I have often found myself contemplating this very question. Why do I want to be a writer? Do I have what it takes? Can I really be the aspiring author I have dreamed so many times of becoming, to publish, and finally, see my name in print? The answer is, yes. The following sobering reality is yes; but, only if I do the work. You have to write to be a writer.
I have had minimal experience with writing mentors, other than the books that I have read by those who’ve traversed the path and put their experiences on a page. I think that reading literature on the art of writing is another important aspect in helping make the commitment to be a writer; and also, hone the craft. I have experienced the euphoria and energy that come when you are at the peak in a story and feel the magic happening, yet, I have spent most of my writing journey in the trenches of self-doubt and procrastination. These are the writer’s nemesis and must be cast aside. So, as I list the following tips that I believe are essential in the writer’s journey from dreamer to doer, know that you are not alone. I am walking the same path with you.
- Stop Thinking About It and Do It
I had a writing professor that encouraged our class to make time and a commitment to writing something every single day. It could be anything from a journal entry, a paragraph (which tends to become the next chapter) of your novel, a poem, even random thoughts and ideas. The point is that as writers we have to write, and when we do (though it may take time) eventually we tap into a well of ideas, of material, new characters, or some personal epiphany. The flip side to this daily pledge is to also make it a point to read, read, read. The more we expose our minds to new or old prose we are filling the well we are working to tap into.
- Don’t Fear the Blinking Cursor
There’s no doubt that one of the most intimidating parts of writing, is to actually start the story. We sit and stare at the blank page and ticking cursor like a time bomb of failure waiting to implode. This is the place our fears and self-doubt grow into that awful voice telling us that we can’t do it, we are empty of good material, we are talentless, even worse, that we are not writers. It’s important to recognize these moments and quiet the negativity. Step away from the blank page, take a walk, try some basic brainstorming, read a newspaper, or start researching locations, character traits, anything that will break the down-spiral and lift you back to creativity.
- Open with a Bang
The opening line of a story should always be an active one. It should immediately grab the reader’s attention and pull them deep into that opening moment of the story. The writer should consider every avenue that opening line can go and remember that it is simply an introduction to your story, with a big bang. Don’t try and stuff the entire opening with all the tricks, surprises, and plot twists you can muster. Remember, you have an entire story to strategically insert these elements to keep the reader and the story moving.
- Learn the Basics
It is imperative that anyone aspiring to become a writer seek to learn and understand the basic concepts that center around good, effective writing. Learning these important principles will do the writer no good unless they practice, practice, practice: character creation, place and setting, grammar and punctuation, language and plot, effective dialogue, research, pre-writing strategies, and the art of editing and revision. Just when you think you have good techniques in place, go back and revisit each basic concept and keep practicing.