These top tips will help you maintain enthusiasm for your chosen craft and make sure you have the mindset to improve and succeed.
All writers are readers first. Writing is how we give back the pleasure we’ve experienced. Good writers don’t read less as their career progresses, they read more, because seeing what everyone else is doing is an important part of staying informed – and relevant – not to mention being entertained and often inspired.
Seems obvious I know but you’d be surprised how many would be writers don’t write daily – the simplest component to assured success. Writing every day is a discipline you must adopt to ensure your work maintains consistency, depth and vision. You need to get used to transferring all of your thoughts into words. Over time, this habit enables you to overcome all kinds of writers’ blocks and guarantee quality output.
Research and Study
You can never hear good advice too often or be so jaded you don’t have something more to learn. Read and listen to what other writers say about writing. There’s always a new perspective. But don’t be feverish about it. Don’t expect every successful writer to know all the secrets to success – there aren’t any in particular. Except perhaps dedication to the craft – that’s all you really need. Once you’re truly committed, the rest will follow.
Try New Forms
Don’t limit yourself. All forms of writing enhance your chosen genre. Learning how to write copy or good poetry can teach you much about the nature of words and their effect. Writing outside of your preferred genre can teach you a lot about structure, characterisation, mood and texture. Trying different styles will help solidify your own. Experimenting with any kind of writing will improve your overall technique.
Nurture Your Creativity
Respect your craft as though it were a physical object, worthy of your love and devotion. Be kind to yourself and your body – the engine of your mind. Eat well, shun excess and harmful influences; seek out happiness and adventure. Don’t dwell on the crass or morbid. Do everything positive within your power to ignite and fan the fire of creativity.
Never forget that the purpose of writing is for it to be read. Writing is communication – of ideas, of information and of entertainment. Having good writing that is unread is wasteful. Get your best stuff out there – and on the desks of editors, publishers and producers. Post your writing to the web – and direct people to it. Share your gift and strive constantly for publication and your reader’s feedback. It’s the only way for a writer to live. Literally.
Don’t be afraid of criticism but remember that you need to measure other people’s advice. Criticism says more about the giver than the receiver. Other writers often want to diminish your success and make you give up, to quash the competition. But creativity cannot survive in a vacuum. It needs guidance and nurturing to blossom fully. Take on board suggestions that will improve your work – and file away the rest.
Love What You Write
You cannot fully engross yourself in an activity you do not cherish. Learn to be passionate about your creativity. Savour the life you bring to your characters and the stories they have to tell. Glorify the edifice your writing manifests. Pay regular homage to the spark inside of you that makes you want to write – it’s a precious thing, not to be taken for granted.
Learn to be objective and circumspect about your creativity. No words are set in stone. Not all ideas are beyond potential for further development. Let others take what they like from your work – even if they see things you didn’t deliberately plan. Don’t be afraid to rework ideas. On request, edit, change and improve your work without angst or resentment. Don’t fret that your vision will somehow be lost. It won’t be. When asked to rewrite, don’t feel you must compromise your work, simply make it better.
Enthusiasm is infectious. Passion is a powerful influencer. Take the love you have for your work and direct it outwards – into the public arena along with your masterpieces. Writers need support, encouragement and (let's face it) financial sponsorship to survive. People want to experience your belief in yourself and your projects firsthand when they meet you. They want to be inspired too. Relate your honest and sincere commitment to your work and the people who can help will more readily feel inclined to support you.
I hope these points aid your writing. If you need extra motivation to write, my advice is to print out this article and tape it somewhere in your writing space, or perhaps on your fridge door.
And read it once a day.
(c) Rob Parnell
1. Make your goals achievable.
By achievable, we mean realistic and attainable. You might unconsciously have set a goal even others will have a hard time achieving, even if they had the means and the time to do so.
Here's what you can do: break down your goals into small, realistic goals set against reasonable time frames. Oftentimes, you'll achieve your bigger goals if you work on achieving the smaller goals leading to those. The important thing is making your goals as realistic and as achievable as you can.
2. Devise a feasible plan.
You know what you want, but do you know how to get what you want? Do you need technical or artistic training to achieve your goals? Or perhaps further studies? Do you have a set plan of action that will lead to the achievement of your goals? What things, both tangible and intangible, do you need to aid you in reaching your goals?
Take a moment to sit down and list the things you need and make your action plan. This is a good time to break them down into small, realistic goals and then tackle them one day at a time!
3. Resist spreading yourself too thinly.
Sometimes, it's better to work on one goal at a time, rather than doing and shooting for so many all at the same time. Work on so many goals at one given time and you'll find out you're nowhere near achieving even one goal. You won't be able to focus your full energy on one goal.
Prioritize your goals and start with either your top priority or your most realistic goal. You'll discover you're able to do more and achieve more using this approach.
(c) 2004 Shery Ma Belle Arrieta-Russ
Shery is the creator of WriteSparks! - a software that generates over 10 *million* Story Sparkers for Writers. Download WriteSparks! Lite for free - http://writesparks.com
As a proofreader of business writing, I see many of the same errors made again and again. Errors in your writing (be they in advertising copy, correspondence, or a web site) are more serious, I believe, than most people realize.
