Writing is an innate skill that can’t be learned; therefore, I don’t aim to teach you anything. We are all fellow writers. Equals. However, writing can be perfected through practice, attending writing courses, and developing certain writing habits. In this article, I will share 10 lessons I’ve learned the hard way. Welcome to my version of the writer’s guide for beginners!
It’s easy to get stuck in one genre, especially when you’ve been writing for some years. It’s a trap! Creativity and imagination have no limits – so explore and experiment as much as possible! Try new things, new genres, diversify your characters.
Likewise, if you write mostly prose, why not try to write a poem or a script? This radical change might offer you a new perspective and open new opportunities for you in terms of creativity.
2. Focus on goals, not on expectations
Many beginning writers dream of publishing, expecting to become famous when the ink is still fresh on the printed copies. I have seen many young authors publishing their first book, and guess what? Nobody gave a shit. They weren’t popular amongst readers, weren’t represented by a big publishing house, or maybe they really sucked. Whatever the case, my point here is that whoever writes expecting something in return is on the wrong path. A writer’s job is to write as best as possible and continue to do so, no matter what happens.
Since this is a writer’s guide for beginners, there’s a chance there are a few fellow Wattpad users here, so let’s have a chat! There will be times when you’ll publish a new chapter you worked very hard on, but you won’t receive any feedback. It feels like rejection, I know; we’ve all been there. It doesn’t mean that you should give up. Your writing ability isn’t measured in the number of votes you receive.
It would be best if you focused on the process, on improving your skills, instead of expecting praise. Finish that chapter. Start the next one. Edit and rewrite where you need to. When you’re finally satisfied, put your story out there. If you do your job well, positive reactions will come too – in time.
3. Find your strengths and use them
Every writer is naturally good at something, whether it’s creating a witty dialogue, good character development, or a gripping plot. How do you find what’s yours? Re-read your stories as if they were somebody else’s and pay attention to the parts you like the best. Another way is to identify which elements of the story feel the easiest to write.
Acknowledge your strengths, perfect them and build the entire piece around them. For example, if you’re good at dialogue, try writing a script or a play.
However, you should also focus on your weaker points and work on them. As a writer, you a one-man show; therefore, you must offer your readers an enticing experience from start to finish, from an extraordinary plot to remarkable characters and a unique writing style.
4. Settle your own rhythm
I’m sure you have read about many famous authors’ writing routines and want to follow in their steps. Well, good for you! Except your lifestyle doesn’t match theirs and the world has changed a lot in the last decades. You can’t become a writer by mimicking another.
Pay attention to what feels right to you. Maybe you like to write in the morning while sipping your coffee, or perhaps you’re more of a I’ve-got-a-new-idea-while-I-was-on-the-bus writer. Whatever floats your boat!
I’d like to point out that some days will be better than others: you will surprise yourself finishing a few chapters in a week but might get stuck on a scene for days or more. Don’t let these fluctuations bring you down! They are normal for a beginning writer. In time, you’ll learn what motivates you to get back on track and how to avoid getting stuck again.
5. Practice makes it perfect
Don’t call yourself a writer unless you practice your craft as much as you can. Nobody got better by just daydreaming about random characters. You might feel you’re not ready to start a new project or that you didn’t figure out the story yet, but those are just excuses made up by your perfectionist brain. You can write anything!
Find a writing prompt that sets your imagination on fire, turn off the wi-fi, glue yourself to the notebook/laptop and try your best! It won’t be perfect, and it doesn’t have to be. Practicing as often as possible is the key to improving your craft. Your vocabulary will improve. You will soon have a distinct writing style that will evolve with every new story you create.
6. Don’t take yourself too seriously
Like Oscar Wilde once said, “Art is the only serious thing in the world. And the artist is the only person who is never serious.”
Art is the only place where the so-called weirdos and outsiders can show themselves and prove what they can do. Mr. Wilde himself was an eccentric person, sometimes downright ridiculous, but a genius nonetheless, whose legacy still endures.
As a writer, you must focus only on getting better at your craft; everything else comes secondary. Don’t be afraid of criticism or people not liking you; their opinion doesn’t define you. You chose how you display yourself. You can create a separate ‘author persona’ or show your true self in all your nerdy glory – either way, it’s perfectly fine. My favorite author once got to a book signing in a coffin, which made me admire her even more! As long as you’re a good writer, the world will forgive you for almost everything.
7. Jot down every idea
Imagination and creativity have no master. You can sit at your desk all day, waiting for a revelation that won’t come, only to go for a walk and finally have that eureka moment.
New ideas will come to you at random times, so it’s essential to have a notebook with you so you can jot them down. Of course, many writing apps will help you store your ideas until you can work on them later.
Some of these ideas will seem silly after a while, but others will turn into complete poems or novels. Do your future self a favor and write down every idea, no matter how weird it sounds.
8. Writing is the best tool for self-exploration
People are good at deceiving both others and themselves, wrapping their feelings and experiences in countless shrouds until the truth is no longer visible. (Yes, this is a fancy way of speaking about dissociation.) But once one starts telling stories, the veils start falling, revealing one’s deepest emotions, longings, and desires.
If you’ve been writing for long enough, I’m sure you’ve already spotted at least one common theme that’s at the core of your stories. As a writer, you have the ability to enchant others, but – even more important – you have the power to (re)discover yourself.
9. Just do it: press the ‘send’ button!
Are you having second thoughts about getting to the next level? Contacting an editor or submitting your manuscript can be scary. It’s like giving your child away, but it’s a necessary step in achieving your dream. You just have to take the plunge, even if it scares you. Cast your self-doubt aside and sent your manuscript to the publishing houses!
Trust me; a miracle can be just a click away. I’ve submitted my short stories to writing competitions simply out of spite. My approach was something along the lines of: ‘I don’t know if my prose is any good, so I’m going to find out. Why shouldn’t I send some short stories?’ (but with more swearing). Guess what? They won and got published.
And even if you don’t get the desired answer on the first try, it’s all right. Most famous authors were rejected dozens of times before breaking through. This brings us to the next point on the writer’s guide:
10. Accept failure and learn from it
It’s normal to be upset by a rejection e-mail, but don’t let it bring you down! If the editor was a dear and gave you a suggestion list, use it to improve your writing. Likewise, pay attention to the feedback, filter what’s useful, and go back to work! Turn everything into an opportunity to grow as a writer. Remember that your favorite authors were just like you in the beginning, but they’ve worked their pens off and made it! What keeps you from doing the same?
Thank you for reading so far. I hope you’ve found this writer’s guide helpful. If you want to learn more about being a writer, check out this article on finding inspiration everywhere around you!