Friday, November 5, 2010

Advice for Hopeful Writers

I was once approached by a hopeful writer who asked: “What do I need to do to become a writer? How do I get started?”

To answer this question I could list the obvious necessities for writing. For example, get yourself a pen, some paper, lots of passion, even more perseverance… and don’t forget the chocolate.

I could advise they learn about the craft – learn about the basics of grammar, punctuation. Learn about plotting and character development. Learn to listen to the words, build a strong vocabulary and understand sentence structure.

I could express the need to also read. Don’t just read novels within the targeted genre, but also read anything and everything. Reading teaches and inspires.

I could warn the hopeful writer to learn about the publishing industry, to know the market, to understand the genre of choice.

I could encourage them to also build an online presence, to start networking, to attend writer’s conferences.

There is so much a hopeful writer can do to become the writer they dream about. They can research copious amounts, attend a mountain of workshops, they can sign up to courses and become a famous networker, but if they don’t write, then they have nothing.

And so, my best advice to any hopeful writer is WRITE. And keep writing!

What advice would you give to any hopeful writers? What's the best advice you've ever received?

35 comments:

  1. The great advice would also be to be themselves and not imitate others. Don't write because you saw a great book and want to make a similar one, write if you had a natural inspiration within you and stick to your own ideas and stories.

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  2. They have to write if they wish to call themselves writers. That is the one stipulation I'd share with them.

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  3. Dezzy, I started writing because I read Lord of the Rings and I wanted to make a similar epic but with a female lead. I wrote the epic. I even had my characters walking across the land because Tolkien did that. Giggle. It was my masterpiece. Obviously I couldn't get it published but it taught me heaps and gave me a real passion to write my OWN stories.
    So, really, if a writer wants to start out by copying someone else then go for it. They can learn so much through imitation. But they also have to know it's unlikely that first book will get published.

    I also think writing your own ideas and stories develops over time as the writer gains confidence.

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  4. Jeffrey, yes, write anything and everything and keep writing.

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  5. Yep, I say write the book, and then get ready for the long haul, and to work harder than you've ever worked before.

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  6. A blank page isn't going to write itself.

    Get out there, if you say you want to be a writer, stop saying it and just do it.

    Best advice :)

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  7. Yes! Write. Perfect. You can learn grammar and such after you've finished the first draft. Great post.

    CD

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  8. My best advice is to learn the craft of writing before venturing into making submissions.

    The best advice I ever got was to deal with my own writing first before taking on the critiques that I do for others on my writing network. I've found myself so guilty about returning reviews that I neglect my own writing.

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  9. great advice! just write.
    followed shortly by: keep at it...
    and then: don't forget to love it.
    :)

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  10. Ha ha! You stole my idea for tomorrow's post. Love it though :) I'd have to say my best writing advice is to focus on goal, motivation and character.

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  11. As you mentioned, I would also say the best advice I was given was to read. By reading, you have the ability to be mentored by professional authors without ever meeting them. I've found that in addition to placing myself inside the story, I study the craft - how they move the story through dialogue, how they begin and end a chapter, how they make me want to turn the page. It is amazing how much you pick up on and I believe it to be one of the greatest tools in developing the craft.(Now, if someone could tell me how they manage to balance writing and reading effectively, I'd be all set....)

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  12. Keeping on writing is by far the best advice there is. I probably wrote for a good two years before I felt as if I were any good. And honestly I don't know how I pulled through without giving up...

    Another piece of advice I have is not to worry yourself too much about the so-called "rules" of writing. All that will do, especially at the beginning of your writing journey, is bog you down. Understanding the "rules" should come naturally anyway. Also, you have to decide for yourself what works and all you can really do is just hope for the best. After all, plenty of critically acclaimed writers have "broken the rules."

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  13. Great advice. My advice: write as much as you can and never, ever give up.

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  14. Melissa, oh yes, the long haul and hard work. For sure!

    Jen, if only all we had to do was conjure an image in our minds and it would appear in words on the page ;)

    Clarissa, great point. :)

    Joy, hehe, yeah I tried doing that the other way around when I first started writing ;) I thought I'd written a masterpiece and didn't understand why it didn't get accepted for publication. Knowing what I know now, when I read back on those words I cringe.

