Wanting to become a writer is an easy choice to make in theory; it could be a wild thought that decides to stick with you throughout the rest of your life or until you get bored. Desiring to write about any topic or career however, is not such an easy choice. It takes dedication and constant self-persistence to actually make sure that whatever area of writing you choose is the one you actually want to pursue. And of course, that’s okay. Writers often flip between interests several times before they settle –if they ever chose a topic or subject that fully interests them. Some of the best written texts are from authors who have dabbled in several types of writing.
And so, you’ve given the idea of writing some thought and you finally decided that this absolutely is something that you would like to pursue. Great! But what’s next? If you’re having a hard time trying to think of where to go, don’t worry because you are not alone. Making the decision to write is the easiest part and sticking with writing until your brainchild comes into fruition is the most rewarding feeling in the world. Sticking with that idea until it grows to that point, however, is not so easy. So, you may be asking, “How do I get through the steps of writing?” I’m glad you asked; here’s a list of nifty tips and tricks I’ve come up with to help any aspiring author achieve their dream.
1. Finding an Idea You Actually Enjoy
Writing is hard enough on its own, but nothing is harder than trying to start working without having a clear direction. For myself, I often find that if I start writing something without a clear path in mind, I end up without having any clue of what I want from my story. I then realize that I actually hate the idea and this is a common problem that results in directionless writing. Trying to write without purpose is difficult and is like wandering into uncharted and unfamiliar territory. You have no clue what will happen or result in this idea-less experiment. Of course sometimes these ideas can be fruitful if you find direction in your writing. But what do we do when good idea don't surface, and how do we make sure we don't hate our creations?
Finding a good idea that you love is like finding a diamond on the sidewalk. It's nearly impossible. Honestly, if you can’t find something to write about, it’s not wrong to seek out another source of inspiration as long as you aren’t directly copying someone else. Maybe you had a conversation with a close friend that detailed an excellent science fiction novel, or maybe you watched a really sappy drama on television and now you suddenly want to tell an equally cheesy story. Whatever the idea is, write it down. These small moments can mean big things if they are cultivated right.
Maybe you had an idea years ago that you scrapped. It never hurts to revisit and see if you can make it work now. I’ve had an idea in the past that I thought were completely unusable that I revisited and realized what a goldmine it was. Of course, when you look for ideas make sure it’s something you want to see come to fruition and are passionate about. Nothing makes writing more painful that not being interested in what you write. Something to keep in mind when writing is if there is no passion then words are just words and they won’t be any more than that.
Moving onto hating our own ideas, that one is tricky. You may absolutely adore your creation when you first begin to write it but gradually you change your mind. How do you continue to love what you’ve written enough to stick with it? I find this to be a challenge. It's also problematic to write too much on the idea. It is fantastic to be passionate about your project and it’s definitely a great feeling to have but sometimes, you can write too much and it causes burn out. This feeling can also make you become disinterested in something you once deeply enjoyed and it can be very upsetting when you can’t continue even if you really want to. To combat this feeling, I tend to leave the project alone for a little while, recuperate, and brainstorm which leads me into my next point.
2. Brainstorming is Your Friend
I admit, brainstorming is a tip that I seldom followed and regretted each time I started a new project. However, this tip is very beneficial to think out what you want to do before you actually commit to it. In this way you have more control over the outcome and you have written proof of what you want to do rather than trying to memorize what you want. If you have your idea written out, you will be less likely to forget what it was that you wanted to do. Plus, you can always skip around if you run out of things you want to do for a particularly difficult scene. Just as well, if you brainstorm, it makes it easier to fill in missing gaps of your story before you start writing and get to a potential plot hole.
It is also a good idea to start thinking of the world you want your story to take place in since world building is crucial to fiction stories. This especially rings true if the world is an entirely new creation that is unfamiliar to the expected audience. For example, if your idea is something related to science fiction, the world must be thoroughly thought out in a way that readers don’t get lost in your world. If you are creating a new world completely from scratch, make sure that you can answer all of your questions completely through your writing. If you read over your own work and get lost, go back and explain more of the world and its mechanisms. It is always a great idea to keep in mind that your readers are not in your mind and therefore can’t understand the complexities of the world you built on their own. Explain and keep explaining until you have a perfect visual through written word.
Adding onto this thought, it’s also crucial to start brainstorming your characters because it introduces them. Knowing your characters inside and out is essential to successful and believable people in your work. By thinking of the characters before trying to write them, you can also get a better understanding of them and make them more complex if you so desire. So where do you start? I personally like to have a “skeleton design.” This particular concept creates the bare minimum of a character, such as what you want them to look like, and basic personality characteristics. Do you want your character to be a tall shy girl that secretly loves sports? Great, you have a basic character. Now all you have to do is keep adding to that until you have a complete person. Ask yourself what you want from this character and what you want them to accomplish. Overall, brainstorming is a way for you to get to know your book before you begin writing so you don't get lost while trying to write a plan.
