10 Tips for New Writers

writing2

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.

#8. Experiment.

      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?

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§ 30 Responses to 10 Tips for New Writers

  • Greetings from Australia. You helped me with my university assignment. Thank so much.

  • idlethumbtom says:

    Sound advice, my tutor at college always said ‘show not tell’ and so I pulled down my trousers and we began a beautiful relationship – hmm, I imagine that’s an old and not all that funny joke!

    I like your blog!

  • Hello Pamela!
    Thank you for writing these tips :) I have just started a flash fiction blog (I would love to hear what you think of it!)and I know these will be of great help to me!
    -Erica-

  • worddreams says:

    Nice common-sense tips. You’ve empowered us all to do what makes sense–like try different genres, send it out when it’s done. Thanks.

  • Anonymous says:

    My friend visited me this weekend and was excited to hear that I was determined to return to writing. However, it overwhelmed me when he explained that today’s world revolves around social networking on the internet, introducing me to the world of tweeting and blogging. Reading this article reinforced my friend’s advice, especially as to how easy and necessary it is to find a writing community online. Now that I have taken the leap of faith into the world of blogging and twitter, I’m looking forward to researching different writing communities that welcome my style of writing. I also like the piece about experimenting, a definite must. As a new writer at times I feel confused, as though I am supposed to fit into a certain genre but I’m guessing it’s okay to experiment as long as I’m actually writing and expressing myself. Thanks for the article!
    +1

  • “listen to the elf inside your head who dares you to do something different.” I love that elf! heheh, he’s hard to pin down sometimes. I also like the reminder in #9. Sometimes all you need to break writer’s block is to give yourself permission to rest! Nice top 10.

  • bschooled says:

    Pamela,

    I’m so glad I came here! I am about to take a work sabbatical to focus on writing as well, and these tips are brilliant.

    And so is your poetry!

  • shoutabyss says:

    When I’m wearing my “journalism” hat I find that rule #3 is extremely important. Once I read other coverage of the same event, I find it really, really hard to come up with my own words. So I just developed my own version of rule #3 organically. Never look at someone else’s coverage if I’ll be writing about it, too. :)

    Thanks for the tips!

  • pamela!

    these are great tips!

    nettie

  • Neil Reid says:

    An enhancement to #3 Don’t compete.

    I would certain agree that comparison can easily become judgment – both useless and painful. However perhaps it is the edge of the fence I suggest.

    There is possible also merit in reading another’s poems soon before beginning your own. Not so much as a methodic practice, but in allowing another’s more matured voice to set a spark into your own. Additionally, to imitate another’s style or flavor is not an uncommon step in the learning process – neither is it so unwise, nor unkind. There are manners of style and of the very process itself that are otherwise not given to easy linear instruction. Not totally original, derivative? Who cares!

    Allow yourself this learning curve. Surely you’ll write another piece, another poem, and another, and each step will move you more into your own integration, your own voice. Like we really have any choice about that!

    But yes, let go competition, let go judgments. Although you will judge anyway. Observe those feelings, then move on. Big deal! And when they ask, I won’t be raising my hand to cast the first stone. Be kind to yourself, no matter what or how.

  • Neil says:

    Sage advice, certainly. The writer and poet, William Stafford, was the first to allow me to see and embrace the possibility of writing. In illustration, if you’ll permit, this brief conversation he once had –

    Asked what he did if his next new poem, as daily he wrote, was not so “good” as his last, his reply was simply, “I just lower my standards then!” Sort of a jest, but not really. What if that “better” poem was just down the road, but the only way to get there was to write the other poems in front of it? Not meaning any disregard for care and craft, but setting judgment aside and allowing what comes is really all we can do anyway.

    His several books on the writer’s craft and process would be a friend I think to anyone on such a path.

  • Yes, all good advice. I’m not sure about number nine though. I find that after about 10 minutes something emerges from the unconscious lake of suppressed thought. But, what do I know?
    Better get down my two hours a day…

    • Thank you, Mr. In Action Man, (love the name by the way) a great observation. Knowing how long it takes us to power up is important. I agree, if you know it takes awhile, hang in and wait it out.

      Sounds like you’ve found your writer’s discipline.

      Appreciate you dropping by!

  • Excellent site. I’ve been so busy trying to learn the technical side of the program that I could barely get my first blog written! I now have two sites, OMG! Am an “(very)old hen” as well, born and bred in Austin. Have relocated now, but still consider it “home” of course. No creative works published here on this side altho there are drawers full. Never submitted. Have no rational reason as to why. Your advice on “send out” has inspired me tho. Guess it’s never to late, eh? Would like to add you to my blog roll (favorite sites) as soon as I can figured out how ;-). Thanks and more advice is always welcomed.

    • Thank you, iampentameter (can there be a better pen name?) – I’m honored and so happy to hear you’ll be sending out your work! It is never too late for art. :-)

  • Alpana says:

    Great Tips! Especially about not competing, always comparing your work with others. Also, I’ve learned that the first draft is not the masterpiece. Sometimes, I scare myself before I even begin, that everything has to be perfect, each word choice perfect. I am still trying to force myself to write first then go back, instead of revising each sentence as I go. Very interesting blog.

    • Alpana, thank you for your kind comments and for the excellent addition to the writing tips. Perfectionism is a huge barrier for beginners and even long timers from what I’ve read. Your advice is spot on!

    • My friend visited me this weekend and was excited to hear that I was determined to return to writing. However, it overwhelmed me when he explained that today’s world revolves around social networking on the internet, introducing me to the world of tweeting and blogging. Reading this article reinforced my friend’s advice, especially as to how easy and necessary it is to find a writing community online. Now that I have taken the leap of faith into the world of blogging and twitter, I’m looking forward to researching different writing communities that welcome my style of writing. I also like the piece about experimenting, a definite must. As a new writer at times I feel confused, as though I am supposed to fit into a certain genre but I’m guessing it’s okay to experiment as long as I’m actually writing and expressing myself. Thanks for the article!

      • masSoul, you don’t know how happy your post makes me. To help someone feel secure in starting and in trusting her own instincts (to use a cliche, which is a no-no) warms my heart.

        Thank you for being here and sharing.

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