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  15. Aspiring, your comment made me smile. So true.

    Vegas, I think the great blogging minds think alike!

    Paul, reading is invaluable. It's the craft in action. And yes, I have trouble with that balance as well.

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  16. Amanda, yes, rules will bog. They may even stop a writer from going further because they can sometimes sound so daunting. So forget them when you start. :)

    Jennifer, the never ever give up piece of advice is so important too. I gave up once. Never again.

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  17. You know, that's the simplest piece of advice for a writer but it's the one that's seldom followed. A lot of potential writers never put pen to paper because they feel they're not 'ready' to write their magnum opus, and that somehow by not writing it down, the story stays perfect in their head. Once they get over this initial boundary then nothing can hold them back :D

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  18. Yes, good one-- just write and then learn/revise later!

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  19. I agree--the best advice is to WRITE. But I'd also add to find a critique partner/group and learn to build a tough skin for feedback so you can improve (and for encouragement!). Also, if you write for children, join the SCBWI, or Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Go to conferences and run shoulders with other writers, editors, and agents in real time. Great experience!

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  20. Write without censor - internal or external - until you develop your voice. Then go seek honing and refinement. :D And a bit of persistance and tenacity don't hurt. Thicken thy skin, too.

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  21. Jamie, that's so true. They also don't realise their first piece doesn't have to be perfect (and won't be), but that's okay.

    Christina, indeed.

    Carol, good additions -- especially the need for thick skin.

    M Pax, yes! and I think a LOT of persistance is needed ;)

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  22. Yes, write - but then, do all those other things. Because, honestly, it's going to be dreck without all those other things. But first, write.

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  23. Great advice! One thing that I think has really helped my writing in the past few years is that I read a lot more now than I used to. It's amazing how much that has helped with my own writing.

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  24. I think my advice would be to have a notebook and jot all your ideas down. I think also to plot/plan the story so it doesn't fizzle out after a few 1,000 words and remember it needs a theme as well as well-crafted characters. Great post :O)

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  25. I also recommend a good supportive critique group to provide extra motivation and encouragement.

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  26. I think just do it is the best advice of all. And Dean Koontz once told me to write what I know.....that's pretty sound.

    My addition: NEVER GIVE UP, NEVER SURRENDER

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  27. Ha, this is funny. I was just thinking to myself a few days ago that I've been blogging too much and writing my book too little... of course here I am, caught red handed. But I've been writing on my book too, so I'm entitled, right?

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  28. I always go blank when someone asks me how to be a writer. If they aren't already writing then there's nothing I can tell them.

    Write write write! Read read read! Write write write! The rest is details.

    Jai

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  29. Hi Misha. I've been editing so much that I didn't get around to all my blogger friends this week. Here I am now. My advice is the same as yours. In fact we have a lady interested in joining our critique group but she doesn't read, she doesn't like dogs and her book is about dog. I would say...read first, find the genre you love, take classes, and write, write, write.
    If your interested, I'm running a contest.
    Nancy
    N. R. Williams, fantasy author

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  30. Great advice, Lynda! One thing I would suggest is to remember to stay true to yourself. Keep your own voice. It's easy to listen to everyone's input, but then sometimes you lose your voice...

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  31. Ishta, for sure, the othr things are also necessary, but they aren't priority when you're first starting out.

    Susan, it IS amazing how much reading helps.

    Madeleine, oh yes, notebooks, napkins, anything that will help you to remember all those awesome writerly ideas :)

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  32. Patricia, a supportive critique group is hard to find but worth it's weight in gold.

    Crafter, I LOVE your addition. Awesome!

    Alexia, absolutely! ;)

    Jai, yes, exactly...Write & read because the rest is details

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  33. Nancy, it's easy to think reading is an indulgence that takes away from writing time, but reading is SO important. But, if a person doesn't like reading... um, well, that kinda makes it difficult to write well.

    Sharon, yes, so true, but often voice is something you find a bit later in a writing career -- when the writer has gained a whole lot more confidence to be themselves. Still good advice though.

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  34. Write, write, and write some more!

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