I met an aspiring write yesterday, who asked lots of questions about the craft of writing, and wondered whether beginning a novel was a viable option after quitting a high-flying city job. I remember asking similar questions, back in 2007, when I moved abroad and gave up a teaching job that I loved. Moving from London to Vienna stirred up all sorts of ideas in my mind and, as I said to the person yesterday, there is something about moving to a different place, and living in a different culture, that somehow frees your mind and inspires lots of creative ideas. There are lots of questions from the writing community on Twitter today and, if you follow the hashtag #WritingCommunity, you’ll see many of these. There are so many questions and so many good books to you to get you started, and to help hone your craft.
- My first piece of advice to anyone wanting to begin writing is to read widely, both within and outside your genre, especially outside your genre – it’s easy to just focus on what you want to write – and read as much as you write, spend as much time reading as you do writing.
- Read as many books on the craft of writing that you can get your hands on. Find your local library, as there are lots of useful books that you can borrow. You don’t need to buy them all, or do a book swap with another writer. I’ll add some of the books that I’ve found helpful at the end of the post. It’s by no means an exhaustive list.
- Sign up for writing courses. The Avon Foundation have lots of wonderful writing courses and many authors offer course, as well. Learn as much as you can.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment. You may be fiction writer – a poet, a novelist or a short story writer – or you might prefer creative non-fiction writing (memoir, autobiography/biography, essays, literary journalism, journaling, or topics like food or travel writing, self-development, art or history). Within fiction there are so many genres; read as widely as you can.
- Don’t give up. You will have hard days were you want to quit. It will get hard. If writing was easy, there would be many more authors with published work. Even the most gifted writers hit a wall at some point. Push through it.
- Set yourself targets, if this works for you. When I began, I sat down to write from 9am – 6pm (with breaks) and gave myself 3 months to get around 35,000 down on paper. After this length of time, I would assess whether or not I had enough to continue and a good enough story to write a whole novel. It worked, I kept going, and I finally finished my first book.
- Find a writing partner or a writing group. If you can’t, or it doesn’t suit you, tap into the writing community online. Twitter is a good place to start and will be really helpful, in terms of keeping up to speed with the industry. It’s a great way of networking, finding support, and following publishing trends. I have been contacted by authors, readers, editors, agents and publishers this way. It’s invaluable.
These are some of the books that have helped me along the way, although, Meander, Spiral, Explode is a new acquisition, so I’ll write a review when I’ve read it. Which books have helped you? Can you recommend any others?