How do you get started as a writer?

As a senior in most every sense, drat it, I’m asked pretty often how one gets started if one wants to write. There really is no great mystery. The answer is just to sit yourself down, open a file (or sharpen a pencil), and write. Now for the elaboration.

#1. Accept that your first efforts are going to be, um, crap. Maybe you’re the one in a thousand for whom that isn’t true, but then you wouldn’t need any advice from me. The hard part of #1 is recognizing that what you have written that day, or even that first year, is not as good as it should be. It’s like realizing that your newborn is not the most beautiful baby the world has seen. Very hard to see that.

Learning to write is a process. It may take years before you find your voice, hit your stride, become your best writing self. That doesn’t mean that there is no merit in your earliest efforts. You may have a pretty good product, but it is not as good as you can make it.

#2. The only way you will get better is A. to write and write and write and B. thorough revision. Beginning writers don’t believe this. They feel they’ve already done their best, and there it is, right there on the page. But discipline is a biggie in a writer’s life: go back and rewrite. Do that again. And again. This is a skill, learning to revise, and you learn it by doing it. You’ll get better at it, I promise. (Holding off for a few days, weeks, months pays off when you are revising – it’s much easier to find your weak spots when you see them with fresh eyes.)

#3. Now and then I meet a writer who doesn’t read much. That mystifies me. You gotta read. Everything. I even learned a lot from the books I thought were poor and weak. You can see where the cracks and ravels are in a bad book, and you can see where you might have made that same mistake, but never will again. Also, it’s very encouraging to read bad books. I can do better than that, you tell yourself, and so feel energized to carry on.

#4. Read a few books about how to write. These are some I found helpful: How To Write A Damn Good Novel by James N. Frey, Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card, The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman, Scene & Structure by Jack M. Bickham, and Writing for Emotional Impact by Karl Iglesias. There are many books about writing on the market. Read some of them. It’ll help a whole lot.

#5. Don’t give up. Writing is lonely, frustrating, and just plain hard. It takes grit to keep going. Lots of writers tell you to write every day, at the same time, in the same place, whether you feel like it or not and whether you come up with anything worth keeping. I’m not that strict, frankly, but the point is that writing is a way of life. And it’s a choice. Accept that it is sometimes painful and keep going because it is also a source of great joy and satisfaction.

There’s more of course, since I’m gushing with wisdom, but five seems like a good number to start with.

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About glcraig

Gretchen Craig’s lush, sweeping tales deliver edgy, compelling characters who test the boundaries of integrity, strength, and love. Told with sensitivity, the novels realistically portray the raw suffering of people in times of great upheaval. Gretchen was born and raised in Florida. She’s lived in climates and terrain as diverse as the white beaches of the Gulf Coast, the rocky shores of Maine, and the dusty plains of Texas. Her awareness of place imbues every page with the smell of the bayous of Louisiana, the taste of gumbo in New Orleans, or the grit of a desert storm. Rich in compelling characters and historical detail, Always and Forever is a sweeping saga of Josie and Cleo, mistress and slave. Amid Cajuns and Creoles, the bonds between these two remarkable women are tested by prejudice, tragedy, and passion for one extraordinary man. Gretchen’s first novel won the Colorado Romance Writers Award of Excellence for Mainstream with Romantic Elements and was chosen as an Editor’s Pick in the Historical Novel Society reviews. Ever My Love, winner of the Booksellers Best Award from the Greater Detroit Romance Writers of America, continues the story of Cleo and Josie’s families, of their struggle for principle, justice, and love in a world where the underpinnings of the plantation culture are crumbling. Crimson Sky, inspired by the pueblos, mountains, and deserts of New Mexico, evokes the lives of people facing neighboring marauders and drought. Now the march of Spanish Conquistadors up the Rio Grande threatens their homeland, their culture, and their entire belief system.
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