Tip #1: Decide why you want to be a writer.
Take a few moments to think about why you want to be a writer. If
you are a professional writer, reflect on why you got into writing in the first place. Was it for money? Recognition? Or simply
a desire to share your dreams, your visions, your creations? Knowing why you are (or want to be) a writer will help you through
the dark moments of the writing life: The rejections, writer’s block, harsh criticism and hard work. Believe in yourself
as a writer and use your reasons for writing as your defense.
Tip #2: Decide where you want to go as a writer.
Every journey must start with a plan. And while not everything can
be foreseen, there are some guidelines we can set up for ourselves as writers. Is writing something you want to do in your
spare time, with hopes of maybe selling a book or getting a poem published? Or is it something you are serious about, willing
to work at every day, submit your work for publication and get better at with time? From there, you can focus on exactly what
you want to start writing with: short stories, essays, poems, articles or books. You can always change or add to this list
later on. For now, keep in mind what you want to do with your writing and how you want to do it.
Tip #3: Write every day.
There can be a hundred and one excuses why some writers won’t
write every day. But by setting aside just five minutes to write, or going to bed later than normal so you can write, you
are disciplining yourself to write at will, not when inspiration strikes. You are challenging your grasp of the English language
every day, putting your thoughts into a logical form of sentences and allowing your creativity the freedom to grow. Write
every day and on whatever you can find to write on. The more you write today, the better you will write tomorrow.
Tip #4: Write then rewrite.
Your best writing will be done in your rewriting. Don’t languish
over first drafts; they will not be your last ones. Always use a first draft as a means of getting everything down onto paper.
Then rewrite all of it. If your first draft seems perfect as is, put it away for a few days or a week. Then take it out for
a fresh read. Also ask other people who you trust for their input. Chances are, some sentences may need to be fixed, a paragraph
can be improved or a typo will be caught.
Tip #5: Keep track of your ideas.
Ideas don’t normally stick around in our minds for very long.
They can suddenly disappear within seconds, minutes or days. Jot down your ideas as soon as possible. Put them into a notebook,
record them onto a tape recorder or cell phone recorder, type them onto a document on your computer or use index cards in
shoeboxes. Whatever the method, keep track of them and have them in a convenient, easy-to-remember place.
Tip #6: Rejection is part of the job.
Nobody likes rejection, and nobody especially likes to be rejected.
Rejection can be painful, but it’s not personal. It happens to every writer, whether you are a beginner or a New York
Times best-selling author. Rejection is a part of being a writer. By accepting this, you will be able to get through it better.
The more rejections you face, the easier it will be to deal with the next one.
BEAT THE BLOCK TIP: Try writing something new.
Try writing something different than what you normally write. Try
writing a short story instead of a novel, a play instead of a poem, an article instead of an essay. Whatever you normally
write, write something different. Failing this, try writing a list, complete with numbering your items. The challenge of writing
something you don’t normally write will be a refreshing change for your creativity.
Tip #8: Keep up-to-date on what’s out there.
A writer has a greater chance of being published by staying on top
of what people are reading, buying and publishing. Subscribe to industry magazines such as Publisher’s Weekly, Writer’s
Digest and Writer’s Journal, read what’s being published in the major magazines, read the bestsellers
to see what kinds of books are selling and study writers’ techniques. By knowing what kind of writing people want now,
this will filter through to your own writing and help you focus on what is getting sold.
Tip #9: You are a writer no matter what or where you have been published.
Forget about the frustrations of not being published in a major newspaper
or magazine. You are still a writer. Only an essay, short story or article in an e-zine to your name? You are still a writer.
Only an essay published in anthology? You are still a writer. You don’t need to have X amount of work to be published
or sold to "officially" be a writer. The very fact that you sit down to write every day makes you a writer. You are a writer
no matter what you have sold or where you get published.
Tip #10: Set aside time to write.
Take a look at your day-to-day business. Notice any unnecessary tasks
in there? Things you don’t really need to do? Use this time to get some writing done instead. Today’s lifestyle
can be demanding and chaotic. By prioritizing what we do in order to have time to write, more work can get done faster. It
may take a series of trial and error, and it may change periodically, but try finding a way to squeeze in that time to write
Tip #11: Give yourself homework.
Remember going to school and groaning at the mention of homework?
We didn’t want to do homework; we wanted to play baseball with our friends or talk on the phone. But homework was the
challenge we needed to keep our learning skills sharp. Homework can also be the challenge we need to discipline ourselves
to write each day and work on our skill with words. It will keep you from running into a rut and facing writer’s block.
Some ideas for homework can be:
- Before you go to bed, write on a plain sheet of paper "I love to
write because . . ." and write the rest of the page tomorrow.
