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Five Tips for a Beginning Writer
You have to start somewhere. Writing fiction is no easy task, and some people believe themselves incapable of it altogether. With enough motivation and faith in yourself, however, it is far from impossible. Every person has his or her own rituals and techniques, something that puts them in the right mindset and lets creativity flow from their mind to their fingertips where ideas and inspiration are typed into something readable. It can be a long, frustrating process. Even good writers hate their work- in fact, it’s my opinion that most of them do. However, it’s a necessary loathing, because if everything came out perfect and spotless the first time, what would be the point of trying to make it better? Why would anyone try to improve their writing if they thought there was nothing wrong with it?
So my first lesson is this: It’s okay to hate your work. Just don’t stop writing because of it. Use that dissatisfaction as your drive to improve it. Believe that people will actually want to read it once it’s been fixed up, even if you think it’s horrible. You’ll find that it’s not as bad as it seems when you receive the positive feedback from your polished work later.
Second lesson- Use what inspires you. Do you like movies? Books? Video games? If you’re a ridiculous daydreamer like I am, you can find that a single sentence from a novel will cause your mind to drift into LaLa Land, and the ideas you find there may have little relevance to what actually triggered them once your mind wanders far enough. Inspiration is the fuel that your stories run on. If you find yourself running low, you need to pick up another book, pop in another DVD, or take a good look at a magazine full of pictures to get yourself working again. Never think you don’t need it, or you’ll find yourself in a slump with a serious case of writer’s block.
The next thing you should make sure you do is to write about something you love. Remember those classes in school you always feel asleep in? That’s what your brain will do if you try to write about a topic that you don’t really care about. Even a topic that seems mildly interesting won’t be enough. You should always be aware of infatuation, too. I can’t tell you how many times I loved an idea for all of one day, and then the next morning thought it was boring as hell. The point is, if you’re not writing about something that interests you all day, every day, you’re wasting your time. Passion is not something easily obtainable, but it’s necessary if you intend to finish what you start. Losing interest along the way will not only kill your story, but it will make all the work you put into it thus far worthless except for the experience that writing it gave you. So make sure your idea is something you can actually commit to and see all the way through.
It’s so easy to say these things, but how do you actually do it? How do you make sure the stories and characters you’ve created hold out for the long-term? Well, the thing is, you have to immerse yourself in the world of the story. Make it real, even if it’s only in your head. Your characters are spirits that live in your mind. Until they feel alive to you, no one else is going to believe in them. It sounds crazy, but if you’re not a little cracked in the head, maybe writing fake stories about people who don’t exist, who say things that were never said, who live in places you may or may not find on any map, isn’t really for you. Fiction is all about lying, so the first person you have to lie to is yourself. Draw a map of where your characters live. Write poems, letters, and monologues by them in a separate notebook. Make up profiles for them describing their every feature. Give them histories, hobbies, fears, passions -everything a real person has- even if you’ll never actually need to use any of this in the story itself. At least you will know your characters inside and out, and so, you’ll be able to write them like a pro.
So now you know how to handle your characters. That’s the easy part. How do you deal with the plot? Let’s face it- you can have awesome characters with interesting pasts, entertaining dynamics, and tons of potential, but what good is that when you don’t even know where your story is going? The technique you need to use is probably one that will take you back to your grammar school English writing days: Outline your story. Think that’s boring work? It can be, but starting a story without one is like getting in the car and going off on a road trip without directions or even a trusty GPS. Some writers can outline a story in their head and just go for it, but every creative writing professor I was ever taught by always mentioned the importance of a written outline- something you can see and refer to every time you find yourself drifting in an unknown direction. Memories are unreliable things. Even if you have a good one, you don’t want to risk losing an idea just because you didn’t take the time to write it down. Also, if you intend to write an elaborate story, with twists, foreshadowing, and nice, solid character development, you’ll need to make sure all the players are in the right place and that hints can be dropped if that’s your intention. It’ll certainly impress readers to see something during their second read-through that only makes sense later in the story.
Those are five basic tips to get you started. I may write another article like this with more helpful information. Most experienced writers already know everything that I talked about, but sometimes it doesn’t hurt to hear it again. Thank you for reading and happy writing!