How to get Started as a Writer

I was having a conversation the other day with a friend that went something like this;

Me “I’ve been really busy working on the novel..”

Friend “Yeah, I should write something. I’ve got a few ideas but I just haven’t got round to it..”

Will he ever get around to it? I don’t know. Maybe it depends on what is motivating him. I wrote and enjoyed writing as a child. I got a lot of praise from my teachers and that’s what motivated me but when you’re a writer working on a second novel and the first one didn’t find an agent, praise as a motivating factor isn’t an option.

I’m currently working on ‘White Water’ a historical novel and writing is a pretty lonely business. My motivation therefore has to come from somewhere else: enjoyment of writing itself.

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It took a while for the penny to drop after finishing my first novel. I really pushed myself with that one, allocated a number of words per day that I HAD to complete, planned it like a  military campaign, chapter by chapter and scene by scene but something terrible happened in the process. I started to hate writing. The enjoyment dissolved – poof! – it was gone and after finishing the book, sending it off to agents and sitting back, I never wanted to write again..

How I got Started as a Writer, the second time around was that I told myself one day, after the penny had dropped, that I would write a little bit. I could stop when I felt like it, I wouldn’t worry about what I wrote and I wouldn’t allow myself to critique it at any point. I would do it only because I enjoyed it. Nothing more, nothing less.

Many writers will tell you – don’t do it for the money! – and they are one hundred per cent correct. If you want to write, you need to do it because you love it. You might have days when you want to throttle it, slam the door in it’s face and go down the pub but in the end you always come back because you love it, through thick and thin, for better or for worse.

Here are my top tips for starting writing creatively:

  1. Just write. Get yourself a notebook and pen and write ANYTHING. In the brilliant book ‘The Artists Way’ Julia Cameron suggests you should aim for three sides of A4 a day. Just let the pen move. Shut off your editor. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad. Just write. Don’t read it back. Move on. Over time, like sculpting, shapes will emerge from the words. These will be the bones of your stories.
  2. Get out and observe. Go for a walk. Describe the sky, the road, the trees, the people – to yourself. Take a notebook. Sometimes when I’m out I write things down on my phone and copy them up later.
  3. Read. You can’t be a writer if you don’t love books. Hoard them. Give them a good home. Read widely. Read non-fiction too. Great for story juice.
  4. Keep going. About 90 per cent of writing is fortitude and not giving up.

Recommended reading:

The Artists Way – Julia cameron

Writing Down the Bones – Natalie Goldberg

On Writing – Stephen King

 

And if you try writing, let me know how you get on. If you already write let me know how you got started. What would you tell people to do or not to do? Stop by, leave a comment!

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