Believe it or not, I’ve never written a post about writing. I’ve spoken about reading, and about the act of writing, but I haven’t really shared any tips on the subject. Perhaps this stems from the fact that I’m certainly not an expert. But many of the topics here don’t come from expertise but rather from life experiences and hacks that I have learned along the way. I’m not even sure how I feel about “expertise” but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that my Master’s in Counseling didn’t make me feel a little more legit when doling out life advice. The truth is anyone can do it and nobody has it all figured out. And while I may not hold an M.F. A in Creative Writing, I am working on a pretty big writing project (completely out of my comfort zone) that I can’t wait to share with all of you. Because of said project, I have been working on refining my practice and as a result, I’ve tried things that worked well and things that didn’t turn out to be best practices for me.
I am a big believer in the idea that if you write you are a writer. And If you’re still reading this you might actually be interested in writing a book someday too. So today, I am sharing a few tips as a writer friend (not an expert) that I hope will work for you.
Take a Class– One of the biggest things I did that helped me become better at writing was to take a writing class. Writing is a craft. Sure it comes more naturally to some, but just because you’re a voracious reader, doesn’t mean you’ll be a great writer. I mean…I’m awesome at eating at restaurants and maybe even knowing the elements of a good meal, but I’m no Michelin Chef.
If you are delving into writing, switching writing styles (non-fiction to fiction or vice versa) or just want to refine your craft, a class might be helpful.
All of the classes I have taken have been through the Muse. When I first started my classes there they were in-person. Over the past few years, they’ve gone online for obvious reasons, which has been great for meeting other writers and instructors around the world. The last class I took had a woman living in Israel enrolled. This summer they are moving to hybrid (in-person/online) as well.
I’ve also heard a lot about The Gotham’s Writers workshop in NYC. They offer online classes as well. The biggest benefit isn’t just to learn about the elements of writing but you also learn to critique works of writing (and be critiqued) which is essential, in my opinion, to defining or refining your own writing style.
Grab a copy of Save The Cat Writes a Novel– I have a ton of books about writing on my bookshelf. My husband actually remarked yesterday that I had too many books. Is that even a thing? I think not. But none of those writing books have helped me actually craft a story the way that Save the Cat Writes a Novel has. If you are actually drafting a novel or a narrative memoir then I can’t recommend this book enough. I know the title sounds silly but it’s based on the popular screenwriting manual and then adapted for novel writers and it breaks everything down seamlessly. The name actually comes from how to make an unlikeable character redeemable.
I had an idea for my book before reading it, but now I actually have a story. Read this. Thank me later.
Read as Often as You Write– when you pitch a book to an agent one of the things you will be asked to do is share books that are comparable to yours. While your idea might be genius it’s most likely not new. Nothing really is. It’s most likely a fresh take or a twist on something that has been done before. If you love historical fiction but your book idea is more of a mystery, read the great pieces in that particular genre. You need to know how your book is similar and what sets it apart. We’ve already established that while every reader isn’t a writer, I would be willing to bet that the reverse isn’t true. Read as often as you write.
Find or create a writing community– speaking of writing regularly, you’re going to need some discipline and support. Find a few fellow writers who can support you through this process. Reach out to your writing friends and let them know you’re working on a project and might need a little feedback or encouragement. I have friends who sample my work, send me links to writing information, and share their work with me as well. A supportive writing community-even a small one (mine consists of 3 people and one is related to me) is helpful to keep you motivated and help you get back on track when you want to give up…. and trust me you’ll probably want to give up at some point but, cheerleaders always help.
Speaking of which, one of my writer friends shared Craft Talk with me. It’s an online writing community, created by NY Times bestselling author Jami Attenburg which is home to the #1000WordsOfSummer project for writers of every level each year. Every day during the two-week project you’ll get a letter from Jami encouraging you to write and you have the opportunity to meet other participants and post your daily word count if you’d like to. If that isn’t enough to get you motivated to write regularly I don’t know what is.
So those are the 4 Tips that have helped motivate me toward the finish line. If you’re a new or established writer and have tips I would love to hear from you too.
Until Next Post,
Xo Tonya Parker