I don’t believe anyone can become a fabulous writer by following only three tips, nor do I believe anyone can absorb the entire multitude of writing advice offered. These three tips will give you a strong start, after which you can further explore what you need to know.
- Read what you want to write. When I was a child, my mother took my brother and I to the library every week. I couldn’t carry the stack of books I needed to make it through the week and we began to visit the library more often. As an adult, I worked in a bookstore for two years. I was their best customer. After my sons were born, I listened to my friends complain about their children not going to bed on time and felt guilty. My children went to bed at 8:00, with a bedtime story, and never fought it. I was insistent on that, since 8:00 to 10:00 was my reading time. To this day, I read voraciously. I read almost every genre, but my favorite books have always been fantasy and historical fiction. As a result, I instinctively know a lot about how those books are organized and what readers of those genres expect. I would never try to write a thriller, for example, because I am not familiar with the expectations for that genre.
- Write often. I’ve been writing almost as long as I’ve been reading. I still have simple stories written in elementary school, an eighth grade Civil War report done as a narrative from the point of view of a slave, and pieces from my high school creative writing class. When I finished school, I kept writing but never showed anything to others. Fast forward almost thirty years. I had been teaching for a number of years, showing countless students how to write stories with a beginning, middle, and an end; how to show not tell; how to correct their own grammar. I wondered if I could write a novel with a clear beginning, middle, and end. It would have to follow my reading passions: historical fiction and young adult fantasy. At this point I thought of myself as a mother, a wife, a teacher, but not a writer. Writing was a secret hobby.
- Share your work. I thought my early efforts were wonderful, but my opinion was biased. It was wonderful because I’d written it. Finally, I showed the first chapter of my almost-completed first novel to a teacher colleague, one who also heavily read historical fiction and fantasy. I don’t think she realizes, to this day, that she was the first person to read any of my work. She validated me as a writer when she liked it and wanted to read more. That gave me confidence to join a writing group, take a writing workshop course at Stanford, and sign up for TheNextBigWriter.com, an online writing critique site. As my writing improved, so did my confidence, and I began to refer to myself as a writer. Sharing my work was initially very intimidating, but there are lots of groups out there that are full of people trying to write a coherent story for the enjoyment of others. Learning to critique the work of others improved my own writing skill and taught me to look at my work more objectively. It also gave me a tough skin that allowed me to hear negative comments without despair. That experience helped a lot much later when my first one star Amazon review showed up!
Every author, aspiring, struggling, or successful, has advice to give. However many of those recommendations a new author chooses to embrace, it is most important to persevere. Don’t give up if something doesn’t work for you, or if it takes time to learn. Don’t give up if the story isn’t going well. Don’t give up if you want to complete a book you can be proud of.