So you want to be a writer?

Blank page, how to startGreat! The world could always use more writers!

Throughout the many years I have been writing my stories I have gleaned some personal thoughts on what (I think) you could do with to help you become a writer. Here they are:

Practice

Writing is not an innate skill, there are some people who are gifted at spinning the tale, some who have to sweat blood to be considered good at their craft, but whether it comes easily or not we ALL have to practice. You can’t be a concert pianist by just tinkling chopsticks all day – that will get you nowhere! (It will also annoy people!)

The same can be said with writers – showing scratty bits of scenes to friends and family and talking endlessly about your story is not getting it written. Eventually they will get bored of this hype and the lack of development. This also goes for refusing to evolve and stretch your skills out. Sticking to your comfort zone can be pretty stifling.

Even if you find that writing comes easily and people state how great you are, remember you can always be better. Do the published novelists think their first ever book and their twentieth book are the same quality? I doubt it, after all you as a person change and develop and so does your skills.

If you think what you write is the best, great! Carry on and then go back in two years and read what you thought was your best. Is it still? Unlikely, but that’s good it shows you can continually improve.

I’ve been writing for MANY years, it started as a hobby and it still is, but a goal would now be to write professionally. The very idea of doing something I love all day and being paid for it is awesome. Not having to carve up my time doing other works. Whether or not I get that goal will not stop me writing, because I love writing, but it’s a goal I want to strive for. However only the best, most polished work can be sent to the publisher so I continue to practice, always looking to be better.

Time

Ahh yes, wouldn’t it be great to open a bag of time and pull it out by the handful. Sadly this is not possible (yet). So, how do you get time? Simple (or maybe not so simple) you budget your time. You work out what needs to get done, when to do it and then stick to it.

However my personal rule of thumb is work out time for your writing first! If you do everything else and then try and squeeze in your writing, you will likely not do it. Either you won’t find the time, or you will give yourself too little or worse something else will run over and eat away your writing time.

So, decide how much writing you want to get done in a day or a week, and plan it. Then stick to it (not easy, I know!) If this is important to you, make the time for it.

(For tips on getting organised – Organise your time, Get Organised (part 1) and Get Organised (part 2))

Patience

A pretty nasty virtue if you ask me and made twice as difficult to have due to the excess of technology that makes everything move so quickly!

It has been suggested that since the birth of the internet our concentration and patience is a lot less. We won’t tolerate waiting for things. We barely skim a webpage taking in small chunks before drifting off. We expect responses instantly now we have emails, twitter, messengers etc.

Does anyone (other than me) even remember how we used to wait for dial-up on the internet? Believe me, that allowed you to test your patience (that and waiting for the ZX81 Spectrum to load a game – am I showing my age yet?).

Whether it’s waiting for your turn to use the computer to write or waiting to hear back from a publisher, a writer could do well to have a good dollop of patience. Some things just take time and in an industry that can take months before anyone even glances at your manuscript never mind actually reading and replying (if you’re lucky) to you, it really is a must.

“But Ari, I not even close to sending my manuscript off yet” So? Work on your patience now, accept that writing is a long process; accept that waiting for inspiration to strike can be slow, accept that waiting for a publisher’s letter can feel like eternity. Take a deep breath and be patient.

My patience is tested every day as I go to a job that does not challenge me at all and I have to sit there being nice *shudders* all the while I have characters shouting in my head, landscapes forming and burning away and I must wait until I can get to a place when I can let them have their free reign.

Imagination

A pretty obvious must for writers! Everyone has an imagination and if you are driven to be a writer it means your imagination is probably extensive and bombarding you constantly with ideas. This is great but that doesn’t mean your imagination is an endless well (anyone who has suffered writer’s block will attest to that). Think instead that it is a living thing, some furry (or scaly, whatever your preference) little critter that needs feeding and nurturing!

Some days it will be hyperactive, throwing ideas and scenes and character profiles at you constantly. You will be struggling to keep up with it. (I’ve found this happens at the worse possible times, like when I’m driving and can’t write any of this stuff down!) Another day, it may be tired, sluggish and crabby and refuse to even leave its burrow.

First, it needs to be nurtured. Second, it needs to be fed and stimulated, third it needs to be given time away.

Nurturing – Let your imagination work, it will run and skip and sing with thoughts and ideas and sometimes it is best just to let it be. Some of the most workable ideas come from just daydreaming rather than intently trying to mould your imagination into a specific path. Don’t get me wrong, if you are working on a specific scene – chuck it in, roll it around and see what happens but other times, let it have a little free reign to explore everything it has collected.

Feeding – Get out, move about and give it some new scenery, new stimuli! The imagination is (in my opinion) connected to the subconscious so let it pick up everything while you carry on but make sure you give it something new to look at. I’ve found many writers seem to lock themselves away all the time so when they are not at school/work they are locked in their rooms typing. This is good, but not constantly. This becomes a limited environment for your imagination and it won’t exactly grow.

