If you are still at the I want to write but don’t know how to start stage, then follow these quick tips on how to get started as a writer.
Find a space where you can write
This space might be at home, at a local library, in a local coffee shop, in your garden shed. It doesn’t matter where – the main thing is to find somewhere that is conducive to writing.
Try to make writing part of your daily routine. Write before breakfast, before you go to work, when you get back from work, before you go to bed, during a lunch break. Whatever time you choose and whether you choose to write every day or just once a week, establish a routine you can stick to, to help keep the momentum going.
Read other peoples’ stuff
Read whatever interests you or captures your imagination – fiction, non-fiction, magazines, newspapers – it really doesn’t matter. Seek out the best examples of the genre you want to write in and consider how the authors’ techniques and style could influence or help you with your own writing.
Brainstorm before you start writing
Write down your main theme/idea and then scribble down everything you can think of that is associated with it (single words or short phrases will do). Don’t worry if some of your ideas are a bit random – they may lead to better ideas or you can ignore them when you start to plan your writing. Check out Get organised with some great online tools for writers for some mind-mapping tools you can use to brainstorm your ideas.
Think before you write
Before you start writing your first draft, create a plan or outline. This a great way of organising your thoughts and ideas and checking whether you have got all the information you need to make a start or whether you need to do a bit more research or brainstorming.
Write first, edit later
Write your first draft without worrying about spelling, grammar, punctuation. Getting something down is far more important than producing a perfectly polished piece of writing. You will have plenty of time for editing and improving your work later on.
Although it is good to learn from the writing of other authors don’t be tempted to copy their style. Your readers want to hear your own voice coming through so keep your writing natural and avoid words and expressions that are not part of your normal vocabulary.
Keep it simple
To succeed as a writer you don’t have to prove how clever you are by writing complicated sentences or getting in as many long or obscure words as you can. The best writing is clear, straightforward and simple.
Always carry a notebook
You never know when a great idea will suddenly come into your mind so make sure you always have a notebook on hand for these moments of inspiration. If you are not a pen and notebook person, check out my post Get organised with some great online tools for writers for some online note-taking apps.
Join an online or local writers’ group
Writing can be an isolating and lonely business particularly if you have no-one to discuss your ideas with. Being able to talk to other writers and get some feedback and support is an important part of developing as a writer, so why not consider joining a local writers’ group or our own online forums where you can engage with other writers, exchange ideas and share what you have written.
Write for your audience
Before you launch into your first draft think about who you want to read it. Your writing style, choice or words, level of formality, what you should (or shouldn’t) include should all be tailored to your potential audience.
Edit your writing
Don’t be tempted to start tweaking your first draft too soon. Leave it for a few hours or even a few days and then re-read it. You will come back to it fresh and more able to read it objectively. When you are ready, start by checking for any grammatical and spelling errors and then re-write any sentences or sections that don’t flow or read well. Editing is an iterative process so don’t be surprised if it takes a number of edits before you are happy with what you have written.
Grab a grammar guide
If your grammar is a bit rusty go to your local bookstore and get yourself a grammar book or check to see what is available online. For example, the British Council’s Learn English website which although aimed at students who are learning English as a second language, is an excellent resource for anyone who needs to brush up on their grammar. Also take a look at the grammar books I have recommended.
Ask someone else to read what you have written
Once you have a draft you are happy with ask a fellow writer, family member or friend to read it for you. Ask them to make a note of any errors or any bits they couldn’t understand or follow. Remember also to ask them to tell you what they enjoyed about your piece of writing.
Don’t give up
If you are a new or inexperienced writer it can be hard at first but do keep going because perseverance does pay off. Writing is a craft which can be learned but just like many other things in life that are worth doing, it takes hard work and determination.