- Assign yourself a query to write for a major magazine (just for practice).
- Describe a character in 500 words.
Tip #12: You must be confident of yourself and your skill.
A lack of confidence can kill a writer’s chance of succeeding.
Confidence is what guides you towards approaching a client, writing a query or submitting your story. You must believe that
you are a writer worthy of being published. An editor will admire your confidence and it will also help you face rejection.
Writers who are self-confident send the message to editors that they can write something with confidence. If you are not confident
with your work, others will perceive this as a sign that just maybe you won’t be able to write something so great. There
are a lot of other writers out there with more confidence they may end up turning to instead. No matter the project you face,
be confident in yourself and in your ability to write well.
Tip #13: Stories are everywhere.
Everywhere you go and everything you see is a story. A café, bookstore,
school, library and courthouse is a story. A woman who eats her food slowly, a child who marches instead of walks, a tree
with no braches. All of these are potential stories for you to create, only if you are keen enough to look for them. A colleague
at work may have a story to tell. Your parent, spouse or partner may have a story to tell. And even your child’s best
friend might have a story to tell. You can get ideas for stories from magazines, newspapers, television, music, books, your
dreams, your journals and even your little daily habits. The sky’s the limit when it comes to a writer searching for
story ideas and, even then, writers can write about the sky.
BEAT THE BLOCK TIP: Write about what matters to you.
In one paragraph or on one page, write about what matters to you.
Be sure to include the reason why this particular thing matters to you, even if the reason is as obvious as love or obligation.
For example, you may write something like: "Reading books for leisure matters to me because it gives me a chance to relax."
Spend as much time as necessary on each one and feel free to include as many reasons as you can think of.
Tip #15: Always ask, "What if?"
We all know we’re not supposed to do certain things: Put our
hand into the garbage disposal when it’s on, drive a car without insurance or take apart the vacuum cleaner. But writers
are missing out on potential story ideas if they don’t ask, "What if?" What if we did put our hand into the garbage
disposal when it was on? Aside from getting our hand torn into a million pieces, what else would happen?
Also, take situations and ask "what if"" with them. What if a graduation
ceremony had been cancelled because of a snowstorm? What if a couple facing divorce experience this pending distress for the
first time? What if two people deeply in love never met? What if there really was a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?
Writers are naturally curious, constantly asking the who, what, where, when, why and how of everything. They should also ask
"what if?" to explore a variety of new ideas because those new ideas mean new stories.
Tip #16: Keep writing even if you get stuck.
Creativity has a lifespan. The more distractions you allow to enter
the picture while you are writing, the shorter that lifespan will be. When you are writing, you are easily pulled into the
world of creativity. But when you stop writing because you’re not sure of something you wrote, this is just like taking
the exit ramp back into the real world. From this point on, there will be too much traffic to easily get back into the world
of creativity and you start wishing you never let that distraction kick you out in the first place. Of course we all want
our writing to be accurate and perfect, but we can’t stop what we are doing just because we can’t remember a source’s
name, the distance in kilometers or if that was what a person really said. Put a giant, red "X" in the margin next
to where you get stuck then keep writing. Or you can try putting "FIX LATER" in capital letters in that space or use arrows.
Just keep writing and go back to it later.
Tip #17: Write first, edit later.
When you sit down to write something new, the thing you want to do
before you pick up your pen is shut your internal editor off. Give it a break, tell it to take a breather or lock the door
to its room. Ignore any voices of criticism lurking in your mind as you write and just get everything down onto paper. This
is your first draft. It’s not the copy you’re sending to an editor or client. This is where you experiment with
different writing styles, get all of your thoughts onto paper and draw out a rough sketch of any characters. You can go back
to it later for editing. For now, just let your creativity take over and write.
Tip #18: Stuck in your writing? Read something similar.
If you happen to get stuck in your writing, there are a number of
solutions you can use to get un-stuck. Writers get stuck because they need information, can’t decide where to go next
with their story, have an underdeveloped idea or characters, can’t remember the exact words of something they read or
wrote, or they just can’t figure out what they are trying to say. If you write fiction, read other works of fiction
similar to yours. If you’re writing a science fiction short story, read other short stories in that genre. If you are
writing an article for a major magazine, read as many articles in that particular magazine as you can. You may get inspired
as you read, realize just what it is your work is missing or get a better understanding of how their stories or articles are
organized. This will help you to get writing again – and get back into the game.
Tip #19: Consider joining a writing group.
Writing groups are valuable to a writer. You get critiques by like-minded
individuals, support for your endeavors, updates on what’s going on in the literary world, connections with other writers
and a chance to read/hear what other writers are writing. An added bonus: They can be found anywhere, in your city and online.
