I have dabbled with writing since I was a child. I’ve always been a writer at heart, but like many I was encouraged to forget the idea of being a writer and get a ‘real job’. So I studied ‘useful’ subjects and got ‘real’ jobs that I generally hated, but I never stopped writing. It was just for my own pleasure, I had no delusions of being any good or getting published, but it was what I loved. When chronic illness forced me out of the regular workforce nearly two years ago it was, at the risk of sounding like a cliché, a blessing in disguise.
After nearly a year of wallowing in self pity and denial, I made the decision at the beginning of 2015 to chase the impossible dream. It’s been a slow start, but here is what I have learned so far:
1. Coming up with ideas is the easy part. Creating characters and outlining plot points is the most enjoyable part of the writing process for me. The hard part is communicating those ideas onto the page, executing the story and trying to recreate your vision in words. What I manage to write down will never quite match the vision in my mind, but that doesn’t mean it is a terrible story. And with more practice, the creation on the page gets a little closer to the original idea of the story every time.
2. Social networking is an indispensable tool for a writer. Not only do you get to participate in the truly wonderful and supportive network of writers out there on the Internet, but you also get access to their often witty advice, and learn that most struggle with the very same issues that you do.
3. It is important to build your brand as a writer. This is related to the social networking point above, but is more about focusing on the consistency of your message and how you present yourself. How do you define yourself as a writer? What value do you bring to your readers/followers to keep them interested?
4. Follow your own instincts. That story that you’re proudest of, your favourite, the one you most fear releasing into the wild because the rejection would just be too painful? It is probably your best work. Send it out there. I did, and soon it will be my first ever published work in print.
5. Collect your rejection letters. This is for two reasons – the first being so that you remember where you have submitted a work and don’t submit to the same place twice. The second is that they provide motivation to keep improving.
6. There is always more to learn, and thanks to the Internet, there is no shortage of opportunities to hone your craft. Take every single one of those opportunities that you can, and never be afraid to try something new.
7. There is no limit to the amount of writing advice out there, but not every piece of advice works for every writer, or is suitable for every type of writing. Just because something works for a bestselling author doesn’t mean it will necessarily work for you. Keep learning and honing your craft, but find your own voice.
8. Practise doesn’t make perfect if you practise the same bad technique over and over. Learn new things, apply them, and evolve as a writer. Just sitting down and writing for hours everyday won’t make you a better writer. Learn more and more about basics such story structure, sentence structure, even the use of specific punctuation and grammar to create certain effects, then apply what you learn. And there is a lot more to learn about these ‘basics’ than a new writer might imagine.
9. Blogging is great writing practice.
10. Read, read, read. Particularly read great examples of what you want to write. Don’t neglect your reading to focus completely on your writing, your writing will suffer for it.
As a last point, I would like to say thank you for the support that this blog has received since I started it just a few short months ago. It has made the journey so much more rewarding, and I appreciate every one of you who takes the time to stop by and look at my posts.