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10 Tips for Beginning Writers

It’s really funny my publisher asked me to write this post for the blog hop to celebrate the release of my second book, Under the Same Sun. It makes me sound like a pro, a writing veteran, when this is really only the second book I’ve ever written. But it’s also the second that a publisher accepted, and so I guess I do know a bit by now.

Ten things you should know before you decide you want to be a writer.

This is really tough. I’m not one for reading lists, or books of writing How To’s. I just figured it out along the way. Consequently, these are very personal tips. Take them that way, please.

1. Enjoy what you do.

Which means, if you don’t love spending hours at the typewriter, computer, or whatever your medium is, don’t even start. You have to be willing and ready to spend untold hours writing, rewriting, and writing some more.

2. Be patient.

No book has ever been written overnight. You’re in for a long haul. This may take a year, or more. Oh, and since we’re on it: prepare to write more than one book. Publishers want authors, not single books.

3. Allow your story to end.

This may sound trivial, but in fact it’s crucial, and a stumbling block for many writers. You need to find an ending to your story, and let go of it. You need to decide to end the writing and declare your novel finished at some point.

4. Edit.

You know what I said in Tip #3? Well, your novel is not finished just because you have an ending. When you’ve written a first draft, it’s just that: a draft. Now the real writing begins. Edit until your eyes bleed and your fingers break off. And by this I mean: step away from your finished draft, let it sit for a couple of weeks, and come back with a rested mind and fresh eyes. You will see what needs to be changed.

5. Write for yourself.

Yes. I think this is a very important one. Writing should be an indulgence, the chocolate fountain of your life (if you’re into chocolate), the huge treat you can’t wait to get back to. The alternate world in your head, the one you’re pinning down: that’s what it should be. If you decide to start writing because you want to start a new career—forget it. You can only do this
with passion. Because you love it (see Tip #1) and you have to love what you write. If it pleases you, if it’s something you would pick out to read for yourself, then it should also please others when they read it.

6. Workspace.

There isn’t one. Or rather, your workspace is everywhere. The entire world is your workspace. If you’re a writer, you write all the time. Maybe not on “paper,” but certainly in your head.

7. Observe.

I am firmly convinced this is the basis of all writing. If you can’t observe the world around you, you can’t write. Ask yourself this: where do stories come from? Where do characters and their mannerisms come from? Where did you see a setting just like the one you’re trying to capture, the one you want to use for the opening of your novel? The stories are all out there. You only have to see them.

8. Let Go of Your Fear of Failure, or Success.

When that moment comes, when you decide to start writing, don’t think about publishing, about royalty checks, about reviews in the New York Times, or if your novel will it the bestseller lists. Trust me; it’s a very, very long road. Just, you know, write.

9. Practice Summarizing.

First of all, I have to admit I really suck at this part. But knowing I suck at it makes it even more important for you to know. Practice for the moment someone asks you: “What’s your book
about?” Because, trust me, this moment will come, and probably sooner than you think, and then you’d better have a brilliant, three-sentence answer. The person asking you might just be that agent or publisher you wanted to meet all along. So: practice. Talk about your book with confidence, and not like me, cringing, blushing, stammering, “Oh, you know . . . it’s a kind of love story . . .” I’m kidding. I do talk about my books, at length and with confidence—at least in my dreams.

10. Enjoy what you do. (See Tip #1)

Because, otherwise it’s an incredible waste of time.

Tell me your opinion: What do you wish you had known before you started writing?

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the IPPY and NIEA Award-winning and internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel. She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website.

Comments

  1. You had me at chocolate fountain. :)

  2. What a great post, Mariam. Thank you so much! xx

  3. Excellant, now I know I am on the right track :))

  4. I like number nine: Practicing summarizing. Not only does is help when someone asks what your book is about, it also helps you to learn to condense. Sometimes writers tend to fill pages with unnecessary adjectives instead of using strong verbs, and this practice helps one settle down to the bare bones of things when needed. That said, it is something I struggle with myself and my way of practicing is to write poetry.

    I am currently working on my first book and appreciate these tips.

    I live in a small village in Baden-Württemberg and have no English writing group nearby. Therefore, I have an online writers group that I rely on to critique my work. Everyone should have someone to share their work with (not family…someone who knows a bit of the craft and can be objective). I think the support and growth that comes from a group of trusted peers can also help a new writer, like myself, greatly.

    And YES! I would love to win this book.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Great stuff, Mariam. Thank you so much for sharing with us today!

  7. Wait a New York minute now, we’re supposed to ENJOY this? I’m just joking of course. Thanks for the tips, perhaps I should post them somewhere for memory’s sake.

  8. Thank you for hosting me, Katie! It’s a great honor. :)

  9. These are great. I like the one about fear. I suspect that’s at the core of my procrastination. I do enjoy writing, but I think fear of success or failure get in the way, and I refrain from doing what I love, or at least allow all sorts of excuses from life to get in the way. Thank you so much for this. I’m inspired and today, I’ll write.

  10. Very good tips and I’m happy they’re showing I am on the right track.
    No, I haven’t started writing actualy. I’m still working on the outline! And I’ve been doing this for months! In the process, I have changed so many things, especialy based on books on writing I’ve been reading (one of them I’m 40% away frm its end) and new ideas came up, new characters and at least one possible ending (I had no idea how I would end the story).

