What was I doing? And why was I running from one thing to another without any clear direction?
Like many people I’m a reader. I’ve read different genres my whole life and feel comfortable with books. I can even remember choice phrases and tidbits. Even my husband loves to say, ‘I’m off to my study and I’m not to be disturbed!’ (Mr Bennett, Pride and Prejudice).
However, writing a book and all that story craft is a whole other pesky thing. After one and a half years, I’ve worked out a blueprint that has clarified my learning process. Hopefully, you can glance over it, take the bits you need and go ‘pfft’ to the rest. I’ve broken the blueprint down into years one and two.
Things you can do in the first year to move your writing along:
- Join a critique or writing group
- Read Lots of How-To-Books and Books in your preferred genre
I am a how-to-book tragic. I raided the local library and borrowed every novel writing book they had. (Yes truly). I also downloaded a few onto my kindle but in the end ordered books online because I wanted to keep them in my reference library. My Top 6 Books (so far) are:
1. Goal, Motivation and Conflict – Debra Dixon
2. Any of the Writing Romance/YA for Dummies Books
3. Save the Cat – Blake Snyder
4. The First 50 Pages – Jeff Gerke
5. Elements of Fiction Writing (Conflict and Suspense) –James Scott Bell
6. Novel Shortcuts – Laura Whitcomb
There are a stack of others and from each you may glean a kernal of ‘aha’ moments that will stay with you and push your writing to new levels.
- Do Courses/Workshops
There are plenty of courses and workshops available on a multitude of topics. Depending on where you live, the best thing is to google courses in your area. Often there is a writer’s centre in your city or university courses that you can attend. The beauty of these courses is that you can concentrate your learning into a small time frame, meet other writers and target your learning. For example, if you decide you need help on character development, you can choose just that topic.
- Organise Your Writing Space
Until I had a dedicated writing space, I wasn’t dedicated to writing. I faffed around trying to write in poky areas upstairs, downstairs and in my lady’s kitchen. Not until I turned my little used dining room into my writing enclave, did the urge to sit down and type hit with a vengeance. Do make sure you’re comfy as you’ll be sitting for some time. I only write for two hours at a time. Then I go and do something else and come back to it later in the day for another two hour burst.
- Join Romance Writers of Australia and go to the conference if you can
This organization offers mentors, advice, newsletters, competitions and judging of your work. There is a huge membership and you are bound to connect with people in your genre which can kickstart all sorts of wonderful writing relationships. The conference is well worth it. Extremely well run and chock full of fabulous workshops. The biggest plus is meeting published authors and getting a feel for the industry.
Things you can do to improve your writing in year two are:
- Study Authors you like and learn from them
Study sentence structure, dialogue, pacing and timing. Look at the words and work out why they work. Study how to increase suspense, conflict and emotional intensity. To do this you need to read – a lot. And study writers’ websites because they often give useful online tips.
- Put your work out for critique in writing groups or Competitions
Now this can be scary. Oh yes. But you’ll never know how you’re going if you don’t get any feedback. So be brave. Put your work out there and learn. Also, critiquing someone else’s work is a great way to see what works and what doesn’t.
- Think about blogging, facebook, a website or other social media
None of this is that important to start with, but as you get more experienced and get close to your first submission, you may want to think about your profile. It helps if you are active and seen to be a writer and if you blog consistently, you may build a readership.
- Study the market in your genre.
Read the latest best-sellers. Look at bookshop shelves, library shelves and ask advice about what’s selling. Try to stay informed about your genre.
- Write, Write, Write.
Ever seen babies learn to walk? They try and try and try and never give up. Every day they practice until one day, TA DA! – they’re walking. It’s persistence that pays off and so it is with writing. You must practice often, every day if possible.
If you can do even half of what I’ve listed, you will be well on your way to improved writing craft. Remember that it is your writing journey. Try not to compare your progress with others and take the time to enjoy each step along the way. After all, that is why we write. For the FUN of it.
One of my favourite sayings is by Robert Collier, the American self-help philosopher.
‘Success is the sum of small efforts – repeated day in and day out.’
I hope this blueprint gives you some ideas on how to tackle your writing adventure. If nothing else, it’s a great checklist to tick off the things you’ve already done.
Now, I’m off to write in my dining room and I’m not to be disturbed.