Advice for writers staring out

I recently received an email from a writer who’s just starting out, and they wanted to know if I could give them any advice. It’s the first time anyone has asked me for writing advice, and I was very flattered.

Since my first full-length work isn’t quite finished, I wasn’t sure how much advice I could offer. Then I thought back on what I’ve found the most difficult thing about writing and what’s helped me.

In my experience, writing a novel is hard. It’s hard, not because of the technical aspects of it, but because of all of the self-doubts that crop up along the way. You’ll probably find yourself thinking things like ‘I’m a cruddy writer’, ’this book is stupid’ and ‘I’m never, ever going to finish’, the sorts of things that totally discouraging you from writing. That’s why you need to be persistent, to keep writing despite the self-doubts, and stubborn, for when persistence fails you. 

Some things you can do to bolster your confidence:

Find yourself a cheering squad, which is anyone who believes in what you’re doing and supports you without reservation

For me, this is my family, in particular, my mother who loves everything I do, even when it’s completely incomprehensible.

If your cheering squad is doing anything other than jumping up and down in raptures of anticipation over your first book launch (even though you’ve barely written a chapter) they’re not a cheering squad.

Join a writing group

Ideally, this is a group with at least one or two members who are experienced writers and may even be published, but it doesn’t have to be. The more experienced writers in the group, the more you’ll learn, both in the form of critiques, and general advice. You also want them to be people you get along with and who get/like what you’re writing; a romance, literary or poetry group isn’t going to be the best choice if you’re writing sci-fi, fantasy or horror.

Also, don’t be afraid to quit a group if you’re not getting what you want out of them.

Listen to writing podcasts

These are great sources of inspiration and motivation. A lot of the time they’re interviewing other authors, and you can learn a lot from other people’s experiences. It’s also a great way to learn more about publishing (both traditional and self-publishing) and writing in general.

Some of my favourite podcasts are:

The important bit

The most important thing to remember is, no matter how long it takes or how many setbacks you have, you will write that book.

Say it with me again: you will write that book.

What advice would you offer?

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