There is a mystery at the heart of the writing process. Successful writers train themselves to use this mysterious, creative force to their advantage.
If you are just starting out as a writer, the tips below should come in handy — but feel free to tweak them so that they work for you.
Start with the first paragraph
There is no escaping the fact that eventually you will have to write scores or even hundreds of pages. But make a start.
You have a story figured out by now. You know your main characters. Write that first paragraph even if it reads awful and you have to re-write it 10 times. Write it. Then write another one. And a third.
Remember that ‘mysterious, creative’ force? Have faith in it.
Read. A Lot (Sorry, no Plan B here)
Okay, this might sound cruel but it is better if you get this right away. If reading is not your thing you have probably stumbled upon a wrong career.
Not only should you be reading a lot, you should read everything under the sun, from children’s literature to science fiction, from memoirs to history. It all adds up in making you a better writer. Green is right.
Brush up your language skills
Of course, some very smart editors and proofreaders will weed out errors from your manuscript, but now is the time to brush up your grammar and punctuation skills.
Do not be fooled into thinking that you know it all. Invest in a good grammar book, style guide and dictionary.
Do not worry about writing trash
In your career you will end up writing a lot of rubbish. Some of it may even get published! But that is the last thing you should be worrying about when putting pen on paper or fingers on keyboard.
The word ‘re-write’ is fundamental to a writer’s life. But if there is no ‘write’, where will the ‘re’ come from?
Connect to creativity
It makes sense to shut off the rest of the world while writing. But do not shut yourself from experiences that will expand your mental horizons.
So watch that classic French film, visit the avant-garde art exhibition in town and attend the prodigious touring violinist’s concert. Such impressions are like oxygen for the creative part of your brain.
No, that does not mean you should write your book on a cruise ship. But before you start your writing project, a trip to a geographical location very different from yours can influence your writing in unexpected and profound ways.
Some of the world’s great writers such as V.S. Naipaul and Ernest Hemingway left home when they were young — and never stopped travelling. Paul Theroux puts it best: “My advice to any young person who wants to write is: leave home.”
Write a blog
Besides helping you network once your book gets written, a blog is a wonderful platform for experimenting with other forms of writing.
You can also use your blog to review other writers’ works and simply reach out to the wider world.
Submit short stories
Getting one or two short stories published in a niche magazine is a great confidence-booster. It also gives you a sense of what editors like in stories, and establishes your presence as a promising writer to look out for.
Join a workshop
It is not as if you cannot become a writer without joining a writer’s workshop. Some of the most renowned writers of the 20th century belonged to the pre-workshop era.
But being in a room full of aspiring writers and an intelligent instructor could give you vital feedback about your own progress. It is worth considering.
Writing is a long and lonely trek. That is why it is important not to lose hope if you have a bad writing day or week.
The words will come eventually. Remind yourself why you started down this road in the first place. It wasn’t for the money or fame but to share something with the world that only you can share.
Follow these tips. Discard a few if you must. Make some of your own rules while you are at it. All the best for your writing career!
“Whenever I’m asked what advice I have for young writers, I always say that the first thing is to read, and to read a lot. The second thing is to write. And the third thing, which I think is absolutely vital, is to tell stories and listen closely to the stories you’re being told.” — John Green