Why? Well, the standard of your writing has always been important. Today, though, more than ever before, FIRST IMPRESSIONS COUNT. We are bombarded by the written word in its many forms -- books, pamphlets, magazines, signs, e-mail, websites and many other media.
We are all suffering from information overload and are forced to find ways of screening out as much as we can. We thus tend to make quick decisions on what to read and what not to. First impressions increasingly determine what we read and what we don't, and poor writing leads to a poor first impression.
The following list of tips should help you to avoid some of the most common slip-ups.
1. Capitals: Avoid the temptation to capitalize words in the middle of a sentence Just To Provide Emphasis Like This. If you want to be more emphatic, consider using bold face, italics, color or larger text.
2. Commas: The most common use of the comma is to join together short sentences to make a single longer sentence. We do this with one of the following small joining words: and, or, but, yet, for, nor, or so. For example:
We have finished the work, and we are looking forward to the weekend.
Notice that the two halves of this sentence could each be sentences in their own right. They thus need to be separated with a comma and joining word. In the next example, though, we don't need a comma:
We have finished the work and are looking forward to the weekend.
The halves of that sentence could not stand alone, so no comma was used.
3. Ellipsis: The ellipsis is a series of three -- and ONLY THREE -- full stops used to mark missing words, an uncertain pause, or an abrupt interruption. Avoid the temptation to use six or seven dots -- it looks amateurish. For example, we write:
Niles: But Miss Fine's age is only ... Fran: Young! Miss Fine's age is only young!
4. Excessive punctuation: Only one exclamation mark or question mark should be used at a time. Consider the following over-punctuated examples:
Buy now!!! Great bargains!!!!!!!!!!
Excessive punctuation looks too much like hysteria and detracts from your credibility. Avoid it.
5. Headings: For long works, establish a clear hierarchy of headings. Microsoft Word's heading styles are great for this. (They also allow you to automatically create a table of contents.)
6. Hyphenating prefixes: Most prefixes don't need a hyphen; i.e. we write "coexist", not "co-exist". There are exceptions, though. The prefixes "self-" and "ex-" are almost always hyphenated.
7. Numbers: Numbers of ten or less are normally written as words.
8. Quotation marks: Users of American English should use double quotes (" "). Users of British English should choose either single quotes (' ') or double quotes and stick with them for the whole document. Incidentally, British English usage is increasingly moving towards single quotes.
9. Spaces: Modern style is to use a single space at the end of a sentence, not two. Also, most punctuation marks (e.g. commas, full stops, question marks) are not preceded by a space.
10.Tables: Set table text one or two points smaller than the main body text and in a sans-serif font such as Arial or Verdana. Avoid vertical lines as they tend to add unnecessary clutter.
Armed with these simple guidelines, your writing should be well received every time. Good luck!
(c) Tim North
You'll find over 200 tips like this in Tim North's much applauded e-book BETTER WRITING SKILLS. It's just $19.95 and comes with a 90-day, money-back guarantee. Download a sample chapter.
The joy of being a writer is that you can spend a lot of time at home, safe in your own little world, trying to create something meaningful and communicate through the best way possible, that is: through words on a page.
Many writers choose this career because either a) they're shy or b) they prefer their own company anyway or c) the world seems a crazy mixed up place that doesn't need much of their involvement.
I've spent time in the past with large groups of people who desperately need each other's company - and often - to even begin to function.
I've known unfortunate souls that cry unceasingly when they have no friends to call on, or live in torment until they can chat with another. It's called being gregarious, apparently.
Thankfully, like most writers, I'm not so afflicted.
I've always liked my own company - even when I craved fame in my twenties. I used to forsake the local bars in preference to my guitar or my notebook. Many creative people are like that. We love humanity as a concept but aren't so impressed with the actual process of being a part of it.
So it comes as a great shock to writers nowadays that they are expected to not only write but then miraculously become a shameless self promoter, bouncing around like some Ritalin enhanced extrovert, telling the world about themselves and their work - and supposedly enjoying it!
Writers Do It In Private
Writing is not a spectator sport. If it was, we'd have Saturday Night Writing Live or somesuch on TV. Writers have no choice but to spend time alone - which has its own rewards - but that doesn't necessarily endear ourselves to the media.
So how then are we supposed to suddenly change character and go out and actively promote ourselves?
Publishers and agents, as a matter of course, ask us, "What do you do to promote yourself?" To be a writer is apparently not enough. We have to draw attention to ourselves too - something most writers actively avoid!
A famous writer said to me recently that, despite his acute shyness, he found that media people seemed to find him fascinating. "I only wish I was," he told me. "I spend all of my time writing. How interesting can that make me?"
I know what he means. You probably do too.
To the average writer, the interesting stuff is what's on the page. But the media needs people...
What's the Answer?
My feeling has always been that if writers are to do things that draw attention to themselves, it should be on their own terms
So here are some easy ways to promote yourself from the safety of your own home:
1. Use Press Releases
I use two methods. I have a list of email addresses and fax numbers of various media outlets. If I'm doing a localised press release, I'll use that. Otherwise I use PR Web, to blitz the world about something I'm doing. Either method ensures publicity without the need for me to actually speak to anyone.
