Tag Archives: advice

I Want To Write, But I Don’t Know How To Start

Introduction

Many of you, I’m sure, have started to write.

Some of you, have achieved a bit of recognition. Maybe you’ve had some short stories or poems published in a few literary magazines. Maybe you’ve self-published a book and sold a good number of copies.

Sorry, this post isn’t for you guys. This post is for those who want to write, but haven’t embarked down that path yet.

Because they don’t know where the hell to start.

fist-blow-power-wrestling-163431

Where to Begin

KISS. It’s an acronym a future writer would do well to heed.

pexels-photo-46024

And no, you don’t need to become a knight in Satan’s service.

costume-screaming-demon-devil-41521

Keep it simple, stupid.

What does that mean? Here are a few examples of rookie mistakes that you’ll want to avoid.

Don’t Write That Novel…Yet

Have you tried to write a novel? Did you get a few thousand words in and then not know where to go from there. Frustrating, isn’t it?

If you’re just getting into writing, don’t attempt something as monumental as a novel.

Especially if you don’t have an idea that makes you want to practically burst with excitement.

Instead, start with short stories. Master the narrative arc. Get familiar with setting, dialogue, internal monologue, and character development.

So yeah, that epic 150,000 word novel. You may want to put that on hold.

Unlimited Freedom Isn’t Always A Good Thing

You can literally write about anything. That’s great, right?

Wrong.

pexels-photo-374918
Beginners often find that they can’t think of a compelling idea. That’s where writing prompts come in.

If you’re a beginner, writing prompts can be a nice tool to help focus, allowing you to focus on writing, not on generating ideas.

The New York Times produced a list of 500 writing prompts. To read it, click here.

Setting Goals

Realize that you’re not going to become an overnight sensation. At least not in the course of your first night writing.

pexels-photo-315191
When you’re just starting out on your writing career, you may find it helpful to set little goals for yourself. Once you achieve your goals, you’ll find that your confidence increases. Your increased confidence will spur you on to write more and write better.

Here are a few goals you may want to consider targeting:

1. Writing 1000 words per day for a month.
2. Completing three short stories.
3. Crafting three works of creative non-fiction.
4. Submitting your writing to ten literary magazines.
5. Achieving your first acceptance in a literary magazine.
6. Learning how to use Duotrope to find literary magazines that publish writing similar in style and content to your own writing.
7. Receiving your first sincere compliment (close friends, romantic partners, and family don’t count).

darts-dart-board-bull-s-eye-game-70459

Conclusion

If you’re new to writing, there are four main things that you want to do:

1. Keep it simple, stupid.
2. Start with short stories.
3. Utilize writing prompts.
4. Set appropriate goals.

How About You?

pexels-photo-247708

For the more established writers who read this post anyway, what methods did you use when you started writing? Did you find them helpful, or were they more of a cautionary tale? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Five Suggestions to Keep Writing From Turning Into a Chore

I’ll start this post with a caveat – I admit that many of the posts in The Literary Game may sound quite trite; however, in such a creative profession as ours, sometimes we writers can easily lose our way, disregarding or forgetting the fundamentals.

When these fundamentals are lost, the wheels fall off of the wagon.

It’s my intention to help you keep that from happening.

***

On that note, there is nothing more fundamental to the profession than for a writer to actually enjoy writing. It may sound strange to think otherwise, but many writers of immense potential simply stop writing. Far too often, it’s because the fundamentals were dismissed, and frustration set in.

Without further ado, here are five suggestions that will keep writing from turning into a chore:

1. Master Your Life – If stresses from various situations in your life are bothering you, then the time and discipline that being a serious writer requires may seem like an unworthy imposition. Counterintuitive as it may seem, for writers whose lives are in turmoil, recognize that your basic needs should always come first, and don’t feel obligated to write. If you can handle writing while your life is insane, go on and do it, but don’t feel guilty if you just simply can’t deal with it at the moment.

I want to add to this suggestion a quote from Doris Lessing, “Whatever you’re meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.” Follow her advice, and don’t use MINOR problems as excuses, as unless you lead a charmed life, recognize that everyone faces difficulties all the time. I only suggest a break from writing if the difficulties are a threat to the physical or mental health of you and/or your loved ones.

2. Avoid overly rigid writing schedules – Everyone loves NaNoWriMo, but the pressure of a consistent writing routine that’s unbreakable can definitely turn writing into a chore. While I strongly advise writers to write on a regular basis (because the more you write, the better your writing will be), if you become more focused on the actual time slot than what you’re writing, the fun will quickly dissipate.

3. Avoid long absences from writing – With the exception of a situation that’s pressing, don’t go weeks at a time without writing. The best ideas flow, and major improvement comes about, from writing on a regular basis. Enjoy life, handle your responsibilities, but be sure to make time for writing too. Writers who stop writing for a while out of ennui or for other reasons often find it a chore to get back into the habit.

4. Depending on your personality, avoid writing-related jobs – Some people can only handle so much of something they love. I personally enjoy balancing time spent on my own writing with helping other writers by working as an editor and publishing consultant. That’s not for everyone though. Some people might really need to work in something totally different until they can support themselves from their creative writing alone, otherwise the constant focus on writing might burn them out.

5. Get social – Writing is a solitary profession. Unless you’re a complete introvert, the isolation of writing may start to wear on you. This is where a healthy social life, especially one featuring activities with other writers, can really help counter one of the profession’s biggest drawbacks.

Thank you for reading The Literary Game! If you found this post helpful, please help spread the word by sharing it on your blog or social media. Thanks! ~ Alfonso

You Are The Final Arbiter of Your Writing

“Beware of advice—even this.”
—Carl Sandburg

This message may seem a bit counter-intuitive coming from a man who runs a blog that offers writing advice, but it’s the truth – don’t take my blog posts for gospel truth.

I love writing The Literary Game. I love the opportunity to help aspiring writers through this simple daily blog. I hope that some of my posts are useful to you, wherever you may be in your literary journey.

But know this, I am not the final arbiter on good writing.

I may have published some poems and stories in a few good literary magazines – so what?

But it’s not just me…

Stephen King said to do such and such in On Writing – so what?

A professor in your MFA program said you should consider doing this and that – so what?

It’s not that my advice or their advice is bad. You should want to learn from those around you, from your friends, from other writers, from your professors, from esteemed authors, but at the end of the day, don’t forget that it’s your writing. While the advice that you may read or hear may be spot on, there’s a possibility it may be wildly inappropriate for your writing or situation. 

You know yourself and you know your writing better than I do, better than Stephen King does, better than a professor in your MFA program will. Yes, it is important to embrace the possibilities to learn that are all around, but please don’t neglect your inner compass. Measure the information in front of you. If it works, go ahead and embrace it, but if you know it’s not right, never be afraid to blaze your own path.

 

Have you ever listened to others’ advice and took a wrong turn because of doing so? Have you ever had a major accomplishment because you disregarded others’ well-meaning advice? I’d love to hear your experiences.