I’m hearing this a lot from people via private messages on Twitter and FriendFace (thank you The IT Crowd for turning FB into FriendFace, I much prefer it).
Here’s my advice (as I understand it thus far):
Read. Read all the things. Don’t limit yourself as to what you read because putting words into your brain is what you need.
But mostly you need you, a pen and a notebook. Or a laptop or working PC if you are that way inclined. You also need ideas. And also perhaps a way to know “what now”?
I started off by buying a lot of “how to” books and I still buy them because I enjoy reading them. Some are better than others. Some holds maybe ONE thing you need to know and trust me, it’s worth it because you can sell that book on or donate it to a friend who is also writing.
Everyone recommends Stephen King’s book on writing. I do too…but I can’t actually remember much about it, apart from him wiping his bum in the woods with poison ivy and his brother being mean. Possibly I need to read Mr. King’s advice on writing again.
But here are some books I found interesting on the subject of writing:
- Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them
- Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers – Christopher Vogler
- Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print – Browne, Renni
- How NOT to Write a Novel: 200 Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs If You Ever Want to Get Published – Mittelmark, Howard
- 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love – Aaron, Rachel
- Fire in Fiction – Donald Maass
- Writing the Breakout Novel: Winning Advice from a Top Agent and His Best-selling Client – Donald Maass
- Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook: Hands-on Help for Making Your Novel Stand Out and Succeed – Maass, Donald
- The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories – Christopher Booker
- The Artist’s Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self – Cameron, Julia
I’m not linking the books to any shops because I’m leaving it up to you to find where you want to buy them. Also do check out the Writer’s Digest website – a lot of books are available for purchase digitally which can them be downloaded to your e-reading device and I highly rate their magazine and Creativity mags too. The one book from above I’d recommend to you, if you are finding you’re struggling not with ideas or character or plot but with the actual how to sit down and write All The Words would be Rachel Aaron’s 2k to 1ok. It’s available via Amazon and it is one of the best bits of writing advice I can recommend. I realise it sounds a bit like a snake-oil pitch, but really – Rachel’s advice is solid. It may / may not work for you but it will make you think and reassess how you spend your time writing. It’s also something to try, for the hell of it, and I know some published writers have tried it and it made for fascinating reading. The other books I’d recommend wholehearted from above is Donald Maass. Anything by him. I remember – she says, cringing – how I read Writing the Breakout Novel and then EMAILING him (my audacity staggers me) to say thanks for writing such a great book for noob writers. And then he replied, admittedly a few months down the line, but really, how sweet is that?
These books will help, but then there are loads of others too that will help you too. Mostly I see writing as a journey (uh oh, philosophy Liz?) and what works for me on my journey may not work for you on yours. You have to figure it out for yourself but you can do it by checking out how others are doing theirs. We are all looking to tell stories and having a helping hand in the form of a good “how to” book and thoughtful websites may just be the thing to help. Also, be sure to visit your favourite author websites. A lot of them have great advice on process, character creation and plots etc.
I will edit this post later today when I get home and post pictures of my reference shelves at home. You will feel ill at the amount of random books on there about writing and creativity and how your brain works. I find writing and the process of writing and how the mind reacts during creative phases fascinating.
Other bits of advice I can give about writing and how to start: lose the fear of the blank screen / page. It is only words. Those words don’t need to be perfect (although your brain will tell you otherwise) you just really need to start. Then write the next word and the next word. My sanity threshold is usually about 40k into a book. I lose all the will to live around 40k. I’ve now written 3 books and it’s happened at each one. At 40k everything is crap. The story is utter twaddle. The characters all deserve to be shot or blown up. The plot is a joke, who ever will want to read this drivel and blah blah blah.
Listen to these thoughts carefully then flip them the bird and then continue writing that one word after the next and the next because the next thing you know you’ve broken through that mental barrier and hey presto you are racing ahead with your story. And remember, it’s only words. And words, unless they are in print, aren’t permanent and can be changed and adjusted and that’s what you do during your editing period and I hope to Gaia’s green apples that you do edit! At least twice before sending it out to anyone to read.
I have heard writers say this: WRITING IS REWRITING so many times but I never listened. And it’s possibly the one and only true thing about writing that is universal. I kid you not. No matter who you are. Seriously. Take this on board and feel it in your bones: it is the truth.
I have also seen this: GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO HAVE YOUR FIRST DRAFT BE SHIT and I agree because it’s only words and words can be fixed. During edits and rewrites.
With Nanowrimo just around the corner, I genuinely want to bring this home to everyone who’s thinking of taking part: Nano encourages you to write and write fast. It may not be for everyone and I know it isn’t. Just…write at your own pace. Instead of 50k a month, try and aim for 30k or even 25k and be realistic. Fit it in with your actual life. Get into the habit of writing if you can because we all know habits are hard to break. Nothing is more depressing than wanting to write and be creative and then feeling like a failure because you’ve not made your self-appointed goals. Goals must be able to move. If you write a thousand words a day, that is still 30,000 words at the end of a 30 day month. That is a lot of words. And all it is is putting one word after the other.
This blogpost has rambled on enough. I hope some of it helps those who are asking the how/where do I start. As for ideas: I can’t help you there. But reading books and magazines and asking what if will help. Seriously. I’m not even joking.
Go out and scrivener!