10 Tips for New Writers
I’m going to begin by saying that you can start anywhere you want, but you have to start. You can spend a lifetime wanting to be a writer, a lifetime imagining your books in print, but if you never pick up that pen or start tapping keys, those dreams are never going to come true. Writing is a long and arduous journey, but if it’s what you’re meant to do, you owe it to yourself to go for it.
I’m here today to share my top ten tips for new writers. If you haven't started yet or if you have, but feel a little bit lost, this post is for you. Authorship is still relatively new to me, but I’ve been writing seriously for almost seven years and I’ve learned a few things along the way. This list is some of the stuff I wish I’d learned sooner.
1. Back Up Your Work
This is number one on the list for a good reason. There is no greater pain than losing your writing to a computer crash or something similar, especially in your first stages of writing. It’s discouraging and could make you give up before you’ve had a chance to see your true potential. So email your drafts to yourself or save to a doc and a USB stick. You can also use google docs because it saves automatically and you can log into any computer to see your work anywhere. Just please, save everything twice. Peace of mind is so worth the hassle.
Our laptop died once when I was maybe a year or two into writing seriously and I nearly had a heart attack. Thankfully, a family friend was able to recover my files from the hard-drive. I saved every file to my USB stick after that.
2. Don’t Stop Reading
I have a whole blog post dedicated to the importance of reading as a writer. It’s one of my earliest posts, so you’ll have to scroll way down to see it. In it, I talk about how we can’t neglect other people’s books for our own because reading fuels our creativity. It’s what drives us. We can learn so much from the authors who came before us, more so in their works than in whatever advice they leave on various websites and social medias.
I am guilty of this neglect. I used to read almost a book a week. Now, I’m lucky to read a book a month, but my lifestyle is very busy. It seems like a good excuse, doesn’t it? But I make time in that schedule for writing. Reading should be a priority too as a writer because it is a tool for our success. I should be making time in my schedule for it, definitely above my endless scrolling on Instagram. (Anybody else?)
Okay okay, I hear you pantsers whining in the back, but hear me out. When you’re starting out, some kind of outline can be crucial. You’re more likely to quit if you don’t know where your story is going, if you have no view of the end. An outline doesn’t have to be super structured, 200 points long, and colour coded either. If that’s not your style, don’t sweat it. An outline can be as little as five points that tell you the major plot points in the story.
I consider myself a hybrid writer, somewhere between plotter and pantser. Some people would call me a plantser. I do a lot of brainstorming first, coming up with plot ideas and bits of dialogue. Then I arrange these into a loose outline, fill in some gaps, and start writing. Sometimes my points all flow together into one chapter, one event after the other. Then later I’ll hit a spot where there’s a big gap between outline points that I have to make up as I go along. I always have a sense of where I’m headed though and I tend to write the ending first so I really know my intentions. Fit it to your own style, but try to see your outline as a friend.
4. Try New Things
Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. This is a great time to experiment with different genres, POVs, and tenses. Play around with plot ideas and characters. Try poetry and short story. Stretch your writing legs. Nothing is set in stone and finding what’s right for you can be a lot of fun and is super helpful down the road.
I know that poetry doesn’t come easy to me, that I can’t write one out of thin air. I also know that I write novels in first person pov and short stories in third person pov. A couple years ago, I started a short story and got stumped partway through. It took me almost a year to realize it was meant to be a novel, not a short piece. The fact that I wrote it in first person should’ve been a giveaway. Try new things, especially when you’re stuck and you’ll soon see what works best for you.
5. Take Breaks
Rest is so important and not at all selfish. I can’t emphasize this enough. You need time away from your story every once in a while. If you push yourself too hard for too long, you might encounter writer’s block or experience burnout, so give yourself some grace. You need to refuel with netflix, a good book, or a night out sometimes. It’s not procrastination unless your breaks are a month long and you’ve lost all sense of your story.
I take time off from writing on the weekend, sort of as if it was a full time day job. I dedicate weekends to family, church, and date night. If I have extra time to write, I will, but it’s not a priority, not like it is during the week. I also take an entire week off between drafts so I can clear my head and have fresh eyes when I start revising.
6. Do Your Research
Knowledge is power people. I’m talking about two different kinds of research here: research for writing craft and research for the particular book you are writing. As a writer, you should always be improving your craft. I recommend hitting up your local library and checking out a few books on writing. Read them through and take notes for later. Just remember to take each piece of advice with a grain of salt. Writing is subjective, another person’s methods might not work for you or they could be completely outdated. You can also get great writing advice from writing accounts on both Instagram and Youtube. (my go to is Jenna Morreci)
As for your particular book, well, it depends. Maybe your book is set in the past and you need to research that time period so your book can be historically accurate. Maybe your character is a sharpshooter, but you’ve never even held a gun before. Maybe your book features mental illnesses or minorities that you don’t know much about. The point of research is making sure that your story world and events feel real and that you don’t offend people by portraying something incorrectly.
7. Join A Writing Group
Community is crucial to a writer because there is no bigger relief than knowing you're not alone. You can find all kinds of writing friends online through various social medias that will offer invaluable advice and motivation, but I also recommend finding writing buddies IRL. Join a writing group at your school or local library. Talking face to face with other writers is amazing and helping them with their stories can be so inspiring.
I have a writing group meeting once every two weeks and my creativity is at its peak when I get home after one. They keep me motivated and accountable.
8. Do Writing Prompts and Exercises
This could also fall under, Try New Things, but here we are. Prompts and writing exercises are awesome because they’re fun and educational. They often force you to try something different and sometimes that can be just what you need to create something amazing.
I like image prompts, where you create a story based off a picture or prompts that ask you to use specific words or sentences in your story. My debut novel actually came from a prompt. It was one where you take a sentence and Show instead of Tell. For example: Ralph’s coffee was hot. Now take that sentence and rewrite it so that the reader knows the coffee is hot without telling them that.
9. Feedback is your friend
I know, feedback can be daunting. It takes a lot of courage and trust to hand your book baby to someone to read because you know they’re not going to praise every piece of it. Criticism is hard to swallow, but necessary. Other people will point out problems in your book that you were blind to. You know, like that Febreeze commercial about being nose-blind. Feedback is essential to a good story. I recommend starting with someone you trust, because they’ll probably soften the blow a bit. That being said, you’ll also want a stranger’s opinion at some point. Sometimes family members will be less honest about glaring issues because they don’t want to upset you.
I get feedback for my writing from my local writing group, close friends, and critique partners and beta readers I’ve met on social media that I don’t know in person. You should get feedback more than once from more than one person before you publish your book.
10. Be Patient
Last, but certainly not least, be patient. Give yourself grace. Greatness as a writer doesn’t come to you overnight. It takes years to develop your skills and create something worth sharing. The great thing is, that as long as you stick to it, you can only improve. Don’t beat yourself because you’re ‘taking too long’. Are you on a deadline? No? Take a deep breath and remind yourself that you can’t rush perfection. A hurried book will only mean loads more revising down the road. Don’t expect more from yourself than you can realistically give. As long as you do not stop, your time will come.
So that concludes my list. There are so many more things I could talk about, but I feel like these points are the most important in your journey as a writer.
For more advice like this, check out my other blog posts or subscribe to my newsletter to get access to my For Writers page. On there, I share exclusive resource lists and writing lessons as well as a brand new exciting freebie coming next month. Let me know if this post was helpful and if you’d like to see more like it in the future.