3. Start Writing Your Story (You Made It!)
Okay, so this part is obvious. Of course since you’ve done all the work for brainstorming and idea hunting, you’re going to write. This step feels self-explanatory but a lot can go wrong in the wiring process if try to write without knowing how far you go. The most important thing to take away from this tip is to not get burned out on writing. I mentioned that in tip number one but I feel that it is most important in writing. When you overwrite you can and usually will be more prone to writer’s block which is the worst thing that can happen when writing. If you have an idea and you really want to get it down while your creative flow is working, then that is fine but never force something to happen just because you feel like you should write. It’s okay to take breaks from writing as well so you do not get burnt out on writing and producing ideas. Writing takes time and needs nurturing to create something great. A story is a baby and a baby does not grow up in one day, so why should your story? With that being said, write and have fun with it. This tip should be a pleasure, not a chore.
3a. Overcoming Writer’s Block
I mentioned writers block before. So what do you do when you get stuck? You may feel inclined to write through the block and while sometimes that works (I’ve done it a time or two) it is not always a surefire solution to break the block. The best advice is to take a step away from what you are writing and take a break. The break can be as long or as short as you need; it is a tool to help you get the ideas flowing naturally again. A break is often good because it will allow your mind to recover and also allow new ideas to come to you when your mind is ready to start up the creativity again. It may also be beneficial to read a book or something else that inspires you. Going back to your original inspiration source is often helpful to overcome writers block. Maybe you can think of new ideas by seeing how others write and how they set up their world. You could also even try writing something else that isn’t related to your story at all. Write a flash fiction. You may become so inspired by that shorter piece, that your passion may carry over and lift you over your other block.
Write again when you feel you have a good idea. It may be helpful to read over your ideas you thought about before you began writing and see if you can change anything about your story that you found did not fit or write out as well as you thought it would have. You can also think of changing the ideas that gave you writers block if you feel that that portion of the story is not as important as you originally thought it would be.
4. The Finished Product and Editing
This is the most tedious part of writing, the editing after declaring the book a masterpiece (even though you already know it is.) You may think that you may not need editing but you would be wrong. I’ve been a reckless writer in my past and sometimes still am so when I reread my work, I catch mistakes that could have easily been fixed with a quick edit. However tiresome editing may be, it’s crucial to your story’s success if you want it to go anywhere in the future. Of course, maybe this entire time you’ve been writing for yourself and that’s more than okay. Editing your piece could be good practice for future pieces you actually want to go somewhere. Whatever your reason for getting to this step, congratulations; you’ve finished your story and that is something to be proud of.
Remember, even though you may feel your story is completely fine, more times than not, errors will begin to arise as you go through your manuscript. Editing is a crucial part of polishing that is needed for your work and doesn’t always have to be boring or tiresome. It can be fun to send your book to a few trusted friends or colleagues and they can always give you feedback on your manuscript for the editing process. Maybe you made a mistake in your book somewhere, had some awkward sentences or just had an inevitable plot hole in your work. That’s okay because someone can point it out for you and you can fix the story while getting great feedback.
Maybe you want your work to be a surprise for the people closest to you so their edits are out of the question. Editing by yourself is a great way to achieve that surprise you want. If you chose to go this route, then it would be most beneficial if the finished piece can sit alone for a few days while your mind begins to distance itself from the work. By doing this, you begin to forget little details in the story and your mind will be more likely to realize small minor mistakes you were able to ignore earlier when writing. This makes the editing much easier and can make the revisions a little more fun.
When you do start your editing process, go slow with it and take your time. Dissect each paragraph, every sentence, line and word. Change things you feel don’t make sense, add things you forgot originally, fix repeated words, add or remove characters. Make the story the best version that you can possibly get it to. Make it something you’re really proud of, that you can’t wait to hang on your fridge.
5. The Future
If you have the intention to share your work, then the most reasonable route to take is to look into some form of publishing. This can be a really fun or very frustrating process depending on the way you look at it. In order to publish, your manuscript should be fully edited to the best of your ability (and if possibly have someone else look over it.) It’s a very good idea to have a query letter written for your manuscript as well as a book agent (more on this in a moment). A query letter is usually a one page letter that helps sell your manuscript to potential publishers. After writing that, you should prepare a brief two page book synopsis that will share what the book is about without giving away too much about the story.
I mentioned a book agent earlier, and these are very important for traditional publishing. These are the people that will help pitch your book to publishers and will work with you to get your book out into the world. They also negotiate the best book deals for you with the publishers to make sure that you are being paid fairly for your work. You can think of the as the middle-man between you and publishers. When you and your agent start submitting, don’t get discouraged if your book is rejected. Rejections happen but they make the success even more worth it when it comes.
If you chose not to publish then that is also good as long as it is what you want. Finishing a novel is a big task and it is absolutely fantastic that you could complete such a strenuous process. Maybe once you’ll want to publish something, at least you can say you have experience under your belt. Whatever you decide, have fun with it!