How to Get Started
Most of the articles on this blog are geared towards seasoned writers. One of my readers brought to my attention not everyone has the same level of experience, and some people just want to know how to get started. For those of you who are venturing into writing for the first time, here is some helpful information to get you started.
The first thing you have to do is show up, sit down, and do the work. Simple, but profound. You have to stop thinking about writing, stop talking about writing, and actually write. It takes time, and effort, but it’s the only way the ideas swimming around in your head will ever turn into words on a page.
Writing is a journey, a process. You’re not going to sit down and write an entire novel in one sitting. You have to piece it together like a puzzle, one word at a time. Setting aside time to write regularly is the best discipline to develop. If you don’t stick to it, those words will never be written.
Try this as your first venture. Jeff Goins wrote a fantastic article about this very topic entitled, The Secret to Developing a Regular Writing Habit. Breaking it down, set aside time every day to write at least 500 words for the next 31 days. It helps you form a habit to fit into your life schedule, is a small enough task to be done daily, and large enough that you’ll have something substantial if you stick it out. You’ll have more than 15,000 words when you’re done, and that is a great start.
One thing that has helped me tremendously in my writing endeavors is making acquaintance with other writers. I expand on this in my article Why a Writing Community is So Important. Having one or more persons in your life who will take the time to ask you, “So what have you written lately?” keeps the desire to write alive, and throws fuel on the commitment fire. If you know other writers, get in touch with them. Ask them about their work. Take the time to look at theirs if they’re willing to share, and give constructive feedback. You never know when you might need the same.
The Right Tools
Here’s another rudimentary yet essential snippet. Some people prefer to write the old fashioned way with pen and paper. While I prefer to use a word processor, I cannot deny the enriching and visceral feeling of scratching ink onto a page and watching it transform. If this is your preferred method, get yourself a good pen and a notebook dedicated to writing. Don’t use this to jot down telephone numbers, addresses, doodle (unless you’re writing a graphic novel) or etc. This notebook is reserved exclusively for writing. Keep it in a safe place and keep close eye on it so as not to lose or misplace it. There’s nothing more frustrating than losing hard work.
If you’re like me, and you prefer typing to writing, you will need a functioning computer and word processor. Most people use Microsoft Word as it comes installed standard with most PCs. If you’re a Mac user, Pages works too. Stay organized and keep a folder with nothing but your work in it. Don’t forget to back it up on a cloud or portable hard drive. I learned the hard way what happens if you don’t, and believe me, that is not the kind of devastation you want to suffer.
Hone Your Skill
We’ve all heard the age-old saying, “Practice makes perfect.” When it comes to writing, a more accurate statement would be, “Practice makes permanent.” If you write every single day, you’re bound to get better, but what that will do is help you form a habit. Writing good work takes a firm grasp of the English language and how it works. Taking an extra English college course couldn’t hurt. Better yet, there are plenty of Expository Writing and Creative Writing classes out there designed to exercise the imagination muscles it takes to come up with original stuff, and help you hash those ideas out into words.
Here are some great online video tutorials I found helpful. Here’s a quick five-minute video by Rick Davis on YouTube, and another 30-minute presentation by Mich Nicolson I found informative and helpful.
Try New Things
Don’t get so stuck in one groove you neglect the opportunities to venture out. Writing is such a broad horizon and there are so many opportunities and experiences to be had. If you fancy fiction, don’t be afraid to try poetry. If you’re writing an autobiography, perhaps a fun short story will help break up the monotony. Online magazines and newspapers oftentimes accept articles directly from the author (without the need of a literary agent). Ever think of starting a blog? What about a screenplay?
The possibilities are limitless. Shaking it up can keep thing fresh and interesting. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Living in the Age of Information, we can find a how-to for pretty much anything we want.
I hope you found this article helpful. Thank you for reading and feel free to leave questions or comments in the comment section below.