Regular readers of my blog will know three things about me:
- I love to write fiction,
- I am a complete newbie at it, but that won’t stop me having a go.
- I squeeze this hobby into the cracks between my life and my job.
The reason this blog exists is to allow me to connect with other writers dwelling in the blogosphere and to learn from their experiences. Today, I thought I would return the favour and write a post aimed at all the other newbies hiding in the WordPress crevices and let them know what I do to practice my fledgling skills. None of what I say will be new to anyone, but we all have our methods and this is what’s working for me so far.
My first piece of advice is, on the face of it, pretty obvious, but if you want to get better you have to practice. If you were learning to play the piano you wouldn’t expect to jump from a two-fingered rendition of chopsticks to a flawless and beautiful Debussy without years of practice. The same applies to writing, you need to practice and you need to practice a lot. I do this by using writing prompts, I have a board on Pinterest where I pin the prompts I intend to tackle one day. Feel free to have a look around and use any that catch your eye, you may even recognise a few of them if you’ve been reading the short stories on the Flash Fiction section of my site. If you do choose the same ones that I have used, I’d love to read your take on it so please let me know where to find them.
My second tip, and one that I use all the time, is to write by hand. I am so much more creative and spontaneous when I work like this. I can take a notebook and a pen away from the noise of electronic life, shut everything out and write. Almost all the writing prompts I work on are written this way. Try it, you might find it unlocks a hitherto dormant part of your brain that spills words onto a page with very little effort.
My third tip is to let other people read your work, no matter how mortifying this is, you need feedback. You have a venomous little critter living in your ear called The Doubt Monster. He likes to take any new found confidence and pound it back down inside you, burying it deeply beneath Mr Fear and Mr Turmoil until it can no longer be heard. You will give your confidence the strength to fight back by letting people read your work to give you honest feedback. I published everything on Wattpad before I started my blog as I felt strangers were much more likely to tell me what they really thought. I was right, they are also more than happy to tell you how to improve the prose. Your writing will be all the better for it.
My fourth tip is to write every single day. You don’t have to write a whole blog post, a whole story in one sitting or a chapter of your novel, but you do have to write. Creating a writing habit is just as important as improving your technique, in fact, the two go hand in hand. If you are short on time, just grab your notebook and write a short journal entry about your day, write about the odd man sitting opposite you at the bus station – he’s never going to see it, write about what your five senses are telling you. It all counts and it will all help.
My final tip is an oldie but a goodie, you have to read as much as you can. Find an author that you love and read their books with a fresh eye, you might be surprised how often they follow the rules on structure and character development you have studiously taken in. You may also discover, as I have, that some of your favourite authors actually write very badly. Their work is full of words that you strive to avoid like ‘very’ and ‘suddenly’. I can’t tell you how many books I have read recently where this has jumped out at me and spoilt the book. I wonder how they managed to get published at all. I am taking this as a positive sign that I am getting better at writing.
So, those are my top tips if you are a newbie writer, like I said, none of them are groundbreaking but after months of filtering through hints and tips, these are the ones that have really taken my writing to the next level.
Are you a writer who would like to share your experiences? If so, please put them in the comments, my fellow newbies and I would love to hear them.