I first began writing at age fifteen. I thought my writing was pretty good for a newbie, that it was easy, and that it would be effortless to write a book. I tried formatting my pages, including adding fancy font for the first word of each chapter. I also knew little about world building, character dialogue, and weaving in the proper amount of description.
Simply put, I had no idea what I was doing.
My wonderfully patient mom answered my multitude of questions, some of which were so inane and self-explanatory I’m surprised she could answer without laughing. I didn’t think to investigate the plethora of writing advice on the internet until a few years later, nor did I think to read the Writer’s Digest magazines Mom borrowed from the library. And those writing books on her shelves? Nope. Didn’t even consider them.
Simply put, I was clueless. And too self-confident.
A bit over five years later, I now know better. I read and reread writing articles, books, and blogs. I like to think I know a little about character dialogue, world building, and description.
Simply put, writing is not easy.
Writing is not something you master within an hour, a day, a month, or even the first draft of your first manuscript. It’s like a puzzle with varying complexity depending on which genre you write. Forget one piece, and the story, your fictional world, is incomplete.
So, in no particular order, here’s my advice for beginning writers.
#1. Be in writing groups, whether this be on Facebook, in person, email, or some other social media form.This will not only help you get to know other writers and authors, but these writing groups contain valuable advice for writing, social media growth, and more. It is also in these groups that you can gain knowledge from authors and more experienced writers.
#2. Ask authors and other writers for advice. This can go hand-in-hand with #1. I was able to ask for tidbits of writing wisdom from other writers in the the writers group I’m in. Often, other writers have valuable insights and suggestions to help your writing life. Here are some tidbits of writing wisdom other writers/authors have kindly imparted:
“A couple of tips that I have found helpful are to never, ever give up. You have a message and it needs to be read. Secondly, connect with other writers and people in the industry. With social media, it’s easier than ever these days”. – Penny Zeller, Author
“Study the craft. There are books, podcasts, and websites full of information on writing. Get involved in a group like this one for support and help”. – Bonnie Sue Beardsley, Writer
“Read lots of books in the genre you’re writing. And find mentor texts for your manuscript”. – Michelle Medlock Adams, Author
“Everyone has a different process. We all need to experiment to figure out how we work best. This includes where we write best, when we write, figuring out what hinders is and how to minimize those things. Then there are a million ways to work through plotting and writing a draft. As a beginning writer I read thru several how-to-plot books before I found one that resonated”. – Lisa Ellis Betz, Writer
#3. Grow your social media presence. No matter what publishing avenue you choose, you will need a social media presence. Traditional publishers place heave emphasis on this, as it means you have a better chance of selling your book if you have more followers, tweeps, etc. Likewise, having a solid media presence if you self publish will only help you spread word about your book.
#4. As one of the aforementioned quotes suggests, read books in the genre you write. This will help you get a general idea of specifics related to the genre. For instance, reading Jaye L. Knight’s Ilyon Chronicles, Wayne Thomas Batson’s The Door Within Trilogy, and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion helped me understand world-building and writing complex characters and plots.
#5. Take advantage of the multitude of writing resources at your fingertips. This includes books, magazines, articles, and blogs. There are many free resources for authors in every genre (check out my Free Resources for Writers post), and it is well worth the money to buy books on writing. Also, books and the internet offer knowledge on particular subjects, like weapons, clothes, and whatever you need to know for your book.
#6. Don’t compare yourself and your writing with others. This is my biggest struggle, and I have abandoned countless stories because I read another fantasy book and thought, “Welp, mine’s terrible compared to this. It doesn’t have a chance”.
Don’t fall for it. Every writer has a unique voice, a unique writing style. If you fall into the comparison trap, it is difficult to free yourself, and your writing life will suffer. True, we might look at our work and find it lacking compared to another’s, but we know our story. We practically have it memorized, so it holds no first-time-read thrill for us. It will not be so for someone who has never read your writing before. Don’t compare. It is harmful.
#7. Take time to develop your characters, general plot, and world-building before you delve too deeply into writing. I’m not saying you need to know every little thing, as part of the fun of writing is discovering unique aspects about your characters and world, but you need an idea of who, what, and where you’re writing.
#8. Allow yourself time to grow. Writing takes time to develop and it takes time to find your writing voice. Steadfastly work on your writing, but don’t dive into publication until you give your writing time to develop. I look at my writing from five years ago and shudder. In another five years, I’ll probably look back at my current WIPs and do the same. Give yourself and your writing the respect you deserve by letting it grow, honing your skill, and finding your writing voice.
#9. Don’t give up. This is something every writer has considered at some point in their writing life. The difficulties and complexities of writing can cause heartbreak, headaches, and no small amount of frustration. Keep pushing yourself to write, and never give up.
Writing is not something you master within an hour, a day, a month, or even the first draft of your first manuscript. It requires love, care, and attention. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, investigate, and get a jump-start on your social media platforms. Everything you do will only help your writing future.