Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Getting started

So you want to be a writer? Excellent. The question is, where do you start? How does one become a writer? The answer is simple: You write.

There. I've shot my bolt. The whole point of this blog has been fulfilled and anything else that I have to say will be mere elaboration. If you want to be a writer; if you want to learn all the basics, the tricks, and tools of the trade; if you want to become a published success, then you must write. It's as easy and as difficult as that.

Write what? I hear you cry–metaphorically speaking, of course. Good question. The answer is, again, simple: Write anything. What you write and how you write it is ultimately up to you. The important thing is to get those words down on paper or up on the screen. If you keep doing that long enough, then everything else will follow.

You don't have to dive straight into your Great American novel that will sweep the board of prizes and change the course of civilisation for all time. Start with something smaller. A diary is ideal. One of the skills that a writer must cultivate is the ability to observe and a diary is a very good exercise for this. It doesn't matter what you put in it. You can make it a prosaic "I had a soft-boiled egg with toast for breakfast; cornflakes were slightly soggy. " Or it can be a highly coloured and detailed self-examination of your life and your reactions to the world around you that is so revealing that you wouldn't let anyone except a trained psychiatrist or a priest look at it. Either of those or anything in between; the important thing is that you write in it every day.

The every day part of the exercise is essential. It isn't a question of what you are saying in your diary that is important or that you are saying it well. The important thing is that you sit down every morning or every night or every whenever and fill up those pages. This will give you the practice that you need as a writer and develop the discipline that is essential if you're going to keep at it. Write a bit every day and you'll soon discover that it stops being a chore and turns into a compulsion. Before you know it, you won't be forcing yourself to write; you'll be forcing yourself not to write.

If diaries aren't your thing, then find some alternative. Start a blog (I'll discuss that later) or make notes for your novel (I'll discuss that also). Take a cue from H P Lovecraft and annoy your friends with endless streams of letters and e-mails. If it really does annoy them, just write and don't send. Carry a notebook with you for when the muse strikes. Or go high-tech and make it a netbook or an ipad. If you have a long commute that eats into your day, invest in a pocket recorder and dictate your thoughts as you sit on the train or get stuck in traffic. Who knows, you may accidentally write a story that gives a penetrating account of what you really think of that *&^* in the Ford Fiesta who keeps tailgating you. It's all good.

The key to all of this is to write and write and write.

And if all else fails, write.

Go on. Get going.

No comments:

Post a Comment