    So, answering your question, I’m glad I’m having the opportunity to learn about a lot of things I had no idea about.

    When will I start writing… well, pretty soon. :) Actually I believe I am already “writing” my story in my head and making notes on ideas that are coming out of the blue, into my head.

    Thank you for your blog, thank you for your article Mariam.

    Marcos, Brazil.

  11. I wish I’d known all 10 of these tips when I started writing.. lol
    Many of my early frustrations were due to the fact that I felt like I HAD to write it down because it HAD to be done.. not ‘cuz I could enjoy doing it.

    Plus, one of my elder brothers is a writer, and I always felt like I was having to compete with him.. not a good way to start learning how to write.

    Thankfully, I’ve been able to overcome all odds, and produce a few stories that I actually felt good about posting in public. Now, if only I could remember to write down plot ideas when I get them at 2:30 in the morning.. ;)

    Thanks for sharing, Mariam. :D

  12. This is an awesome article about the Writing process. Thanks for sharing!

  13. The world in my head is becoming a huge problem… I need to get it OUT of there so there’s room for other things!

  14. Great tips – especially number 9! I stumble on that one every time someone asks me what I’m working on.

  15. Wonderful post, despite #3 bordering on heresy. Good stories never end; they simply run out of paper or battery life. LOL (Seriously though, point is well taken.)

  16. LOL! But you can always write a sequel! ;)

  17. Solid, sound advice!
    Thanks for sharing :-)

  18. Number 9 has been a bit of a hurdle for me – my stories are so complex, dagnabit! But all good stories come from the germ of a good idea, so over time I have worked hard to figure out how to find that core story element and express it in approaching agents and publishers, and not worry that my tag line isn’t delivering all the nuance of my story and its characters.

  19. Ohhhh, summarizing. I’m not very good at that — that’s why write & rewrite works well for me. I guess I need to summarize. My children have asked me what is the book about & I don’t have an answer for them. I guess I should come up with one.

  20. I love these no-nonsense tips (and the chocolate-fountain comparison is priceless). Very good points, all of them.
    And amusing to see that you were possibly in Giessen at about the same time that I was just down the road in Marburg, Mariam. I even went to Giessen to visit friends a few times. If only I’d known you then!

  21. This is a great post. Thanks to Mariam

  22. Oh Marina! I’m still in Germany, we still can meet! :) Are you on Facebook? Find me there, and we can talk!

    https://www.facebook.com/mariam.kobras

    I’m always happy to make new friends!

  23. Excellent advice. You gave a good account of the way it works.

  24. This has been helpful…Thank You

  25. I guess I should have came in knowing, that writing even a short novel is harder than writing a 4,000 word story. If I write more than 410 words a day, I tend to get lost and lose structure.

    One thing that actually helps me, is seeing an end to the work. If my character does not see an end to go to, I can’t write or “Have them walk” toward that direction.

    When I wrote my horror short, I made sure in the first draft to make him see something in the distance, even if my the second draft, you realize there is no logical way for him to see that far off. (Assuming your hero is walking somewhere.)

  26. Thanks for this post. Very sound advice.

  27. Good advice, and yes, good story never end, they just run out life batteries! :-)

  28. Thank you, and you’re so welcome! I had no idea this would resonate with so many writers.

  29. Thank you for the thoughts. I wish I had known before writing it that one of my picture books would morph into a middle grade novel. Needless to say, writing a novel versus a picture book brings new time commitments and challenges. But, it’s also fun.

  30. I like that you mentioned writing books both on paper and “in your head.” I’ve often created stories and scenes, but few have been transcribed. I still like to consider myself an author, and this year I’ll be attempting National Writing Month for the first time. I can’t fully express how inspirational your tips have been. I feel more confident going in. Thank you!

  31. Anonymous says:

    my god… your site is the most contagious, addictive thing about writing, every article’s title makes me read it without my consent, how do you do it?

  32. I just wanted to let you know how much I liked this article and to tell you I recommended it on my blog for beginning writers.

  33. Thank you all for the great response! xo

  34. Anonymous says:

    I really love this. I am just beginning to write, and am in need of some really good tips. This one really helped me. And, I LOVE your book, Under the Same Sun. It’s really well written. I have been kind of stressed about publishing. But this really helped me also realize I don’t need to be. I should just write. Thanks!

  35. Milayna says:

    What if your a younger author/writer? I mean I am trying to write a book and I am only thirteen… Any tips?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      I started writing when I was twelve. Approach it just as you if you were an adult: write what you love and study the craft.

  36. I wish that I had known number four. Writing (even generating story ideas) is MUCH easier than editing. Unless I’m in a very rare and distinctive mood, it is extremely hard for me to edit my writing. Editing could almost be its own medium (I suppose that is part of the reason they have editors, now that I think about it).
    Number nine really speaks to me as well. To this day, when asked about a story I wrote, I find myself stumbling, fidgeting, and looking at Heaven for an angel to come and explain the story. It is so difficult for me to explain what my stories are about in a few sentences. It’s so difficult that my mom can summarize my stories better than me.

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