Do this but not that!
I can’t tell you how many mistakes I made while learning to write. I guess I should have seen it coming… Mrs. Ware, my high school English teacher, always told me that there were great writers in this world… and then there was me (sigh).
Here are a few of the tips I picked up over the years. Hopefully they will keep you from making some of the many mistakes I did. Here goes…
Do this – Start with something small. Most writers start out with short stories or articles, then they graduate to bigger things. This will give you practice with flowing content which will help you when you are ready to start your novel. If you think about it, the chapters in a novel are just like short stories anyway, so with some practice, you should be a pro in no time!
Don’t do this – Let your day job get in the way of your writing. Most of us do not have the luck of being a super author with a string of best sellers under our belts. Don’t think that you can never be a writer just because you have to make a living doing something else. And don’t use your job as an excuse for not writing. I was working for years before I became a writer, so if you have to wait a bit, that’s alright. But don’t stop writing! Write wherever you can… on the bus, during your break, after the kids go to bed… just write.
If you are having a hard time making room in your schedule, then dedicate the last few moments of your day to writing. Not only will it help you to keep in practice, but it will help to relax you and make for a better night’s sleep.
Do this – See if there is a fiction writing class or a writer’s group in your area. This is one of the best things that you can do, especially if you need practice. The things that you can learn from others about characters, plots and storytelling can really add to your overall experience. Learning from other people in the class can be very beneficial in your story telling as well. It will encourage you to work harder!
Don’t do this – Fall in love with your words. It is very important that you be able to edit yourself, and cut out excess words and sentences that may sound too bulky. Learn to put your work down and walk away from it. When you come back later, you will be better able to see where you can improve. If you get to involved with the words you like the most, you might miss the track that your story needs to follow. Remember, your readers need to see your writing and follow it the same way you do.
Do this – Write things down. It is important for you to keep track of your thoughts during the day. Keep a memo pad by your bed, and once in the kitchen as well. Try to bring some note taking things with you as you go about your daily routine. You have no idea how many times I forgot great ideas just because I was unorganized!
When I was fist starting out, I really didn’t know what I was doing. I was the stay at home parent for my two three-year-old boys, and that was a task! What I started to do was jot down the funny things they did as they were doing it. I didn’t want to forget what was happening, and with kids that is easy to do. So, carry a journal and have it read for the checkout line!
Don’t do this – Keep your work hidden. If you ever want to get published, you have to send your work out. If it’s a short story, send it to some literary magazines and see what they think. The Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market is a great place for information on the market for fiction stories as well as agents and writing contests.
Do this – Write something every day. Even if it’s only one paragraph, you need to keep your writing skills honed. I like to write down thoughts, or maybe just a personal journal of what happened that day.
Don’t do this – Be afraid to ask for help. None of us were born writers… we all had to learn and develop our techniques. Don’t be afraid to seek out help, especially to people in the publishing field. I am sure there are thousands of manuscripts out there somewhere that will never be published because the writer never got them to the right person. So… Ask!
Do this – Take advice from published authors. Why not learn from people who have proven themselves in their written works? There are several great books out there for people who need to know the ins and outs of writing. Two excellent books for learning are Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg and Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande. Another great source of information for submitting your work is Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market.
Don’t do this – Forget that you are a writer. It’s good to get feedback from others, especially from a writers group or from other people whose judgement you can trust. Just remember at the end of the day, it’s your work, and your opinion is the one that counts the most. Analyze all of comments, both negative and positive, and make your own judgement. The select the comments that will help you story the most.
So, there you have it, just a few tips to help you along your way. There is one final piece of advice that I have… Don’t forget to enjoy yourself. Remember all the reasons you became a writer. I hope that one of the reasons is because you like writing! Until next time, I wish you the best in all of your writing endeavors.