So, You Want to be a Writer?

2012 is here and you’re fresh and eager with the whole blank year laid out before you.  This is it.  This is the year you make it.  You’re going to start writing – again or for the first time.  Good for you!  Seriously.    I wish you luck and many well-crafted words.

To help you on your way, some things you are going to need (besides paper and pencil):

  • Someone besides yourself, your mother, your best friend, your spouse, or the well meaning girl who sits in the next cubicle, to read your work.  To not only read it, but dissect it.  To point out where your strengths lie and where you’re weak.  Someone who is not afraid to be unflinchingly honest and who knows the difference between an adverb and an adjective.
  • A support group.  I’ve written before about the importance of like-minded individuals who you can commiserate with.(Read:  Takes a Village.)  Find them, nurture them, respect them, grow with them.  An actual, physical writer’s group, or an on0line community, it makes no difference.  They are as invaluable as your unbiased reader will be to your growth and development.  As you will be to theirs.  It’s a two-way street, whether you feel you have something to offer or not.  They will be your sounding board, your source of information and inspiration, your shoulder to cry on, the helping hand to pick you up and dust you off, and they will be the first doing the happy dance at your success, no matter how small.  They will hold you to your goals and remind you of the responsibility you’ve taken on by declaring to the world, “I’m a writer.”
  • Books on writing.  Strunk and White ~ read it, memorize it.  A dictionary and thesaurus – yes, you can find them on line, but there’s nothing like thumbing through the real McCoy.  On Writing by Stephen King is worth the read.  Ask your support group what they’d recommend.  And don’t only read these books, but learn from them.
  • Books.  In your chosen genre, out of it, out of your comfort zone.  A writer needs to read.  That’s my belief.  Good, bad, or indifferent, read as much as you have time for.  But don’t read because you feel you have to.  Don’t read because you are actively looking to dissect someone else’s published work to figure out the nuts and bolts of it.  Read for enjoyment and, by osmosis, you will begin to realize what works and what doesn’t and your own writing will become stronger.
  • A sense of adventure.
  • A sense of resolve.
  • Patience.  You must write, re-write, edit, write some more, edit some more, possibly re-write great chunks you thought were brilliant.  It takes time.  Readers need time to scour your work.  Agents and publishers need time to decide if they want to take the chance on you.  Nothing about writing is quick, even when you can type 100 wpm.
  • Self-discipline.  You will be, for the most part, your own boss.  If you have two hours a day you can devote to writing, and you spend it playing video games or plucking dead leaves off your Hibiscus, there’s no one to blame but yourself.
  • A thick skin.  Guess what?  Not everyone will like the tome you’ve spent years slaving over, crafting and polishing each word until it glows on the page.  In fact, you may find, no one likes it.  Suck it up.  If you want to write, you must learn to face rejection and not take it personally.  The world is not out to get you.  They don’t hate you.  That reader, at that moment, just doesn’t connect with what you’ve written.  Fix it.  Toss it.  Sit on it.  Move past it.  If you don’t, you won’t grow.
  • The ability/desire/drive/need to write.  It’s what writers do.  The more you write, the better you become.  As the old saying goes, if you don’t use it, you lose it.  Exercise those muscles.
  • A sense of balance.  Writing is a solitary endeavor but you can’t forget the basics.  You need to eat sensibly, get some exercise, socialize every now and again.  Yes, as much as I hate to admit it, you do need to interact with other humans.

I’m sure there are other things you’ll need.  Some I’ve forgotten and some I haven’t thought of.  But if you made it through that list and you still want to be a writer, then what are you doing on-line reading Blogs and Tweeting?  Shouldn’t you be writing?

22 Comments:

  1. I think we cannot be reminded too often to follow these precepts. “Nothing about writing is quick” – well, sometimes it appears to be quick: the ideas, the first few feverish pages, but then…. ah. You are so right.

    • Thanks for the comment. Yes, I was reminded of the snail’s pace of writing even after completing a first draft. All the editing ~ you think you’re done and there’s more ~ beta has it for a while ~ comes back ~ I’m cultivating patience. LOL

  2. Hu..man…interac..tion? Huh. I guess that’s something I’ll really need to work on this year 😉
    Great post Kathi! Fantastic advice for the new writers, and a great reminder for the rest of us. Goodness knows I need to be better about submitting my work for critique (but it goes back to the thick skin bit). All resolutions for 2012!

    • Yes, c’mon now, you can say it. Hue men inter action. And no, talking to the people at the drive thru window doesn’t count. 🙂

  3. Great kick-off to the New Year, Kathi! Another very inspiring and funny post. Ah, Strunk and White, polished words–those were the days.

    • Thanks! Strunk and White is my fav. I think a writer’s fund should be started up and every one who proclaims they want to be a writer should be sent a copy. Good stuff in there.

  4. A wonderful post, Kathi! Very nice. 🙂

  5. Wonderful as always keep up the good work

  6. Great post – and soooo true about the need to read! My heart sinks when I hear writers say they don’t have time to read or reading is bad for their writing – how can that be?!?

    Writers need reading like we all need air 🙂

    Anne
    xxx

    • Thanks, Anne. Yes, that reading thing is a biggie. I find my writing greatly improves when I spend some time reading. I don’t get to devote as much time as I like so I tend to binge read. But if I’m stuck on the current WIP, instead of banging my head against the keyboard, I grab a book off the bookcase and start reading. All the better if there is something in it similar to the situation my characters are in because that sometimes helps jog my brain.

  7. Loved that part – “Nothing about writing is quick,” it’s so true. I honestly hadn’t looked at it like that but you’re right. These are all good points and I’m logging off of here right now! 🙂

  8. Whew thats a long list, better add ‘attention to detail’ 😉 All excellent points, hope they are as sharp as my pencil. hehe

    • Good addition. Although, I have to say, sometimes I get caught up in the silliest details. Spent a half hour yesterday making sure I knew the difference between an apprentice and a journeyman. That would have been a great use of time if not for the fact it really has nothing to do with the plot, just something one of the characters says.

  9. Thanks for the reminders Kathi, all of them. The ones that especially resonate for me are ‘A sense of balance’ and, oh yeah, your finishing lines. Eek. Wishing you a productive and happy 2012!

    • Balance, very important. Sometimes I get caught up in writing and forget I have a husband, a bunch of dogs, and a whole list of other responsibilities. LOL

  10. Great advice Kathi! Very enjoyable read! 🙂

  11. I just told my husband this morning how sad it was when writers thank people for helping them with their book, including their spouse and family, and yet the book is mediocre or poorly written or has no plot or a silly plot. I asked him to be brutally honest with me when he reads what write. If it doesn’t make sense, tell me. If I get off base, tell me. If I use a wrong word (goddess forbid) tell me. He said he is not afraid to do that and I am very thankful.

    There is a great quote by Stephen King. “”It’s hard for me to believe that people who read very little – or not at all in some cases – should presume to write and expect people to like what they have written. Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time – or the tools – to write. Simple as that.”

    • Oooh ~ I love that Stephen King quote!! So absolutely true. And I think it goes back to the “write what you know” philosophy. You get to know things by reading about them, as well. By experiencing how other authors create their worlds.

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