Dec 14, 2006

10 Things Every Aspiring Writer Should Know

10 Things Every Aspiring Writer Needs to Know

  1. Your equipment is key. Keep it in good working order. Never be without a pen and paper. Keep a journal by your bed for notes about dreams. Try using a small tape recorder if you don’t want to have to jot things down in public. For people with arthritis this is a great alternative. They are very reasonable at Walmart and Best Buy these days, you can pick one up for less than $30.
  1. Make time to write on a schedule. I write every day. If you treat your writing like a hobby it will stay a hobby. Treat it with respect. Write when you feel energized. Don’t squeeze in a few minutes every once in a while or you won’t be happy with your results.
  1. Everyone experiences writers block at some time or another. Don’t allow yourself to stay stuck. Walk away from the project for a while. Introduce your character to a comic book character and have them go out to lunch. Do something to stimulate your mind instead of giving up or wallowing in pity. Ask critique groups for help. Do not allow yourself to be distracted for days and weeks by time wasters on the Internet. Find a new place to start the story and return to your problem area at a later time.
  1. Never think you’ve learned enough. Keep reading about writing. Keep reading books in the genre in which you intend to publish. Every good author will tell you that practice is what it is all about. Even after having written four or five good books keep up the skills, keep reading and learning.
  1. Find your own voice. Nobody wants to read a copycat book. You may love certain authors and even a particular genre. Make sure you adopt your own style. Give your writing your own recognizable flair.
  1. Learn to proofread your work. Spell checking your writing is not enough. We all know how many errors get through both the spelling and grammar programs. Learn to recognize simple mistakes. There are tons of books, which can be quite helpful and should be kept within arms reach. Among these should be: a good dictionary or use an online version, of course the standard Strunk and White, a thesaurus to start. I also use some great tools at Reference Desk online and Library Spot.
  1. Learn how and where to use commas. I know I struggle with this one. There are tons of resources available for learning proper comma usage. Begin by doing a Google search. I also have some links in my editing section. The old “put a comma in where you would take a breath” rule is not always the best policy. Read up on the issue. Decide for yourself. Remember that readers pause with every comma you insert into your writing.
  1. Less is more. While wordiness might serve you well in descriptions it could lose you valued readers if they become bored. Simplify at all times. Most writers who suffer from wordiness actually have trouble with passive voice. If you don’t know this term it is time to look it up. OWL has the best handouts I’ve seen for explaining passive voice and active voice. One online course I took showed me how much I overused passive voice. I’m not cured yet. Try here for more information.
  1. Keep your characters straight. Nothing says new writer louder than a story where the protagonist has blonde hair in the first chapter and is a brunette in chapter fourteen. Use note cards or a writing software program to keep track of all the little details. Make out character sheets on all characters. It will help later. Trust me on this one. As for the best software program; each person is different. I have tried several. Many I did not like at all. None of them write for you, however some are quite good at organizing notes, plot and characters along with other options.

  1. Know where to begin. The hook is the most important part of your story. If an editor doesn’t like the first few sentences he/she will not keep reading. This is the same with many readers. Some readers ignore prologues. Get your reader involved immediately. Make them feel sorry for your character or hate them right away. Do not start with scenery. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I put a book down because it went on for six pages about how cold it was in Detroit. No kidding. I never would have guessed that without reading the book, NOT!

Most of these tips may be things you already know. Keep them in mind while you write. When I first started out I printed out advice. I had helpful tidbits taped all over my desktop monitor. I had a longer version of the rules every writer should know. Now, I look back and laugh at how little I knew.

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