First a word on writers and authors. A writer is someone who writes—novels, plays, poems, short stories, or a blog. J K Rowling is a writer. She is the author of the ‘Harry Potter’ books. William Shakespeare was a writer. He is the author of many plays and poems. So you’re not an author. You’re the author of something. Whether it’s a blog or a novel. So, call yourself a writer.
How writers write, Part 1. It’s interesting to listen to successful writers being interviewed, or to read their descriptions of how they write. Some get up at five am and write until late morning. Some get up late morning and write on and off until evening. Some work office hours. Some set themselves a quota of words to write each day. Whatever works. Also, many writers have day jobs and have to fit their writing around that. The only thing a successful writer probably can’t do is wait for inspiration to fall out of the sky. This is sometimes called ‘waiting for your muse’. (Google it!) Inspiration needs to be prodded and encouraged. Deadlines are good for this. ‘I gotta have something to send to that competition by Friday.’ ‘I have to write a post for my blog every Sunday.’
How writers write, Part 2. Some writers make all sorts of detailed notes before they start. Some draw diagrams to help them plan the story, they draw maps, write biographies and physical descriptions of the characters. They choose what car each character drives, their children’s middle names, and whether they went to a state school or an expensive private college. These writers know exactly how the story will go.
Other writers have some initial ideas, but they let the story work itself out as they write. All the same, to be successful they will know enough about writing skills so that the story has the right points of drama and conflict in the right places.
How do they know that? Writers must be readers!
If there is one rule to become a writer, it is read, read, read, read. Read the kind of books you want to write. Read the poetry that is being written and published today if you want to write poetry. Go and watch live drama if you want to write plays. Read teen fantasy if you …… You’ve got the idea.
Think of violin players. They go to concerts. They listen to music … constantly. They jam with other musicians. They talk, live, dream, eat, sleep …. music.
But read widely, too, all sorts and everything. Read the old classics. Watch TV drama and cinema movies like a critic. Ask yourself, ‘How did they get that effect?’ This might be a good time to bring up the advice that student writers hear more than any other, ‘Show, don’t tell’. There is no voice-over in a movie to tell viewers ‘she felt sad’, ‘he felt angry’, ‘they were jealous’. Not unless you are watching a nature documentary. No, you see it. With practice, you too can make your readers see or hear how your characters feel.
If there is a second rule, it is write, write, write. Everyone gets better with practice. Think of violin players.
There are some great sites out there with writing tips, too.