
- How to be a Writer (Part Three): are you a plotter or a pantser? + writing resources
- How to be a Writer (Part Four): how to write when you’re not inspired