Warning - Some posts may cause choking, spitting of beverage and /or a severe giggle fit. This advice brought to you by regular reader Louisa.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Writing Tips From An Unqualified (but enthusiastic) Writer

Moving into the second half of my October blog challenge, and it's the turn of my HPANA buddy Weesa to suggest the next block of topics. Her first prompt is 'Advice for beginner writers'.

This one makes me a bit squirmy as I don't really feel that I'm in a position to offer advice. Sure, I've been writing for around five years now, but I'm not published, and I know I could improve in a number of ways. Still, there are several things that I believe would be useful to aspiring writers out there who are just starting out.

1 - My biggest piece of advice is to read. And when I say read, I mean reads lots. Read copious amounts, really. As much as you can, in every genre possible. The more you read, the higher your vocabulary skills will be, and you will also get a good idea about what does and doesn't sell. Look for plot patterns, see how foreshadowing works, look at the pacing. Dissect as much as you can and break the novel down into sections. If you can see how things work in a published book, it will help you with the layout in your own book.

2 - After you have read a good selection of novels, pick a genre that you enjoyed the most. If you really enjoy reading fantasy, for example, chances are you will enjoy writing fantasy too. Find your comfort zone, and test the waters by writing a short story first, or even a poem. You'll soon know if the genre you've chosen is working for you. My first original novel idea was fantasy based, and I spent three years on the thing and never passed five chapters. Fantasy is my favourite genre, so I really thought it should be the genre that I should write in. Then I went through a phase where I read a bunch of chick lit novels and I decided to have a go at writing one for last year's NaNoWriMo challenge. One month and 50,000 odd words later, and I had a working novel on my hands. Sure, it needs editing and what not, but the bulk of the writing is done. Goes to show that your first genre choice may not be your genre at all, so don't despair if your first choice doesn't work for you.

3 - Have a go at writing some fanfiction. I dipped my toe in the writing pond by writing fanfiction for Harry Potter (you can find all of my Potter stories in the Fan Fun forum on HPANA under my pen name Tundiel Mehtarion). My earlier attempts are a wee bit embarrassing, but I like to leave them up because I think you can really see how much I've improved over the years, and that is something which encourages me. Fanfiction is an excellent way to hone your writing skills, and also has the added bonus of feedback when you post it online.

4 - Blog. As often as you can. This is one of those things where I am saying 'do as I say, not as I do'. My blogging habits are sporadic to say the least, but I am trying to do better. If you really want to write, then you need to get into the habit of writing daily, even if it's only a couple of hundred words. It does work, but you need to be strict. I initially blogged almost every day for the first two months, and this was the time when I wrote my chick lit novel too. Since my blogging dwindled, so did my writing in general (in fact I slipped back into my terrible habit of not doing anything at all *shifty*). The whole reason I'm writing this blog today is because I decided to challenge myself to blog every day in October, partly because it's National Blog Writing Month, but also because I want to enter the NaNoWriMo next month, and this is an excellent way to get myself back in the habit of writing daily.

I also advise you to READ as many blogs as possible, especially any that are to do with writing in general, or are published by authors. You'd be surprised at how much you can pick up just by reading a handful of decent blogs every day, There's a wealth of knowledge out there, and all we have to do is read. *nods*

5 - My final piece of advice is to have fun. Seriously, enjoy your time at the keyboard (or with your pen, if you write by hand). If you really enjoy it when you write, there's a very good chance that people will enjoy reading your work.  And channel your emotions. Sometimes I am laughing like a mad woman when I am writing, or I am sniffing back tears. These are the times when my writing is at its best, and I'm pretty sure that what I am working on is more than half decent. If it seems like a chore, then your writing will come out flat, but if you are enjoying yourself, and have your emotions engaged, then your energy should  (in theory) seep into your work.

That's about all I can think of really. As I said, I'm by no means an expert at this writing malarkey, but these five tips are usually what I tell people if they ask me for advice. Hope some of you find it helpful!

Tomorrow I shall be talking about The Purple. Indeed.

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