Advice I Wish I’d Been Given When I Started … Part 5

This continues our series asking some seasoned, experienced authors what three key bits of advice they would give new writers that they wished they’d known when they started writing. We all wish someone would give us gems of wisdom that would help us avoid wasting precious time and making serious career mistakes. So I hope hearing the advice from these various authors will help you in your writing journey!

Today’s guest post is by author Teresa Edmond:

Since I began writing at nine years old, I learned so much about the craft. At this point in my life, I wish there was some advice I know now yet had an epiphany on years ago. Nevertheless, I’m convinced of two things. One: I love the written word. Two: writing is something I’ll continue doing and studying for the rest of my days.

Below are three pieces of advice I’m more than happy to offer anyone looking to get started.

Make writing a habit. And learn everything you can about your craft.

In order to be something, you have to do something to illustrate your title. A singer sings, a dancer dances, and a writer writes. If you want your name on the cover of the next Great American Novel, it’s not enough to discuss your characters and plot with your friends. Writing is a daily habit. Yes, that means doing it every day including weekends, holidays, and your birthday. The worthwhile daily routine will not only hone your skills but also instill a regular rhythm within you. If you write for two days then let two weeks go by without getting a word on paper or the computer screen, it’ll be harder for you to get back into the swing of things.

I recommend blocking out at least 30 minutes of daily writing time. It’s up to you to figure out when. It can be early morning, during lunch time at work, after work, or just before bed. My favorite writing time is early morning, before my family wakes up, and I can work without interruption. If you say it’s difficult to fit in 30 minutes, review your daily timetable. Do you watch TV? Go out for happy hour after work on most days? Then congratulations, you just found yourself a writing session.

Don’t give up, and learn all you can about your craft.

You might have doubts about whether you’re cut out for this hobby or profession. You might put off this activity because the first draft won’t be good enough. Or because you’d never get published. Or because readers would mock it. Or because you’ll be embarrassed if your mother reads your work.

Or . . . you can decide not to write at all, and never find out how good you might be. I can tell you this right now: your first draft may not be so bad. However, you’ll never know unless you actually do it. Hardly anyone gets it right on the first try—hence the revision process. Think of your first draft as sculpting clay. You can envision the final product all you want, but you’re not taking the first steps to the final product if nothing concrete is in front of you. That’s what a first draft is—a lump of clay waiting for you to shape it into a masterpiece.

It can be scary for you to put your life on paper because it’s basically projecting your soul. When the work gets rejected, it’s understandable if the rejection is taken personally. The best way to pursue your dreams is to keep going. Don’t give up. And don’t let the naysayers (whoever they are) tell you otherwise.

In addition to writing every day, don’t delay in learning more about this craft. Keep a journal. Take writing classes. Find a local writers’ circle and get acquainted with the local writing community. Coffee houses, tea houses, and libraries are excellent venues to find information on free writing classes, writing group meetings, and open mic venues. Meetup.com is also an excellent website to find writing groups.

Seek out people in your writing community to honestly and constructively critique your work. This is vital to your growth as a writer. Other writers will read your work with an objective eye, and give you suggestions for improvements. Please keep in mind that critiques do not indicate a lack of talent. This was a misconception I had for years. Everything is a learning experience; writing is no different. Think about whether the comments on your drafts can help develop your work. Remember, critiques are recommendations, so you don’t have to follow them if they don’t add value.

Let yourself shine in your work.

Sometimes when someone reads my work, I’m asked, “How do you come up with this stuff?” and told, “I didn’t know you can write this. You look so quiet and sweet!” Of course they assume I incorporated my life and experiences into my work. I only give brief answers; I don’t go into detail about my inspiration. I used to think drawing upon my life for ideas was a terrible thing because I wasn’t showing enough creativity and being exploitative. Yet over the years, I realized all writers find ideas in their lives, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

The 2012 movie The Words with Bradley Cooper is about a young, struggling author who discovers an old manuscript and publishes it as his own. The theme, even though fiction and a product of make-believe, always bears a grain of truth and an element of the writer. In the film, Clay Hammond, the Dennis Quaid character, said, “At some point, you have to choose between life and fiction. The two are very close, but they never actually touch.”

Your best work usually comes from the heart. If you’re honest in your work, your readers will appreciate that.

Feature Photo Credit: TheNoxid via Compfight cc

Teresa Edmond is an award-winning journalist and poet residing in Orlando, FL. She is the author of How Fate’s Confusion Connects, her debut book of poetry. Check out her blog here.

 

3 Responses to “Advice I Wish I’d Been Given When I Started … Part 5”

  1. Susannah MacDonald November 25, 2013 at 12:46 pm #

    I enjoyed this very much, especially the para., relating to writing from one’s own experience. Yes everyone does it.
    Very interesting and helpful!

  2. Ingrid Schaffenburg November 29, 2013 at 11:24 am #

    Thank you for these beautiful reminders! And for encouraging us all to keep writing. 🙂

  3. Lonnie Miller November 29, 2013 at 1:25 pm #

    Really loved the post on grammar and spelling. I actually laughed out loud at the poem, I remember it well. I used to write for the marketing division of a fortune 500 company and my co-workers, and the president of the company would ask me to “edit” their work. I was the only one in the group who didn’t depend on spellcheck. I actually had that poem taped to my office wall and referred those coworkers to it frequently. Thanks for the memories!

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