When I first started writing I didn't know what I wanted to write. I would pick up a pen and paper, or flip open my laptop, and simply begin with a word and go from there. Some of it was was easy, some of it was hard. All of it needed a lot of work. So this year I will be writing for you all a list of things I wished I knew when I started and hopefully, you will find it both useful, and interesting as you delve into your own writing world.
1. Let it out
Writing is both a chance to create new lives and worlds, but also an opportunity to escape your own. Whatever you choose to do with your words, and whatever genre you write in I offer you one singular piece of advice - Let it out! Whatever words are catching in your brain, and thoughts that are swirling in your head, they deserve a chance to be released onto the page. Let them come to live and breathe for the first time of their own accord and let them control the direction you are heading. Some people like to plot and plan, others like to write freehand. Either option can be used, but if you hold onto the concepts too tightly before you get them out, you will find that they fade and disappear. So write them down as they arrive. Even if that means getting yourself a notebook and keeping it by your bed a night to capture those elusive concepts that arrive only in the pitch of dark. I myself use Scrivener to write with. I find it both helpful to organize my thoughts and writing, but also it has a range of add-on accessories such as the ability to link in webpages and pictures. #handy
2. Be prepared for criticism
The hardest part after I had begun writing down my thoughts, was my first foray into getting feedback.
We all have friends and family who offer to read our work. Some of their feedback is helpful and constructive, but largely as a species, we have remained throughout humanity on good terms with others by adhering to social decorum. With that in mind, it is important for all writers to remember that feedback from people who love us, is not always the most useful. The rough scraping words of the opinions of those who don't have an emotional attachment to you, and therefore your work, is a tough pill to swallow. But in the long run, if you want to write, you need to learn that criticism comes with the territory. I like to follow the 20/80 rule. Of all the suggestions, ideas, feedback, and comments that you receive in your writing ignore 20% and accept you need to change 80%. Some criticism is unintentionally (or otherwise) non-helpful and focusing on trying to please every person all the time will drive you insane and ruin your work. But like it or not, if you are getting similar results across several people you have a genuine need to make changes. Be brave and you will be rewarded.
3. Edit, Edit and edit again
I have never been particularly strong at grammar. In fact, if I was to sit an exam tomorrow I would have significant issues. However, your readers will spot your mistakes. Often faster and more accurately then you and any computer program you can find to help. But, there are plenty of services you can use to help. And here are some of my suggestions (please note I am not getting paid by ANY of these for the promotion of their product):
Prowriting Aid: With both a free online option or a paid option that you can use across a range of products (including Word and Scrivener) this is a great starting point for any piece of writing. From a work email to a novel, its a great way to make sure you are speaking in plain English.
Editminion: For those who want a simple and quick check, Editminion does a good job. I have used this often to cast an eye over my words to make sure I am not repeating things too often.
Dragon for PC: Another good idea is to listen to your work. How? By using software such as Dragon. This text-to-speech will read your work aloud to you. While you are listening, take note of misused words, errors in sentence length, and repeating phrases. It will come in handy later on if you want to turn your book into an Audiobook as well.
So that is the start point, and the singular advice I will give you this month. I hope it has been useful. And I can't wait to hear your thoughts! Drop me a line below on how you are going.