Advice for the New Writer

Hello, lovely writers!  I know many of you are time-honored pros – those who have spent years honing their craft and working towards their goals.  But some of you may not be!  So, I’d love to do two quick blog posts that touch on Advice for New Writers.  This one will be General Advice, and the next one will be The Best Resources for New Writers.

LET ME REASSURE YOU, that “old” writers, or “experienced” writers may also find these posts helpful!  We always need to be reminded the basics of writing.

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Without further ado, here’s my 7 Pieces of Advice for New Writers (And Old Ones)

1. Write

Right, this may seem obvious.  But the most important thing for you to do as a new writer is to write.  Build the habit of writing (nearly) every day.  Teach yourself to squeeze writing in even on busy days.  Write lots.  And then write more.  And, keep writing as you do the other steps.  I won’t tell you that you have to write every day to be a “real writer” or anything like that.  But don’t get so caught up in becoming a writer that you forget to actually be writing.

2. Research

Do your research.  Read books on writing.  Follow writing blogs (like this one).  Listen to podcasts, watch YouTube videos, check out authors’ advice to writers.  Learn the “rules” of writing, and learn how to break them well.  There are so many resources available for free, right at your fingertips: either online, or at your local library.  Use them.

(And, if you’re not sure where to start, check out the Resources for Writers link at the top of this blog.  It’s full of great things you’ll probably love.)

Also, the next blog post I’m doing will be Best Resources for New Writers, so tune in then!

3. Read

Of course, a good sum of your time should be spent reading.  Read widely and vigorously.  Be observant as you read: what makes this story good?  What makes you love this character?  How does this author use semi-colons?  What makes for a good plot twist?  Critique the stories you read.  Learn to tear them apart.  It will make you a better writer.  When you can’t write, read.  Read and read and read.

4. Give and Take Critiques

This is extremely important.  Get your work critiqued, and give critiques to other authors.  I highly recommend the website CritiqueCircle.com as a great way to have your writing critiqued.  And the best part is that you have to critique other people’s writing as well, which is endlessly important.

You will grow so much as a writer as you have different writers giving you feedback on your work, and you will grow even more as you give feedback to other writers.

In addition, you’ll learn early on how to deal with constructive criticism, which is a skill every writer needs.

In addition to Critique Circle (or if it’s not a good option for you), I suggest checking out other writing groups.  There are a few others online (though CC is the best by far, IMO), and there are also many that meet in real life.  I was part of a teen writers’ group at my library for about a year when I was in high school, and it was always a lot of fun.  Or, if you’re an adult, you could try taking a creative writing class at your community college.  (I’ve taken one creative writing class at college so far, and it was a great experience.)

If you can’t find a writing group, ask a friend.  Ask your teacher.  Ask your family members.  Get feedback on your writing.  Learn to re-write and edit.  Get people who can critique your things, and ask them to destroy your writing.  Ask your readers and critiquers to not be gentle with you.  And then learn to take their thoughts and opinions well, without being hurt, and learn to sort through the suggestions you’re given and take what works best to make your story better.

5. Make Writer Friends

This is really important.  And with the internet, it’s increasingly easy.  Find blogs of writers, and follow them.  Comment on them.  Build a relationship.  Start your own writing blog if you want!  And when applicable, find people that will eventually be willing to Beta Read your story.  They’re invaluable.  Make friends on websites like Critique Circle, and watch each other’s novels grow.

While you’re at it, drop on over to the Guest Book here on this blog, and introduce yourself.  It’s a great way to meet people.  Alternatively, search up things like #amWriting or #YouKnowYou’reAWriterWhen on twitter, and you’ll find that there’s a beautiful Writerly Community on twitter as well.

6. Take a Deep Breath

I see a lot of advice for new writers that says something along the lines of “don’t rush!  It takes years before you can even dream of being published, so don’t even think about that until you’ve spent half a lifetime writing!”  And while I think that there is some truth to that, I also think that a lot of new (and especially young) writers will read this and either get discouraged, or just not listen because they feel like they’re not understood.

I know that when I was a new writer, I hated hearing this sort of advice that was tailored towards “teen writers” or “young writers.”  It frustrated me that “old writers” thought that I wasn’t a True Writer simply because I had only been writing for six months.

So.  I’m going to give you different advice.

Yes, it does take years, usually, from the time a writer types the first words of their novel to the time it comes out in print.  The process of writing, learning your craft, re-writing, editing, querying, editing again, more querying, working with your agent, and finally getting your book published simply takes time.

But don’t let that slow you down.  Don’t let that discourage you.  If you want to write, then write.  And if you want to edit your novel once it’s done, edit it!  And if you want to pour hours and hours and hours into learning the craft, writing new novels, editing them, getting them critiqued, querying them, finding an agent, and getting published, then do it.  No one is going to stop you.

