Questions From New Writers

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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?

9 Books on Reading and Writing

 

Taken from Brain Pickings (via kobo writing life) which is a really good website on what’s out there in relation to creativity, thinking, culture and art. These books are highly recommended. I have read most of them and would especially recommend Elements of Style and On Writing.

 01 elements of style 1The Elements of Style Illustrated –  marries Maira Kalman’s signature whimsy with Strunk and White’s indispensable style guide to create an instant classic.

 

 02 bird by bird 2Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott – the 1994 classic is as much a practical guide to the writer’s life as it is a profound wisdom-trove on the life of the heart and mind.

 

 03 on writing 3On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King – part master-blueprint, part memoir, part meditation on the writer’s life.

 

  04 zen in the art 4Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You, Ray Bradbury  –  Bradbury shares not only his wisdom and experience in writing, but also his contagious excitement for the craft.

 

 05 war of art 5The War of Art: Break Through the Block and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, Steven Pressfield  — a personal defense system of sorts against our greatest forms of resistance. “Resistance” with a capital R, that is.

 

 06 advice to writers 6Advice to Writers, Jon Winokur – From how to find a good agent to what makes characters compelling, it spans the entire spectrum from the aspirational to the utilitarian.

 

 07 how to write a sentence 7How to Write a Sentence, And How to Read One, Stanley Fish – an insightful, rigorous manual on the art of language that may just be one of the best such tools sinceThe Elements of Style.

 

 08 hemingway on writing 8Ernest Hemingway on Writing, Larry W. Phillips – a collection of  the finest, wittiest, most profound of Hemingway’s reflections on writing, the nature of the writer, and the elements of the writer’s life.

 

 09 how to read a book 9How to Read a Book, Mortimer Adler & Charles van Doren – from  basic reading to systematic skimming and inspectional reading to speed reading, the how-to’s apply as efficiently to practical textbooks and science books as they do to poetry and fiction.