2. Have a Website, Blog, MySpace, Facebook Page etc
Obvious this. A Net presence allows people to find out about you without the need to call you and ask questions. You can even thwart the media's initial intrusions by:
3. Having a Readymade Press Pack
This allows you to have all the questions anyone in the media might ask you, already answered. A press pack should also contain recent glamor shots of you and anything else you think might make an interesting angle for a news reporter. Put the link to your press pack on your website, free to download.
4. Use an Assistant
All celebrities have one. Why shouldn't you? The media doesn't have to know it's your mum or a good friend. Get someone to fend your calls and tell people you're busy, uh, writing is a good one. Either way, put distance between you and the media - they'll think you're more fascinating if you do!
5. For Interviews, use Technology
If someone wants to interview you, use the phone or Skype or a webcam. It's much easier to talk on the radio or give a lecture to a school etc if you're doing it from home. You can always use the old excuse that you're too busy to make the venue - or your chauffeur is sick, whatever - and you'll save heaps in gas too.
And if someone is absolutely desperate to interview you in person, tell them they can come to you! TV crews get paid expenses for these things and news reporters like a day out. Make them work to get you on tape and they're more likely to use your interview anyway.
Hope this helps
(c) Rob Parnell
Nobody will ever miss something you didn't write.
People don't wish they could find a genius they are unaware of, hanker after a writer to inspire them, or wish they could find the book that hasn't been written.
It's the harshest reality a writer must face.
Nobody cares whether you finish your magnum opus - or gives a toss whether you work on it at all.
A book is nothing until it's published - and even then, given the way things are, it's unlikely to sell more than a few copies.
Funny, I write for a living. Have done for the last 20 years. You can get a lot of eyes on things if you include the words: “money, fast and easy” in your marketing but write about anything else and your stuff pretty much disappears.
It’s never stopped me though, because I’m a writer, and writers write, no matter what happens… can you say that?
Writers must find their own reasons to write - and be self-motivated enough to continue without anything but selfish reasons to finish what they start. As Dorothea Brande said in"Becoming a Writer", writers create their own emergencies. They have to, because nobody else really gives a damn.
Recently I was rereading Stephen King's "On Writing" and I noticed something I'd previously missed.
He said he used to believe that writing was a craft and that it could be taught; a skill that, with enough training and guidance, anyone could master. Note, he said he used to think that.
Later in his career, after he'd written around twenty novels, he changed his mind. He realized that the urge to write consistently must be something you're born with.
Think about it - writing for no good reason (except a personal compulsion) is an urge that is so specific - even a little bizarre - that, without it being somehow hard-wired into a writer's DNA, most people, no matter how keen to learn, simply wouldn't bother.
It's not like it's easy, after all.
Some people say that if you find writing easy, you're probably not doing it right. I know from experience that authors who tell me they found writing their novel a breeze, signals that there’s usually a need for some serious editing!
Don't get me wrong. I do think that writing the first draft of a story or a book should be quick, painless, or at the very least, an exhilarating experience. That's usually how your best work feels. When you're 'in the zone' and being productive and inspired, you're a writer, just like any other Dan Brown, Emily Bronte, or Tolstoy.
But that's not all there is to it.
There's endless editing and polishing too. And having something important to say. And having the ability to hold an entire book in your mind - and get it all down on paper. And, of course, the toughest call: being able to arrange your life to find the time and inclination to write every day.
Not everyone thinks writing is glamorous. Even many professional writers have no great regard for the process, only the conviction that, to create something of value and importance, you have no choice but to do it.
You and only you.
Of course, 'value' and 'importance' are relative terms. That's the point. Only Tolstoy thought it was vitally important to write War and Peace. It had no value to his wife, most likely, and none of us would have missed it - or him - if he'd become an alcoholic and never got around to writing more than a few hundred words and threw them away, like many would be authors do.
The next time you're tempted to write a book, think it through.
Is it important you get it all down?
And are you willing to spend 80% of the process on making it perfect?
Because, like Mr King, I used to think that writing half a page of scribbled lines gave you the right to call yourself a writer.
But now, after I've written a couple million or so words, I'm beginning to think that being a writer is more involved.
It's somehow innate in a writer's makeup.
Perhaps practice is all it takes - consistent action and dedication to the art.
But more likely you need to discover the writer within - that guy or gal inside who was never going to be satisfied until you gave them free rein to take over your life.
But if the muse isn’t there, except as a vague yearning, maybe the best thing is to quit while you're ahead!
Because being a full-time writer is still one of the hardest ways to live. Ask any author. Even when you're successful, the motivation to write, stay focused, inspired and clear for long periods can be tough.
Sure, it's rewarding - and often fun.
That’s if readers find you – and like what you do…
But be clear on this: commitment to writing books is not for the faint hearted. And it’s certainly not for those who might be looking to make money fast and easily.
You need patience, and to be a little bit crazy.
Take one step at a time – walk slowly and surefootedly - but be sure you have good sturdy shoes before you start.
(c) Rob Parnell
The Writing Academy