Some charge fees, others don’t. By joining a writing group, you’ll get a step closer to being a better writer
because people in the group will give you the criticism you’ll need other than blatant comments like, "That story was
dumb." Or "don’t quit your day job." Or "that was nice – hey, did you catch Fear Factor last night?" An
added bonus is that a writing group can give you some company. The writing life can be a lonely one, and getting out to meet
with other writers weekly or monthly makes the isolation less apparent.
Tip #20: Finish what you start writing.
Imagine picking up a book to read and getting caught up in its story.
The plot is exciting, the reading is engaging, the characters are lovable and you just can’t put it down until you find
out what happens in the end. Now imagine that there is no end; the writer couldn’t figure out how to end their story
or they decided they wanted to go fishing instead. This is what it’s like for our readers when they read an unfinished
story. A writer’s responsibility in telling a tale is to finish that tale. Give your readers the sense of satisfaction
of reading your entire story from beginning to end. If you get stuck on how to finish it, work your way around this. If you
get writer’s block, keep working at it, anyway. By finishing what you start writing, it shows your readers that you
are in control over your writing and that you want to give them a great, completed story to read. It will also show your editors
that you are a writer who can deliver.
BEAT THE BLOCK TIP: "And the Medal for the Most Outstanding Creative
Mind goes to ..."
It’s been said many times: "There should be a medal for . .
." And while there may not be a medal to recognize single parents, struggling writers or straight-A students, we can always
create one in our minds. Write an acceptance speech for a medal you would like to receive, such as a Medal for the Fastest
Reader, Medal for the Greatest Single Parent in the World or a Medal for the Cleanest Desk. It can be a medal awarded for
anything, with you being the recipient. What would you say in your speech? Who would you thank? What would you say is the
single most important ingredient that helped you win this medal?
Tip #22: Use a book of writing exercises.
A book of writing exercises is the answer to every writer’s
dilemma of struggling with writer’s block. They are lifesavers, offering a variety of prompts and exercises all for
the writer’s free use. Some Web sites have even been set up to provide writers with a generous supply of writing exercises.
Consider buying one today and using the exercises within a day at a time to keep writer’s block at bay. And no matter
how profound your writer’s block may be, discipline yourself to use a writing exercise nevertheless. It’s definitely
doable. The results may surprise you. They are also great to use even if you don’t have writer’s block, because
they discipline you to write and they sharpen your skill in a variety of ways.
Tip #23: A degree doesn’t guarantee success.
Some writers have degrees in journalism, creative writing or English.
Yet there are other writers, some even popular ones, who have degrees in law, psychology, medicine or art. A degree in a field
of writing isn’t what will make you a successful writer. It may help you in getting your foot in the door, but ultimately
you will be judged by how well you can write, not by how many letters come after your name. If you want to pursue a degree
in journalism or study for an MBA, by all means, do so. This experience will help you learn fundamentals you may not otherwise
learn in books, everyday life or writing classes. But if it’s not a possibility, don’t let this be a detriment
to your writing career. Write as much as possible and learn everything you can about writing. Participate in writing groups,
study other writers and take advantage of free writing courses available on the Internet. This is ultimately the best lesson
you will receive as a writer.
Tip #24: Learn how to receive criticism.
Every writer should obtain criticism of their work, be it a play or
short story. Yet the reality about criticism is that it can be harsh, even painful. There are some people who may make personal
comments against you or simply say something as vague as, "It sucks." Ignore anything that is not helpful to improving your
work. Ignore the remarks about your appearance, your past or unmentionable habits. Look for something that you can really
work with instead. Does the person say anything at all about faults in your writing? Take this as their only remark and erase
the rest. Criticism that is helpful to the writer is the only criticism that matters.
Tip #25: Put yourself "on the spot."
Before you submit that polished draft, stand in front of a mirror
and read it aloud (or have a small audience). Pretend you are a broadcast reporter or speaker, and your article or short story
is your report or speech. This is the ultimate product you are offering to the information-hungry public. As you read, ask
yourself if this is something you’d likely hear on the news, hear at a reading or read in a book. Is it presented in
a professional, sufficient manner? Is it something that captivates you, keeps you interested and wanting more information?
If your work fails to fulfill any of those requirements, consider giving it one final rewrite until it does.
Excerpt from 365 TIPS FOR WRITERS: Inspiration, Writing Prompts
and Beat The Block Tips to Turbo Charge Your Creativity By Dawn Colclasure. Published by Filbert Publishing.
Copyright ã 2004. All Rights Reserved. No part may be reprinted without
the author’s permission.