Advice for First Time Writers
You know what they say about unsolicited advice… Well, actually I can’t remember, so this month I asked the Divas one question: If you could give first time writers one piece of advice about writing or publishing, what would it be?
We hope you enjoy our thoughts and can apply these gems to help you along in your journey to publish your words.
Decide what kind of writer you want to be.
Do you want to make this a profession or just a hobby? Are you in it for fame or for the art? Are organized enough to follow through a book from start to finish? How serious are you?
I can only base this on my own example. Editing and writing a two different things. Even though I call myself a writer, I have yet to finish a book. It’s because I haven’t decided what kind of writer I want to be yet. I keep going back and forth with wanting to make it my work or my hobby. And then I tend to be a bit unorganized with my own manuscripts. Editing is more structured. I have a laid out plan when I edit, certain things I look for, certain ideas I express with authors. But with myself and my own writing, I don’t have the same structure. For all intents and purposes, I should have written and published three or four books by now. I have the ideas, I have the background, but the drive is lacking. I let things get in the way. It’s the main difference I have with authors who can sit down and write for hours or days on end is that they WANT to get their words on paper. They breathe it. I’m not on that level. I know I will be someday but right now, it’s not there.
My advice for authors, ones that are struggling like me, make a conscious decision of what type of author you want to be. Once you made the declaration to yourself and set your mind, you might change the way you view yourself as a writer.
Writing to me is like a light bulb going off in your head. You have this incredible idea for a book, it’s all you can think about. You’re so excited that you start writing. The words flow like you wouldn’t believe until you step away because life happens and you put off writing more for a couple of days.
Read from the books you want to write. And on the flip side, write the books you want to read.
If you aren’t reading, you should be. The simple act of reading releases your mind and allows it to get lost in another world. This sparks your creativity. How many times have you read or book or told someone about this great novel you’re reading and you get a fantastic idea for a book? Reading sweeps away the worries and chores and that list of a thousand things you need to get done.
When I first tried my hand at writing, I started with a light romance. And I struggled. So I took a long look at the types of books I absolutely love to read, it wasn’t romance. Don’t get me wrong, I like to read romance, what I truly love to read are thrillers and action-suspense novels. Once I made the decision to write the books I love to read, the ideas started to flow.
Do I still have work to do? Of course. Even though I’m an editor, when I write I still make mistakes. But I also know I’ve got the tools and the support I need to make whatever I create something wonderful. And the best part is, it’s what I love to read.
My best piece of advice for first time writers is to manage your expectations. I think sometimes people see writing as an easy and quick way to make money. In fact, freelance writing is often listed in those books that give people ideas for jobs they can do from home. And while it’s true writing is a great work-from-home job, this career, like most, isn’t a cakewalk.
Good writing isn’t easy and it is rarely quick. Just because you won a writing contest in 4th grade doesn’t mean you should end your job search and put on your “author” cap, and it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Instead, you need to understand what you are signing up for.
Writers pour their whole lives into becoming authors. It’s hard and often thankless work. You aren’t going to write a NYT bestseller in a week. You aren’t going to tap out the great American novel in one draft, pop it up on Amazon, and make a million bucks either. Instead you are going to struggle with your words, your characters, face rejection and bad reviews, live hand to mouth, and you’re going to keep writing because it’s your calling, not your career. Buckle your seatbelts, fledgling authors, it’s going to be a hell of a ride, but it’s worth it.
My advice to new authors is: READ.
Read as much as you can, in as many different media, genres, points of view, etc. as you can. A good writer is an engaged, diversified reader.
Why should you read?
- Reading increases your vocabulary. This goes back to elementary school and the way children are taught vocabulary words. The best way to learn new words is to read them in a sentence—in context. Adults are no different.
- Reading improves your grammar and punctuation. Simply because of repetition, if you read things written properly over and over again, you will recognize it and tend to write the same way.
- Reading diversifies your knowledge. The more you read, the more you know.
- As you read more, it becomes easier to identify things like plot, theme, characterization, point of view, placing, etc.
There are countless more reasons to read, but these are the ones that jump out at me. Hopefully some of our readers will leave more reasons in the comments.
Now it’s your turn. What’s the best advice you ever received as a first time author? Please share in the comments below.
Now… go write something!