Monday, January 9, 2012

Basic Tips For Beginning Writers

I hear a lot these days from those who would like to write, have begun a novel, or dream of becoming an author.  And while I can't provide a magic key to any of them (because there isn't one) I do try to offer up information and a little encouragement.  After all on my own path I had a few mentors, people who pointed me in the right direction or offered up a wee bit of advice.  Sometimes I just followed a trail someone else blazed because it seemed to work for that author.

In fact I'm asked enough I decided to write a blog post about some basic tips every author and would-be author needs to know so here we go:

Learn the mechanics.  I know how delicious the flow of creativity feels, how building a story in your mind and transferring into words offers a pleasant rush.  For me, writing is like reading intensified because when I'm writing, I'm in control of the story and characters.  Or at least I like to think I am.

So learn basic manuscript preparation and format.  Know how the manuscript should appear on your computer screen or printed out on paper.  And be well versed in basic grammar, punctuation, spelling, and the other "small" things.  If you're not, it will show and can hang you in the first few paragraphs.  Refresh your memory if it's been a few years since your last Communication Arts class or re-read an old textbook.  It may sound too basic but I use the fifth grade English textbook my cousin gave me during our shared childhood after it was discarded from his school. And yes, I was an aspiriing writer then.  The information remains sound and if I have a question or need a quick refresher, the book's handy.

Read the kind of books and novels you hope to write.  Learn what's selling, what isn't.  But at the same time don't try to second guess trends or catch onto what's hot now just because it is.  Write the story only you can pen and make it the very best you can write.

Gather some resources.  Books like On Writing by Stephen King, Self-Editing For Fiction Writers from Renni Brown, Writer's Market, and other reference books can offer insights beginners need.  Join some online writing communities too but before you jump into the conversations and discussions, listen and learn.  I see too many efforts by well meaning folks who have no clue or experience attempting to tell published writers and authors "the way it is" and all they accomplish is raising ire and even pity.  Learn before you try to tell anyone else how to do something - whether it's write or novel or make a meatloaf.

Network with other writers.  If you're fortunate to have a writers's group in your city or region, visit or join.  If you like in a small town in a rural area like me and there isn't one, you have start one (I have in the past) or use online resources to network.

So in short, learn the basic mechanics of writing, gather resources, and network.  And plan to work long, hard hours.  I'm often teased by non-writing friends who see my intense work schedule as too much.  An old classmate recently wrote on my Facebook I should stop working so hard, take a day off and I responded with "Maybe I'll take an evening".  It may sound funny but it's too close to the truth.  I write everyday including weekends.  And because I have novels out there in the wide world and more coming down the road I do ceaseless promotion.  I also have edits, blogging, guest blogs, interviews and more.  If you want to succeed, you will have to promote.  Oh and to make it even more complicated, you'll have to find a balance.   Use social networking (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) as tools but don't post only about your novel.  Toss in some personal observations, pictures, thoughts or you'll eventually wear out your base.   I do my best to accomplish this balance but in December, while promoting an online release party, I got a private message from a nephew on Facebook in which he said in brief paraphrase - love you, aunt but I may have to unfriend you because you've posted like twenty times so far today and my phone keeps buzzing and I don't have time for this.   I responded with the suggestion he hide my posts and unsubscribe me from notifications but reminded him, Facebook for me isn't just a neat place to hang out....it's a marketing tool.

Does it sound easy or simple? I hope not because it isn't.  But it can be done so gather your tools, learn your lessons, refresh your knowledge, and work your butt off.  Polish your work, learn from edits, and never give up.

Happy writing and I wish success to every beginning writer.

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