FOR ASPIRING WRITERS, AUTHORS, POETS AND FELLOW CREATIVES
- The first thing I would recommend you do is to think long and hard about how you feel about writing, whether it really is the right path for you. It’s all very well to have a pipe dream of sitting in some attic space and tapping away, but the reality is a lot different. So is writing something you feel a passion, a compulsion to do?
- If you are serious about writing, you need to behave as if you are serious. Sitting down to write needs to become not just a habit, but your ‘job’. If you’re serious – take it seriously!
- If you’ve decided writing is what you must do, you need to grasp the nettle – sit down and write something, but make the action of sitting down to write (daily) a habit, so it’s as ingrained as brushing your teeth. It doesn’t have to be for long – aim for 5-10 minutes initially. Once you get used to doing it, you can decide if you want to do more or less, and you can begin altering the length of time you sit down to write to accommodate the other aspects of your life, as long as you stick to your minimum ‘sit down’ rule, you’re still progressing as a writer.
- If you are new to writing, you may not realise the wisdom of this next one – which is to make sure you make reading a daily habit in the same way as sitting down to write. Reading is an absolute essential – it broadens your vocabulary, grasp of grammar and phrase constructions. These are the obvious gains, but a less obvious plus to a daily reading habit is that it shows you, in ways you cannot otherwise learn, how to write, especially if you’re planning to write longer pieces like novellas or novels. A daily reading habit will show you how to show the reader what is happening, rather than bluntly telling. A daily reading habit will teach you how to draw in your audience and keep them hooked until the final page. You can attend all the writing classes you want, but these are just a few of the ways a daily reading habit will help you become a better writer.
- When you begin writing, you will almost certainly become frustrated with yourself, because you will write a lot of rubbish. This is true of every writer – we all begin by writing rubbish. It takes time, effort and practice before you begin writing and developing your own style, your own methods of narration and your own authorial voice. Reading what you have written out loud will often help with this process.
- You need to develop a thick skin. You need to back off if you feel yourself becoming too emotionally involved. I’m not speaking of what you write; I’m referring to what happens when you put something you’ve written in front of another person. Whether that person is a friend, a neighbour, your mother – whoever it is will have a reaction to your words. What you need to understand is that no everyone will love your writing – except probably your mum! Some people will view your words probably in ways you don’t expect, and you are bound to have your retractors. So get used to it. Get used to the idea of rejection, because it will inevitably happen.
- If you are serious and you are ready to sit down and pour your heart into something, at least at first, get the job done. Write the story – then make it right is the advice of a very prominent American writer called (Stephen King). Worry about the appearance, the layout, size of paper and so on once you have written the story.
- If you are serious about publishing your work, you need to be very sure your work is of a good enough standard. One way to assess this is to enter writing competitions. There are a lot of smaller free competitions, and some larger, pay-to-enter. If you do want to enter writing competitions, make sure you read the rules (and abide by them), make sure the piece you enter adheres to the preferred layout, etc. Don’t fail or be disqualified for something trivial. You’re unlikely to be able to claim a refund, and if it becomes a regular occurrence, the competition organisers could bar you from entry in the future.
- The reality is, writing is a solitary, lonely calling. It’s easy to become despondent and lose motivation. One final suggestion is to try and make friends within the writing community. They will help you if you get stuck or just feel fed up. Writing friends also come with an added bonus – they’ve been on this road too, and they know someone who can help with an issue or they know someone else who had to overcome it. Befriend other writers and others on the fringe of the writing community, because you never know when they may be able to help you, or conversely, when you might be able to help them.
If you want to make your creative work more impactful, you need to work on showing the reader, instead of ‘telling’ the reader what is happening. This means you need to get rid of some bad writing habits. A big no-no is the passive voice. This one still bites me occasionally. I came to creative writing from a background of writing business reports and staff information pieces, so the passive voice was ever-present in everything I wrote! Creative fiction needs to be active, so make it about action. Another bad habit is the over-use of words such as suddenly. Don’t say something happened suddenly; make the action happen in such a way it startles the reader. There’s a fad today for over-using the word ‘that’. You almost never need to use it, so don’t!