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 is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.

Comments

  1. 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.)

  2. Thanks for this post. Very sound advice.

  3. Good advice, and yes, good story never end, they just run out life batteries! 🙂

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

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. 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?

  8. 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.

  9. Thank you all for the great response! xo

  10. 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!

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. Mrs. Wetland, I am the sibling of a celebrity/entrepreneur/First Lady of a State (unamed). I think I have a story to tell having been in this environment for many years and how it negatively affected me. We are 7 years apart in age and one I awoke to find myself lost. It’s a story that took me to the depths of drug use to finally finding my way out of the abyss. From having dinner with Muhammad Ali, to waking up one day finding I had lost my way and the journey to find my way back to sanity. My question is, do you think there’s any substance or potential to a story of this type?

    Sincerely,
    JRG

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Certainly! Being able to draw upon interesting and intense personal experiences is always a great foundation for fiction.

  14. Matthew David Lennartz says

    Thank you so much! Point 5 regarding passion especially resonates with me. I LOVE every aspect of the written word and cannot wait until my first book, which is in its infancy, comes into fruition!

    ~MDL

  15. Hey so I’m a beginning writer (very beginning) and as much as I know I’m a weak writer I think I have to weakest points. I’m very scared that I’m a technical failure. I feel like my sentences have no flow and sound like an essay about politics. I also think that my character development is shockingly bad. It would mean a lot if you could check out my site where I posted the first draft of my first chapter. Trust me this is not self promotion, I can’t even monetise my site because I’m too poor for my own domain. The literal sole purpose of this site is to get feedback. amateurliteratureblog.wordpress.com You can find my chapter under the tab ‘my work’. If you have no time I absolutely understand.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Thanks for your comment! Unfortunately, my schedule doesn’t allow me to read or critique. However, I have collected a resource of recommended freelance editors, which you can find here. All the best!

  16. Sue L Burton says

    I didn’t even know this site was here! BOY have I needed some advice on writing a book or 2. I entered a writing contest some years ago, just 2 see what would happen, as I honestly did not think I could write WORTH beans! And surprise! MY piece was picked! U COULD of pushed me over with a feather! SOME one really liked My work! Wow! It was for a children’s book & I HAD never ever in my life written anything like that before! I don’t even have children. But I am an Aunt. But that’s not the experience I drew from. I wrote from a personal experience. OF something that happened to me. Nothing bad. Just trusting! For a child! IT definitely stayed with me!

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