The sooner you get started on this, the better.  If you start writing when you’re thirteen, then it just means you have a head start on the rest of us!  Celebrate that!  And enjoy the process.  Learning to be a good writer is great fun.  It’s exciting.  It’s hard work, many days, but it’s also so rewarding.  It’s an adventure to see your writing develop over time, and it’s so neat to see yourself grow as a writer.  Don’t let the long road to publication scare you into not pursuing your writing if you really want to be a writer.

And, at the same time, enjoy writing for writing’s sake.  If you only write because you want to get published, then writing may not be the job for you.  Write because you love it.  Because you have stories to tell.  And if you really want to get published, work for that.  But never write simply with the goal of making money or becoming famous.

7. KEEP WRITING

This is pretty self-explanatory.  All you need to do to call yourself a writer is to write.  But sometimes, as you get caught up in the blogging and editing and making friends and learning, you forget to actually write.  So hold on to your love of writing.  Hold on to the excitement of it, the thrill.  If you’ve found that you love to create stories, then that is a gift.  Use it.  I’ll be over here, cheering you on.

// What’s your advice for new/ young writers?  What do you wish you’d known when you started out writing?  Or, if you’re a new writer and you have questions, feel free to ask them in the comments!  And to all of you: happy writing! //

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Artsy Stuff and Learning Curves

Hello lovely writers!  Today’s post includes fanart, a poorly-drawn graph, and some rambling about learning to be a writer.  Hope you enjoy!

Long before I was a writer, I was an artist.  (Not necessarily a good one lol.)  I’ve been making things since I was a really little kid.  I’ve been drawing horses and dogs for as long as I can remember, and I’ve taken art classes since I was in middle school.  I’ve always enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment when I finish something I’m proud of.  I’ve always enjoyed art for the escape it provides: when I’m working on a piece of art, the rest of the world is entirely gone.

I’ll sometimes still get out the ol’ pencil box and do some fanart or whatever.  (Some examples below because why not?)

And just recently, I picked up the guitar!  My brother has had a guitar just sitting in his closet for the past few years, and I earlier this summer, I had the sudden idea to ask to borrow it.  So for the past several weeks, I’ve been teaching myself guitar!  (This is why I love the internet, guys: YouTube tutorials, online tuners, free guitar chords, and pretty much anything else you need.)  And it’s been so much fun.  I love the learning curve that exists for when I first learn something new.  It seems like every day I practice, I learn something new.  I’m constantly making big strides; I’m growing exponentially.

For example, the first day of playing guitar I could barely play a few chords.  On the third day, I could play a simple song really slowly.  By day 5, my fingerstips no longer felt like I was slicing them open.  Within just a few weeks, I’ve learned how to use a capo, I can play chords in quick succession, and I’m able to pick up new chords really quickly.  I’m starting to learn strumming patterns and put everything together to play songs at regular tempo.

I fondly remember my early days of writing, when I’d just started out.  Every chapter I completed was uncharted territory; every blog post I read taught me something new.  I was like a sponge as I discovered found craft books and online blogs.  And then about halfway through my first novel, I found the website Critique Circle.  I used to get so excited when my chapters would come up for critique, because I was always learning.  New terms, new ideas, new things to think about.  Characters, tension, showing vs telling, passive vs active voice, dialogue, setting.  So much to learn about.  Writing was so exciting.  It was new and special and a bit scary.  It was also so exciting, because it was so easy to find resources that broadened my knowledge.

Sometimes, now, I find it difficult to be in love with writing.  I’ve grown so much as a writer.  I know so much more; I have a lot more experience; I know what I’m doing.  Not that I’m an expert or anything LOL – obviously I’m always learning and honing my craft.  I’m just… not a beginner anymore.  And because I’m no longer a beginner, I’m not learning new things about writing at the same rate as I was when I first started writing.  For reference, I’ve made this nifty graph:

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If you’re thinking that it looks like I made this graph if MS Paint, then you’re correct.  🙂

I’m at the point in my writing journey where the speed at which I’m learning has started to level off a bit.  So it’s easier to get discouraged, because I don’t see my skill improving at the same rate it used to be.

That’s why it was so refreshing for me to start learning guitar.  I’m still in the “beginner” phases, where I’m learning so quickly that it’s exciting and enticing.

So here’s a question for all you experienced writers: how do you keep perusing your dreams and your art when the learning gets slow?

I actually do want your answers (leave a comment below!) but I’d also like to add my own answer.  I do it by reminding myself how far I’ve come.  I don’t take for granted the things I’ve learned.  And I remind myself why I learned them.  I didn’t just learn about writing so I could keep all that knowledge in my head.  I learned about writing so I could be a better writer.  

And I’m in love with writing.  Not with being a writer, or knowing about writing, or being a published author, or anything else.  With the actual writing.  With taking an idea and making it come alive.  With editing a mess of a story into a coherent book.  With making magic happen with words and fingertips on keys.  That’s what I love.  The knowledge is just a tool to help me do that better.  So who cares about learning curves?  Let’s go write stories.