I recently had the pleasure of attending the Emerging Writer’s Festival Conference in Melbourne. To begin the first day the five festival ambassadors each presented seven pieces of advice they wish they had know when they began writing. Below are mine.
1. Write a little each day
I know this sounds like the sort of bollocks your dentist tells you about flossing, and I’m sorry to be the one to tell you, it’s all true! (Note to self: book dentist appointment.)
Most of the time I’m convinced I produce the sort of prose that would’ve left Shakespeare sitting at my feet like a starry eyed groupie. But without fail when I come back to that same piece of writing a month later I cringe with the awfulness of my word choices and the sloppiness of the plotting.
The important thing to remember is that writing a little each day doesn’t have to be a drag on your awesome online social life (hellloooo….. Anyone out there?…..). Scribbling ideas in a notebook, recoding great lines on your smart phone or making a litre of coffee and getting stuck in to it for three hours all count. They do! I checked.
2. Organise yourself and your space
Confucius once said, “clean your shit up!” Hmmm… maybe that was just my mum.
Anyway they both have a point. If you have messy work area then you will never make a start on that epic Cinderella vs Swamp Monster novel you have been telling your friends about for the last three years.
Take five minuets of writing time to do a quick tidy and make your space clear. It will generally make it easier to focus.
3. Learn as much about the craft of writing as you can
With the invention of the Internet (yes kids there was a time when Instagram didn’t exist) an abundance of wonderful writing resources have sprung out of nowhere. Most authors will have a website where you can find tips and there are plenty of forums where both experienced and emerging writers will share their wisdom. So make like a honey badger and get amongst it.
4. Be open to criticism
Another benefit of the Internet is that it’s a great way to get other writers and readers to look at your work. Websites like Figment.com and WritersCafe.org give you a chance to test the waters before you start sending your writing to agents or publishers.
The really important thing is not to be offended by what others might say about your work. Every piece of constructive criticism is meant to make you a better writer, not just a cranky crank pants. That said if you are being besieged by trolls initiate protocol #3487.
Protocol #3487 – Do not feed the trolls. Walk away and have a cupcake.
5. Meet other writers
I found that the chance to go to an event like the Emerging Writers Festival was a brilliant way to meet people who shared my passion for writing. I wandered from room to room with my fellow newbies listening to the sage swearing of the ‘old hands’ as they described their life’s work. It was equal parts humbling and inspiring to see other people ‘living the dream’.
I think connecting with other writers is the best way to remind you of why you loved writing in the first place.
6. Write in lots of different styles
Don’t just decide that you only write geriatric erotica or academic papers for children. Stretch yourself and try lots of different kinds of writing. You might find that you are best at one thing, say short stories or you might discover a new love.
7. Success = Persistence + Optimism
Everyone has a different opinion on what success looks like. But as far as reaching your version, I believe it requires equal amounts of persistence and optimism. There is one thing I can guarantee you will hear as a writer, ‘thanks but no thanks.”
There are always stories of writers who were rejected a gazillion times before they ‘made it’, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling and others come to mind. These struggles have become fables within themselves and are passed on to each new generation of aspiring writers.
The important thing is to keep going. Blog, find magazines and pitch article ideas, enter competitions, write and perform plays in your backyard, do whatever it takes to stay optimistic and see every rejection as a badge of honour on your road to ‘making it.’
If you would like to read some of my work click here.