These are the things I’ve learned in my first year as a writer; I wish I’d known them before I started.
#1. Join a writing community.
In this internet age, anyone can find a writing group. Find one with writers whose work you like and who are supportive of each other. Lurk and learn by reading their comments and critiques until you are ready to write.
#2. Use prompts.
If you know you want to write but don’t know how to start – use prompts. They’ll force you to write. Don’t worry if your initial pieces are autobiographical – most are. That’s why the standard advice is “write what you know.”
#3. Don’t compete.
If you’re always looking at someone else’s work before you start, you may feel inadequate before you begin. Read others’ work after you have written your own. You’ll be surprised at how your unique voice and ideas will emerge.
#4. Learn the rules.
There are certain rules that are important to know, no matter how eccentric you are. They include brushing up on grammar and punctuation and learning to “show, don’t tell.” Start there.
#5. Read what you like.
Notice what you like and how it breaks or bends the rules. Creative writers often do. Then read someone else. You’ll find there are many different ways to do it right.
#6. Ask for constructive criticism.
Grow a tough skin. It pays to listen to what works for your readers and what doesn’t. For every person who doesn’t like your work, there will be another who does.
#7. Trust the readers who love your work.
They will point you towards your unique voice. It’s easy to write like everyone else; listen to the elf inside your head who dares you to do something different.
Try memoir, poetry, fiction, short stories, blogging. Not everything needs to be the Great American Novel.
#9. Don’t beat yourself up about not writing.
Prolific writers are disciplined and write all the time. But allow yourself to write sporadically, as the impulse strikes. Be gentle and trust your own flow. Just make sure the page is open and ready for your pen (or typing fingers).
#10. When someone tells you it’s good, send it out.
The only way you’ll be published is to take a chance. Do research and find publications that print work similar to yours. Send it to them. Keep sending.
Are you a new writer? What have you learned your first year?