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How to be a writer: Do what works



There’s a lot of advice out there on how to be a writer. There’s a gazillion blogs, paid writing courses, and thousands of articles. And I too am adding to the noise. Although, I do like to think that I’m sharing valuable information that can help others on the same journey.

Last week’s post on how to own calling yourself a writer seemed to get up someone’s goat (I’m not going to rehash it all, it’s in the comments on the post if you’re interested), but it got me to thinking about how much writing advice there is out there, and what we should do with it.

I like to think we gravitate towards what we need at that particular point in time. Writers just starting out look for information to help them get started; the nuts and bolts of how to write. Those with a manuscript under their belt are looking for information on editing, redrafting, and the next steps. And then those who are wanting to head down the publishing route seek out that information, and so forth.

Whilst some information is more credible and useful than others due to its author and content, I do think there is something for everyone. But, with so much information out there, how do we know what is right? How do we know what works?

The answer is we don’t.

Writing is a creative art. I believe it’s a mix of talent – natural and learned – as well as a high percentage of passion, belief, and love. And while the craft of writing can be taught, the essence and heart of story comes from within.

How does that help those seeking information?

Those who seek information and want to learn and grow are dedicated to their craft. They are passionate about learning more and wanting to improve their writing and knowledge of writing. Therefore they will be drawn to what they seek. From there, it’s simply trial and error.

What works for Liane Moriarty or James Patterson, won’t work for everyone. And although their wisdom and knowledge is invaluable, it’s worth noting that following their advice – or anyone else’s for that matter – will come down to what works for you.

Novelist Kate Forsyth is a plotter. She spends hours researching, detailing and plotting her stories before a word gets written.

Whereas Stephen King prefers to sit down, begin writing and see where the story leads him.

Both are successful authors, so which way is right?

Neither. They do what works for them.

And that is why I share the things I learn about writing. Because I have done the same thing.

I have taken advice from writers, authors, teachers and mentors and I’ve trialled and errored my way through. Along the way I’ve found things that work, and things that haven’t. I’ve also found that sometimes something will work for a period of time and then by sheer experience and inner wisdom it melds into something completely different that achieves the desired outcome. In other words, I moulded it into what works for me.

My main piece of advice is to soak up as much writing advice and information as you can. Seek out what you need, weed out what you don’t. But, most importantly, put it into practice. You could spend the next twenty years reading and learning how to be a writer and not get a single word penned. What would be the point in that?

Writing is a verb. You must do. Try different things. Mix them up. Mould them into something unique. Do what works for you and stick with it. Until it doesn’t. And then try something new.

Evoloving and growing as a writer is what it’s all about. No writer is perfect, nor does anyone have the secret to writing the perfect novel.

I think I’ve shared this quote before, but it is absolutely one of my favourites and the perfect way to end this post.