Sunday, January 22, 2023

Tips for the Beginning Writer

A lot of folks will have resolved that 2023 is THE year when they write the book they have inside them. Any tips for absolute beginners?

Brenda here.

Tips for beginning writers. Hmmm.

It's been a while since I wrote my first book, some 25 years or so ago. That was a mystery for my two daughters, twelve and nine at the time, mainly to see if I could do it. So my first tip would be to commit to finishing the manuscript. Don't let the sticky middle defeat you, and plough through to the end.

I've found that you first focus on a sentence, then a paragraph, and then a page. The chapters begin to accumulate, and you shouldn't question how they all fit together when you're deep in the thick of it. Have faith that all will come together by the end. I'm often amazed when I go back to reread from the beginning how the story flows and the characters take shape.

My next tip would be to immerse yourself in the editing process after that first draft. Here i'm often amazed again at how many plot holes, errors and repeated words or phrases show up. Allow lots of time and sweat for revision and tweaking. It's necessary on the way to turning your book into a polished stone.

Tip three is to be open to constructive criticism from other authors and people you trust once you've got your manuscript in good enough shape to share. Weigh what they say and only accept what makes sense to you to make your story better. Be prepared to do more editing. This is not a failing; it's simply part of the process.

My last words of wisdom (ah hem) are to encourage you not to lose heart or become dejected with all the time and effort. Keep your final goal in sight (one step at a time) and know that it's normal to go from thinking your manuscript is the best thing ever written to believing nobody will want to read anything so terrible. We all go through this. (Did I mention the process?)

I remember walking to catch the bus to work one morning about the time my first adult mystery was to be released. Even after all the editing and work with an editor, I felt this wave of embarrassment at the thought of people reading what I'd written in case they didn't like it. I felt vulnerable for having written without a filter (sex, love and death) because there's always a bit of the writer and a lot of our thoughts and experiences in our work. Anyhow, the book came out, got good reviews and my friends and family were impressed, helping to quell that feeling that had threatened to overwhelm me. In other words, write what you want to write without censoring yourself, and don't write to please an imaginary audience -- this will only stifle your voice and creativity in the end.

Writing takes a certain amount of bravery and an ability to still that inner voice that tells you that your work is not good enough. Push past these negative thoughts and feelings, realizing that they are normal and need to be squelched. Write for yourself and all the rest will fall into place.


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Dietrich Kalteis said...

Words of wisdom indeed, Brenda.

Brenda Chapman said...

Thanks Dietrich!

Susan C Shea said...

If all beginning writers followed your advice, Brenda, they'd be on the way to success!

Brenda Chapman said...

Thanks Susan - Good to think it might help somebody get motivated :-)