Lots of folks who want to be writers ask me if I have any advice for them. Well, I could say a lot, but here are some of the first things that come to mind:
Know what you’re doing. Study all you can about the writing craft. Read books about story structure, writing a novel, character development. I’ve even read books on screenplay writing and found them helpful.
Be able to write good English. There is no excuse for bad spelling, poor grammar, faulty sentence structure and so on. I will grant that writers, especially fiction writers, use all kinds of devices and artistic license with words to tell their stories, but they know what they’re doing and none of it is by accident. You need to know what the rules are before you can start breaking them.
Write, every day if you can. Start small, with short stories, essays on any subject you wish, a journal just for yourself, blogs like this one, and grow from there. Writing is like any other skill: you have to practice at it, so turn off the television and go to work.
If you plan to write fiction, read a lot of fiction to get a sense of how fiction should sound, flow, hold your attention, evoke emotions. Always look for drama and how the author creates it.
Develop an ear for dialogue. It’s surprising to me how many writing students can carry on conversation and hear a conversation but they still can’t write it the way it really sounds. If you must, read your dialogue out loud to yourself, act it out, and keep at it until it sounds genuine.
Try to write for your reader and not just for yourself. Some would-be writers are still on some kind of artistic ego trip, writing unintelligible glop that may satisfy their own impulses but which no one else can understand. That’s fine if you want to starve. If you want to get paid for what you do, have respect and regard for your customer the reader.
Quit dreaming and get to work. The only way to get a project finished is to get your rear end into that chair and your hands on the keyboard and keep them there on a regular, disciplined basis until you’ve come up with something.
That’s it for now.
When I get any more “white-haired wisdom” to share, I think I’ll post it here. Thanks.