Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Writing 101

After a lengthy conversation with an old friend, I decided to put together a post about writing. I know, it's about time....

Most of this is going to be pointed at beginner writers who are just testing the waters. But sometimes the basics apply to everyone, so here it goes.

* The best research a fiction writer can do is read in the genre they write in. Read what's being released now, in the last few years, not a decade or two ago. Sure, read the old classics if you want, but if you want to be razor sharp, keep up with what's hitting the shelves now.

* You don't have to be a professional writer to start writing. This is one of those things where experience isn't required before you write your first sentence. Just write. Once you get some things out on paper, you can start learning the finer points of grammar and novel structure, but when you're just getting started, don't let the fear of perfection paralyze you.

* Are you starting merely with a great concept? That's okay, just start growing the story from there. Think through characters, plots and what changes will come as a result of different challenges. A concept is a great place to start, but don't stop there. Explore every nook and cranny of your idea until it explodes into a full story.

* You're afraid to let anyone read your work because you think it's terrible. Well, believe it or not, you will get over your protectiveness as your finish writing you piece and you will want the brutal truth from whomever is willing to give it. Don't worry about that part until you are emotionally ready. Believe me, it will happen.

* You stink at grammar, your expository writing professor hated you or you never took a university level course in journalism, creative writing, or, heaven forbid, English. It's okay. Really. Go to writing conferences. Find people who are willing to critique your work. What you don't know today you can learn tomorrow. There's really no limit to how much you can learn if trust yourself enough to get that far. Don't let someone else determine whether or not you are capable of writing a story. Take Nike's advise and "Just Do It".

* Have fun with it. That's it. Write for fun. If you ever get to the point where you're writing for work, consider yourself a successful author, because by then, it will still be fun. And really, if you don't already like writing, you're probably not trying to write a novel. If you don't know if you like writing and are having doubts about your genius in that area, just sit down and write already. It's free. No one has to know but you.

But be careful. Writing can be addictive. Many writers seem to be able to live in an imaginary world in their heads even when doing mundane activities. This could be you someday. And if it already is, welcome to the ranks of insanity. We're always glad to have one more!


Cozy in Texas said...

Great post. Jeffrey Deaver recommended studying a book in your genre. Doing a synopsis, study plot line, etc.

L.T. Elliot said...

excellent post! It's all of the things I wish I'd found when I was starting out. =]

Laura said...

Ann and L.T.- thanks for stopping by.

The ironic thing is- I'm not even close to an expert on the subject, but it doesn't mean I haven't learned anything. I still need all the help I can get in this career. It's a good thing that there are so many talented people out there to help me.