Here are just a few pieces of advice I often give aspiring authors. For regular writing tips delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for my mailing list.
- If you’ve ever wanted to write a book, why not start? It doesn’t have to be perfect, it doesn’t even have to be good, but if there’s something inside of you that wants to try, you’ll be glad you did. Many writers complain that they’ve tried to start, but they never actually finish anything. So my next suggestion is…
- Why not finish? Again, it doesn’t have to be perfect, or even good. But there’s a huge sense of accomplishment that comes with typing “The End” at the bottom of the last page. And the truth is, many, many people have started novels. Not so many have finished them. All that holds you back is perfectionism. Get something down and fix it later. That’s the little known secret of all writers. First drafts are crap. But they are useful.
- Plot or character? Some writers I know come up with elaborate plot ideas before they actually start on a story. As they continue plotting, different styles of characters will emerge until they have a more complete picture. Some writers, like me, first get an inkling for a character or group of characters, or a character relationship, and when we explore those characters, the plot unfolds to us. You have to start with something, so find the type of little seed that works for you. (Don’t feel like you have to copy another writer’s style because they are more experienced!)
- Once you have something written, get feedback. Writing can be lonely, but it isn’t a lone process. You need others to tell you what’s not making it from your brain to the page. You need others to tell you why they’re not in love with your characters the way you are, and to point out where they’re losing interest in your story. If you can’t find readers who can give you this kind of feedback, check out www.critiquecircle.com – a warning, though. It will take time and experimentation to find the critique group that fits your needs.Eventually you will need others to point out grammar and spelling problems, but that should be your last concern. Too many aspiring authors consider “spell check” to be the same as a revision. A true revision is where you rearrange plot points, add or subtract them, adjust character traits, trim excess, and balance narrative with dialogue. I completed over thirty drafts of my first novel, but many of the early drafts only focused on the small grammar details, which only helped me to tire of my own story more quickly. Don’t make that mistake. Keep your stories fresh to your own mind by enlisting help from other writers.
- Write for yourself. It’s fun to see what’s selling and what’s “hot” right now in fiction, but the truth is, by the time you write a novel you won’t be able to keep up with the trend anyway. Also, I believe you can see through it when a writer is trying to write for someone else. Write the story that excites you. The one that’s burning in your gut to be told!
- And my final piece of advice: Read a lot and write a lot. Take notice of what works for you and what doesn’t in books you read. Which types of characters and plots do you naturally gravitate toward? Be aware of yourself in the writing process and make sure what you’re working toward jives with who you are and what sorts of things you enjoy. This makes all the difference in the world!
I’m always happy to answer questions from aspiring writers (just please don’t ask me to read your work – I wish I had the time, but, alas, I do not.) Please feel free to drop me a note anytime, and I wish you much success in your writing endeavors!