A few weeks ago, I was asked on twitter how to get started as a writer. I wasn’t sure what I really could offer to him—I’m not a published author just yet, I haven’t won any awards, and I’m sure a lot of people don’t know that I even exist.
But nonetheless, I was very flattered that this guy had asked me how to get started. And my advice was very generic—just start writing. I had a few other tidbits in there and I’ll cover those in a minute.
Now, depending on what kind of writing you’d like to pursue, the details may vary a bit to a lot, especially when it comes to formatting and finding representation. But for now, we’ll just stick with the basics.
The first thing to do in anything you’d like to do is to just do it. With writing, it helps to pick up a pen—or open a document on your computer—and just start. Your first time and rough drafts aren’t going to be pretty. In fact, it’s going be pretty damn awful. And that’s ok. You’re not suppose to start at the top, in anything you do.
About those details, here they are. When it comes to writing, it really helps to have a good editor, or Red Team. Your Red Team are people—I’d say at least two—who will give you solid feedback on your drafts, whether it’s poetry, a screenplay or fiction. For your RT, it helps to have someone who is a good writer. And by that I mean someone who has a good grasp on the language you’re writing in, knows the basic rules of grammar and knows how to construct a pretty cohesive paragraph.
You can’t possibly improve if the people who are editing you are worse writers, or don’t know the difference between a verb, a noun and an adjective. You also need to emphasize honest feedback from your RT, so it’ll behoove you to pick people whom you trust that will be honest with you. If you just want to hear how good of a writer you are, just post whatever you have on a blog post in whatever platform and tell people to tell you just how awesome you are.
Seriously. If you just want people to pad your ego, just bypass everything and go straight from your Word draft to posting. I’m not sure how positive the comments will be, but they’ll be honest.
But back to my point, it really helps to have your editors be honest with you. Yeah, no one wants to hear that their work needs work. But guess what? That’s how we all improve and get better.
I’ll share that it was rough when I received notes on my first idea for an original novel. Prior to this, I’d just been writing fanfiction and poetry. Wait… did I not explain my start in this? Well, I’ll do that on another post. But my friend was very honest and told me how awful my idea was. And when I think back, it was pretty fucking terrible. My characters were shit, my plot was all over the place… just a mess. This is what I needed to hear, and it has helped make me a better novelist.
Something you must understand is that your RT isn’t there to hurt your feelings. That’s not what an editor does—they help you improve by offering solid and direct corrections. If your editor just belittles you or gives vague notes, you need to seek someone else.
With me, I’d selected two writer friends of mine that I’d known for years, and that are great writers themselves. Though not native English speakers, they’re fluent and that’s very helpful. I know that if they give me a note, it’s because something I have down doesn’t make sense, not because they’re trying to hurt my feelings.
So yes, you’ll need a bit of tough skin, and people you can trust. I’d say your RT should be at least two people, but no more than three. Too many and then you can start to have very conflicting notes.
It also helps to set actual solid deadlines for your work. If you just linger out there, your work never gets done. Set some time out of your day, week, month or year to get the work done. And celebrate when you do—you’ve just done something that most people don’t.
Give yourself some time. No one starts out brilliant, and everyone is constantly learning. Know not to beat yourself up just because your path may seem to be taking forever.
If you’re a graphic novelist and you’re looking for an illustrator, you could try your local art college, or a comic convention if you don’t have an artist in mind. Be sure to seek out an artist whose style will fit with the tone of your story.
You should only do this once your draft is complete and has been hammered out; I’ll explain why in a bit. Once you meet one, make an introduction. Tell them what you like about their work. ASK if they have some time and would be interested in reading your draft. If they say yes, get them a .pdf that same day. This is why it’s important to have your draft finalized before looking for an artist. They’re not going to be interested in “Well, it’s not complete yet…” or “I haven’t actually started writing it, but it’ll be awesome!” No one has time for that. Don’t embarrass yourself by doing this.
Now, if your artist doesn’t have the time to read your draft, or simply isn’t interested, say your thank yous and move on. Do not throw a tantrum or ask a bunch of questions. It isn’t your business why they’re not interested—the point is that they’re not. I should point out that if you have to go through a manager or an agent before your artist will read the draft, make a choice on if you’ll continue or not. Don’t take it as a slight, and respect that this is a business and they’re handling it professionally.
Also, make sure your draft is in the proper format for the genre you’re writing in. This will also help if you end up submitting to an agent or a publishing company later. I’d recently purchased Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript and 2014 Writer’s Market. You can get both from Amazon or Barnes and Noble. The Writer’s Market may change from year to year, but it helps to have the information anyway.
Get some business cards—they are important, professional and you will need them. They don’t need to be fancy, just have your name, email address—a professional one, I can’t stress this enough—, phone number and your website or blog if you have one. Mine were done through moo.com. Found out about them while I was in grad school and I love their products. They are others, like Vistaprint. If you’d like, get a blog and start your journey there. My 1st was on Livejournal and that’s how I met my writer friends. There are others—Blogger, Blogspot, WordPress, etc. You can start with fanfiction, or whatever you’d like. I believe they’re all free unless you want to upgrade your account.
And lastly, I just want to say that there isn’t a single right way do to this. Everyone’s path is and will be different so don’t compare yourself to another. Just follow whichever path is right for you, and give it the time it needs.
If you have any questions, tips or kudos, drop me a comment below and let me know. Happy writing guys!