FOR ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS
If ever you have wanted to sit down and express yourself in writing, it is far less difficult to get started than you might imagine. Some beginners have the urge to write alongside an equal quantity of lack of confidence. But the simplest advice I can offer is
Just do it
If you can hold a conversation, pen a letter, tell a joke, repeat an anecdote to a friend – then you can write. If you also have a deep seated desire to communicate with the rest of the world by means of writing then, you are more than halfway there.
You make a start by simply writing – anything you like – your opinions, story ideas, character studies, a diary – but keep it going, never let up. Just like any other skill, practice leads to better performance. Notice that I don‘t say “perfection.” The best writers are never satisfied with their work, past, present or published, and could edit and nit pick for eternity. Those that are too easily self satisfied never seem to get over the initial hurdles and in fact, take the hardest knocks in the form of rejection slips. Writing skills don’t drop out of the sky, or come to you in a flash. You have to work at it. But never forget – (and a lot of writers do) –
No practice, no progress
Would you pay for piano lessons and go away and not practice? Of course not. Improving writing skills is exactly the same principle. It’s not what you do in group meetings but what you do for the rest of the week that makes progress. The more you write, the quicker you learn the best way of expressing yourself, and the sooner you will develop a style of your own. You must have time to write regularly.
Absolute beginners can be daunted by the prospect of joining a group where there may be other long standing and confident members and of course, you will always come across one or two who are there to show off. Myself, I never joined a writing group until I started Higham Writers. Until then everything I learned, came from the editors of magazines I wrote for.
There are endless tips and hints and reams of advice available to you – from tutors, from the internet, from books – from other writers – which will help you on the road to successful writing. All writers take wrong turnings, muddy their characterisation, say something stupid, build an unbelievable storyline or invent an incredible outcome or get their facts wrong. And unfortunately, the best way to learn is when you do take one of those wrong turnings. Nobody ever learns anything from getting it right all the time. Especially the show offs.
It is worth while stating here, especially with beginners who often declare that something they have written is “rubbish” –
No piece of writing is ever a waste of time
Never be discouraged but instead, learn from each piece of writing and regard it as part of the learning process, don’t see anything as a disaster that makes you a failure. Every writer, however experienced or not, will start pieces, and have second, third or fourth thoughts, and start again in different ways. This is good writing practice.
The basics of good writing, are in general not only the same for getting into print, but also for any other kind of successful writing. What must never be overlooked is that you should have your reader in mind before you even put pen to paper. The reader is the person you want to reach, and whose attention you want to keep – whether it is some pernickety editor right down to the person who casually picks up a magazine at the dentists’ surgery.
If you remember nothing else when you first start writing, KNOW the type of person you are writing for, their likes and dislikes, how they fit into society, the style of writing that most attracts them, and the subject matter they are most likely to be absorbed by. And, if you are hoping to get published, the type of publication they are likely to read. It is so much easier for you to pitch your story right when you know the kind of person who is going to read it.
Editorial guidelines are more than important; ignore them at your peril, but editors too follow that same overwhelmingly imperative piece of advice –
Never, ever, forget the reader