So You Want to Be a Writer?

writing / image credit: rockpuppet
writing / image credit: rockpuppet

Writing can be very rewarding, but both beginning and experienced writers sometimes have trouble getting motivated, staying inspired, finding the time, and continuing their work. Here are ten tips to jump start your writing – and keep it going.

1. Write

Actually write. It sounds simple, but for some people it is not. There are plenty of wannabes who claim to be writers when people ask them what they do, when they haven’t written anything more demanding than their shopping list in the last year. If you’re going to write, you need to actually write. Not just think about it.

2. Write lots

Don’t get too precious about that one novel, or that one movie idea. Having lots of ideas and enthusiasm for many projects is a sign of a genuinely creative mind. Your novel idea won’t mind if you cheat on it a bit, if you get stuck. It won’t even mind if you realise that the glorious idea you had at the age of 18 is possibly not the route to publishing glory that you once thought it was. You probably have more than one good idea rattling around that brain of yours. Make sure you shake them out and pin them down in words.

3. Write in a variety of forms

Some stories are meant to be novels. Some are meant to be scripts. Some are short stories, or novellas. Some work best as poems. Maybe yours is meant to be a comic, or graphic novel. Don’t limit yourself to one medium when you’re starting out. You never know what you’ll get a taste for.

4. Write for other people

Writing is meant to be read. If you are serious about being a writer, you need people to read it. Otherwise there is no way of telling whether what you’re putting down on paper will match the images you want to make in your readers’ heads. Get yourselves a beta reader or two – and not someone who is biased in your favour. You need honest, constructive feedback telling you what works and what you can do better. Swap works with someone online, join a creative writing group, get together with another writer pal. Whatever works. But writing does not develop or improve in a vacuum.

5. Re-write

Once you have had your feedback, do something with it. Don’t just file and forget and plod away. Take account of suggestions, even though you may not agree with all of them. Remember that you’re writing for an audience which may include yourself but should not be limited to yourself. Don’t get too protective about your first draft. (That’s why it’s called a first draft.)

6. Write notes

Get a notebook and start taking it everywhere. You never know when those good ideas will strike. That perfect line of dialogue, the stinging comeback, a description of a smell, the light through a glass – write it down there and then, and don’t count on your memory to bring it out intact when you get home.

7. Write alone

While sharing the product of your labours with a reader is a good step, the act of writing is best performed alone. Not surrounded by noisy friends, demanding kids, howling pets, blaring TVs or grumpy partners. Every writer needs space and quiet to listen to the words in their own heads. Give yourself what you need and don’t feel guilty for needing it.

8. Write daily

It might be two lines. Or one hundred words. Or a thousand. A short poem. A long script. It doesn’t matter. Try to write something every day. You don’t have to finish it. It might be an epic length story, or it could be a #vss (a story contained in a tweet). Keep in the habit, it is the best way to avoid getting discouraged. It will also show the people around you that you are serious about wanting to write.

9. Write everywhere

Writers don’t really get time off. Make sure you have the tools with which to write wherever you are. Phone, notebook, netbook, tablet, laptop, whatever. The world is littered with devices to enable writers to write at home, on lunch breaks, on the tube, in the pub, in waiting rooms, in coffee shops, on trains, on holiday, you get the drift. Don’t stop writing. A change is as good as a rest, and a different location will make you see things in different ways.

10. Keep on writing

It’s easy to get discouraged after a rejection or some negative feedback, but don’t quit at the first sign of trouble. If you really want to be a writer, you need to keep writing and accept that you will improve over time. Nobody is born with the ability to write perfectly immediately, or even all the time. There will be some duds in your repertoire and people will point them out to you. That doesn’t mean you aren’t capable of better. So aim for better. Keep writing.

Do you have other writing tips? We invite you to share them below.

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