A word of explanation: when I started getting online, I started looking for tips on how to be a better writer. When I started my business, I searched online for information specific to freelance writing and editing. There was very little out there and quite a lot of what you will read here is what I have learnt over the years.
This is a long list of things any writer should know before they venture out. Or at least tips I think any writer should know. Feel free to disagree with me. Since it is a long list and I want to explain certain points in detail, the list has been broken up into several posts of five points each. The thing is I am still learning and I keep expecting to add to this list.
So without any further ado here are the first five things you need to know:
- YOU HAVE TO HAVE A DESIRE TO WRITE:
Don’t write because you think it is a glamorous job. Don’t write because you think you will somehow miraculously win the Booker/Nobel Prizes. Don’t write because you think it is cool. Write because you have something to say and because you find it fun to write. If you just have something to say and don’t find writing fun, hire a ghostwriter – hire me! Seriously, though, you need to have fun writing otherwise there is no motivation to keep you going when you need it the most.
- YOU NEED TO READ WIDELY AND VORACIOUSLY:
There is no magic shortcut to being a good writer. If you want to know what kinds of styles, formats, rules, grammar, plots and so on are out there, you need to read. A lot. The more you read, the more you get a feel for these things and the more you develop your own writing style. It also becomes easier to create logical plots and believable characters if you read widely as you are drawing on all sorts of information to recreate a sense of reality within the pages of your story. You get to learn how words go together and what the rules are and when and how they can be broken. If you don’t like to read, I personally can’t imagine you getting very far as writer. I might be wrong though.
- YOU NEED EXPERIENCE:
I am not talking about experience writing for magazines and so on. Nor am I talking about having been published in any way, shape or form previously. What I want to get through to you is that you need to be someone who is open minded and thereby open to new experiences. It is the information you gather through experience and reading, that comes together and suddenly gives you that “What if?” moment. The world is your textbook. Think of it as required reading.
“What if?” moments arise when after experiencing one thing (a) and reading about another (b), a writer’s innate curiosity gets the better of them and they go “What if ‘b’ occurred in the middle of ‘a’?”. This then sparks off all sorts of other questions: “What would happen?”, “Who would it happen to?”, “Why?”, and “What kind of people are these people?”. You know when you line up to meet a writer and all you want to know is where said writer gets their ideas from? Well, there is no Muse as such, no inspiration gained from drugs or drink, there is just the “What if?” moment.
Maybe some people need to concentrate on a Muse or get drunk to get into that frame of mind where like a little child, they just keep wanting to ask why all the time. I know, however, that you can be perfectly sober when attempting this – you just need practice. You also need to go out and experience all sorts of things in the meanwhile as well.
- YOU NEED TO WORRY ABOUT THE FACT THAT YOU ARE TRYING TO EXPRESS BUT NOT THE WAY IN WHICH YOU EXPRESS IT:
In other words, worry about whether something real or fictional happened in 2000 as opposed to 2001 but don’t be concerned about whether you need to write: “Something happened in the year 2000.” or “In the year 2000, something happened.” Get the story down. Get the facts of your story or the actual events down first – this is the skeletal structure and another term for it is ‘nailing down the plot’. This is what your plot is made up of and once you get this down in a proper sentence written any which way you want, then you can edit it. Later. Write the damn thing first. Chances are you won’t want to change the way you first wrote it because you would have written it in what is slowly, constantly, developing to become your very own writing style.
- YOU NEED TO KEEP WRITING:
Keep writing. In any style. It does not matter if it is published or not. Your style will change as you do. The more you write, the more chance you have of finding gold somewhere in there. This is a skill that needs practice. The more you practice the better your understanding of grammar, style, format and all those other things becomes. They become akin to second nature to you which is very handy in terms of not going to have to get up and go hunt the dictionary down every so often. Especially when other people steal it in order to play Scrabble and it ends up getting shoved under the couch.
Quite often your random scribblings will fit neatly into something else or start off some of the best writing you will ever create. Keep writing. Keep writing. Keep writing.
I will post another five tips pretty soon. So keep an eye out for them. I hope the above tips have helped you somewhat. Feel free to drop a comment with your views.