Advice For Beginning Writers

[DISCLAIMER]: This blog is another writer focused one — we’ll return to our regularly scheduled buffoonery next week!

More often than not, when new writers become introduced to the Writers Community across several platforms, we feel compelled to offer them advice. We don’t do this because we feel superior or the need to be revered, but because we want them to be as successful as possible. The Writing Community isn’t perfect — there are ups, downs, triumphs, & trepidation, but ultimately we are passionate people who want to see other writers succeed. Often, writers will ask other writers what their advice is for new writers as an act of inclusions into the community. For this week’s blog, I wanted to share my advice that I’d give to new writers, maybe to create a statement that can be referenced later.

[DISCLAIMER]: My advice is not definitive, or no guarantee to be useful to you. Please consider the following to be an opinion and suggestion.

No. 1: Write Often. In the Tarantino classic, Inglorious Basterds, Brad Pitt utters one of my favorite quotes in film: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Lots of practice.” I may be paraphrasing. But you get the idea, right? The only way to get better at something is to do it repeatedly. It is said that in order to master something, you have to do it for 10,000 hours; when I sit down to write, I consider the time to contribute towards my 10,000 hours. Even though I consider writing to be my best skill, I know that I have a long way to being great — I am always looking for ways to improve that skill. As a beginning writer, it would benefit you to make this one of your primary focuses.

No. 2: Read a lot. It is crucial to see how other writers are using and shaping words to tell stories. Throughout this blog, you’re going to read me use the phrase “Iron sharpens iron” a lot. Consuming literature by other authors, especially those you hold in high regard is not only a great way to stimulate your creative centers, but also subconsciously contributing to your comprehension of sentence mechanics and style. Your reading doesn’t have to be entirely fiction either — there were a few years where I was reading nothing but business and combat biography books. Those books still had crucial subtext of sentence structure, how words should be arranged, and inspired me to explore how other words could be arranged and fit together.

No. 3: Tell people about your work & be excited about it. I hear this a lot: I’m a quiet person, I don’t like telling people about my writing. I understand that completely, it’s who you are. Allow me to make the following points: 1). You want to be a writer, and likely a widely received one, right? That is going to involve a lot of personal growth and sea change. Growth is messy and painful and does not occur unless you are doing things outside of what makes you comfortable. Traversing things that make you uncomfortable is where growth begins. 2). How is anyone supposed to get excited about the work you are doing if you aren’t excited about it first? I’m not saying that you should rent a billboard, but do mention it in conversation. If people ask you what you are up to, be honest with them, tell them you are working on some writing projects and be jazzed about it. It boils down to a simple concept: no one is going to see the value or benefit of your work unless you believe it first and then tell them about it.

No. 4: Surround yourself with other writers & people who uplift you. Iron sharpens iron. When you surround yourself with other writers, you are seeing other people who are going through the same struggles and difficulties that you are. Getting burned out from editing? So are they. On the inverse, their successes are inspirations and motivations. I love seeing other writers get full manuscript requests from agents, seeing them get represented, sign their publishing deals, and so on. This makes me happy because I sincerely want all the writers I come in contact with to find success, because they deserve it. Seeing them reach milestones is encouragement for me — those are writers who have worked very hard and it becomes clear that I too must work very hard. Having other writers in your network provides you with people to talk to about the technicalities of writing, get perspective on how to resolve plot-difficulties and encouragement when the process feels difficult. It’s also crucial to surround yourself with people who make you feel good and positive — that’s not just in writing, that’s in life. You should always find yourself in the company of people who make you smile and support you. Life is difficult enough, you don’t need people who make you feel bad to help make it worse.

No. 5: Create a blog & social media platforms. Consider what a blog is: a place where you get to practice writing (see point #1), a place where you can offer demonstrations of your skill, and a great way to interact with people who support your work. I highly recommend that writers set up a website as it is the easiest place to curate information on yourself if people want to know what you are all about, but that can be a bit daunting. At the bare minimum, blogs are essential. The blogging platform (Blogger, Wix, or WordPress) is entirely up to your preference, but do take the profile platform seriously.

It is also not too early to set up your social media platforms either; your Twitter account, your Facebook fan page, Instagram, etc. Think about how you want to be seen: a professional writer that is taken seriously. That is going to require a presence that is confident of your abilities. You don’t want to say “I’m Writer X, the greatest author of all time,” but certainly say “I’m X, a writer” and be seen as a writer. Insist on being identified as a writer.

No. 6: Consider Writing to be your second job. One of the biggest objections that I hear from people who say they want to be writers, but can’t, is that they don’t have time. Ask yourself, truly ask yourself: is it that I don’t have time, or is it that my time isn’t properly arranged to allow for it? Writing isn’t easy and it isn’t something that can be done successfully half-assed. You need to be committed to your craft, you need to know that you are going to struggle, and there will be some lack of sleep. When I was earning my degree, I went to school all day and then I went to my retail job in the evening. After I got my first job in my current industry, I still worked retail in the evenings. That involved being at work at 8:00 AM, being home at 5:15, eating quickly, and being at the store by 6:30 PM. My shift was usually 6:30 till close (10:00 – 11:00 PM) and then could only leave after the store was cleaned up. Getting home at 1:00 PM was a pretty regular occurrence. If I could do that for the companies I worked for, I could certainly do that for me, to build something that I wanted to accomplish. 

[WARNING]: It is very important that you communicate to your family how important this is to you. It is very easy for your commitment to writing to be construed as ignoring your spouse or partner. Remember what I said about getting people excited about your work? This applies double to your significant other. Make sure you let them know they are part of the team and they are very important to your process.

No. 7: Develop persistence & consistency. If you take nothing else away from this blog, let this point stick with you. There is no greater service that you can do for yourself than developing persistence and consistency. Let’s not kid ourselves: rejection sucks. When you submit your story or novel for publication consideration, being rejected feels personal, like your work wasn’t good enough. Persistence is moving onto the next publisher without being deterred. Being consistent in writing every day, posting your regular blog, sending out X number of query letters, is going to develop your habit of doing work. The two combined are going to develop your work ethic. There was a quote I loved, I can’t remember who said it, but it went: “Persistence will bring you success, consistency will let you keep it.” Denzel Washington also said “Between goals and achievement are discipline and consistency.” This advice applies to everything, not just writing.

If you have aspirations of being a writer, I sincerely want to see you succeed. Literature is a very important part of culture and the more writers that are contributing to the culture, the better. If you need someone to tell you that they believe in you and are rooting for you, then allow me. I wish you all the luck in the world.

You’ve come looking for advice, have you found what you were looking for? Go forth and write, young scribe. Make words, tell stories, enjoy yourself!

Until your next trip across the Millerverse.

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