Time away – Writers block, mental fatigue, burn out – these are all things a writer can suffer from. We put too much pressure on ourselves, on our minds and imaginations and we need to back off. As I said the imagination is not endless, it needs to be fed and stimulated and needs a breather (don’t we all). So step back, take a little break from your writing and do something else to allow your mind to return to a nice equilibrium.

(NB: For dealing with writer’s block, visit my Creative Constipation post)

Determination

It can be easy to get overwhelmed – if the story doesn’t flow, if the writer’s block seems never ending or the criticism too painful. In the end you need determination to be able to keep going. There is nothing more daunting to the writer than staring at a blank page when the words won’t come. It can be almost crippling and then in comes the doubt. Am I good enough? Have I run out of ideas? Will I ever truly be a writer?

In my life I’ve met a lot of people who were ready to crap all over my dream of being a writer. Everything from “it’s not a real job” to “it’s just a phase” to “everybody thinks they can write and most can’t” has been thrown at me, even from a very young age. Let’s be honest there’s a good many people who are real nay-sayers and can’t we all do without that kind of crap!

It wears you down and when you hit a rocky part with your story or get a stinging criticism it is so easy to pull back, settle in the doubt and think why bother. If you want to be a writer you need to be determined. Determined to get your story told, get your ideas out and bring your characters to life.

If you want to be published, you have to be determined that a publisher or agent will love your work. You will need to keep hold of that strength and determination every time you get a rejection letter. Believe in yourself, even if others don’t. Be determined to become a writer.

The willingness to try

It all starts with a single word. You will make mistakes, you will screw up and you will get stressed, annoyed and consider the whole thing pointless. But in the end, it all starts with a single word – be willing to try. Put down that first word, then the second and let the story flow.

As I mentioned earlier, people can try and bring you down. Nay-sayers always seem to like picking at the creative arts. To them, it’s as if only strange magical people write novels, compose songs or create artwork so how can you, a normal person manage it! Simple, because you can – because you took the first step and tried. Never let other people’s thoughts about you and your writing stop you from trying.

Someone reads something you wrote and tells you it is rubbish. Maybe it is. So do you just give up ever trying to be published? No, you keep trying, to improve, to develop and to be the writer you want to be.

A critical eye

It is good to be able to read your work with a critical eye to see what works and what doesn’t. To see if there can be improvement and were your writing is weak. A critical eye should be balanced though. You should be able to identify strong writing that you are happy with and weaker points that need work. It could be a specific part of a scene to a specific ability (such as spelling or the use of descriptive words).

Being overly critical of yourself to the point where you are re-editing forever and the work never gets finished is definitely not balanced.

Cast a critical eye over published works. See if you can identify what you consider a weak part of the writing and a strong part. Look at how the author wrote to match their target audience. A critical eye is extremely useful for a writer.

Love

If you don’t have love for your writing it will fizzle and die. Even if you manage to finish it, the work will certainly not be great calibre. So if you are writing something that you don’t truly love and would want to read over and over, it is time to step away and look at turning your imagination and writing skill to something new. After all, if you don’t love it, why should anyone else?

This can be hard if you have worked on something for a long time. Maybe you originally loved it, but have worked on it so long that you are sick to death of it. If this is the case then just step away, you don’t have to destroy it – just give yourself time and maybe come back to it in a few months or even years. But don’t feel tied to something just because of the length of time you spent working on it. In the end, you need to love it. You need to want to write it. Only then will your best work be possible.

A thick skin

No one likes criticism and in this world you often get it whether you asked for it or not. People are always ready with an opinion. It’s hard to hear criticism on something you have created that you love. Even if you don’t get it from friends, family or writing peers, you will get it from editors, agents, critics who review your book(s) or worse, even fans will contact you to state parts they didn’t like or mistakes you made.

Try to develop a thick skin, listen to what people say and take a slow deep breath. Don’t lose yourself to your anger or your emotions. Some criticism will be useful and help you develop, some will be pointless and maybe even cruel. In the end some people will love your work and some won’t, but that’s okay. We are not all meant to like the same things anyway 🙂

Well, that’s all. I hope you enjoyed this post. As always these are just my thoughts and opinions. You may think differently, but this is my list and I’m happy with it

~☆~☆~☆~☆~☆~☆~☆~☆~☆~☆~☆~☆~☆~☆~☆~☆~☆~☆~☆~☆~☆~☆~☆~☆~☆~

I hope you found this useful, if you did why not follow my blog, I upload new posts on Fridays (mostly) 🙂

Happy writing

Ari

NB: Photo purchased through http://www.depositphoto.com

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