If You Want to Write


photo: thanks to pixabay and pablo

I’ve written this as an inspiration to others who may have been longing to write for years but who haven’t started yet. And I may continue this theme by writing about the books that have inspired me and how I went about publishing my book. 

I love to write, but so do millions of others. But could I actually write a novel? Should I? Why not?  If you can imagine it, you can do it. Then there’s the age old battle between the ego and the spirit. Should I remain humble and keep my mumblings to myself, or should I live my dream and publish a book, or two, or three?

It’s so easy and yet so hard. We must learn the rules of writing. And what better way to learn this that to give it a try. Start with a short story. But read, read the classics, read different genres. These authors make it look so easy, right?

At some stage, you’ll begin to read like a writer. You’ll find yourself thinking about the way the scene was set up, or the way the character was portrayed. How did the author do that? Where did they get their ideas from?

We might look at Picasso’s work and think ‘What the dickens was he on?’ His abstract paintings look simple. And what’s with all those distorted heads?  But his style was innovative at the time. He had learned the ropes so he could afford to do something ‘different.’ He knew all about perspective, colour and form.

A writer’s tools may be different. We have to learn how to paint pictures with words, create characters with depth and paint scenes in such a way that the reader can see them vividly. Learn the basics and go create your unique story.

What kind of book would you like to read? Do you have a theme you’d like to explore?

Anything is possible, almost.

I think that’s the secret. That’s where you should begin, by writing a story that pleases you.

While some people cannot write without an outline, others just begin and hope it will all come together at some stage. I fall somewhere in between.

It’s a good idea to keep a journal and jot down your ideas.

Even if you write on your computer, the journal writing and the plotting should be done with good old pen and paper. At least that’s what works better for me.

And you might find yourself distracted as you go about your day, wondering what your characters are up to when you’re not controlling them. They might even begin to control you.

One thing I’ve learned is that it’s impossible to please everybody. Somebody will find your plot too unrealistic, your characters too flat, your pacing too slow and your story unoriginal. That’s the risk you have to take when you finally put your book out there for the public to see and critique. Some will love it; some won’t. That’s life!

Don’t give up. Write the next one. Learn from your mistakes. Be daring.

Listen to critique, take it on board, work constantly on improving yourself, but more than anything else trust your own instincts.

Don’t write for the glory or the fame, or for the money. Do it because you love it.

Commit to writing a little every day. While writing a novel can seem like a momentous task, if you write a page a day you’ll have a book finished within a year.

If you begin without any great idea of a plot, create interesting characters and see how they interact with each other. Write one scene with these characters. Describe the setting. Play with dialogue. There are many good books on all aspects of writing. Read as many as you can but be careful not to  become paralysed by all these rules.

You’ll reach a place in your novel where you’ll need to figure out where the story is going. This is where mind-mapping or other such tools can be most useful. Plotting is tricky. I’m currently writing my second novel and am trying to work my way through a difficult plot line. I know where I want to go but am not sure how to get there yet. I don’t want to waste days of writing only to have to go back and delete all my hard work. Because it is hard work.

You can write for years, spend a small fortune on books and workshops, travel to see your favourite authors talk, and all without any promise of reward, except the feeling of having completed another novel.

Sometimes I listen to binaural beats when I’m writing. There are many on YouTube and I find them particularly useful. I cannot listen to lyrics when I’m writing, but I do need some sort of light background music. I also listen to classical music. It can be dramatic if the scene is dramatic, or light piano music if I don’t want to be distracted.

If you get stuck in one chapter, you can leave it and continue to the next scene. That’s the beauty of computers. Imagine how laborious it was to write a novel before the dawn of computers? Now, we can delete and add sections as we see fit. We can move chapters around. We can use the ‘search and find’ option, and we can format as we go along. I usually edit as I go along, but a lot of writers advise getting the story on the page first. That’ll be your first draft. Afterwards you can go back and edit.

We all have our own pace. Appoach your writing as a delicious addiction, it will bring you both pain and pleasure. It is not a race.

Keep reminding yourself that most of the writers who are applauded today collected many rejection slips on their path to success.  They never gave up.

I began posting my writing on an international writing site about ten years ago. I was nervous at first, but I started with poetry. Although I hadn’t written poetry for years, I loved playing with words and rhyme. I signed up using a pseudonym, paid the small fee and quickly wrote a couple of poems and posted them. I tried to settle my galloping heart as I ducked for cover.  Since I’d given myself a pseudonym, I felt safe and anonymous.  Imagine my delight when I checked in a few hours later. Yuhooo!  I had great feedback. I got gold stars. This was fun. A published poet became my first fan. ‘You have it in you,’ he said.  I felt a bit like a pretender.  If I was really a poet I would have been collecting and reading poetry books, wouldn’t I?  True, I had a few, but certainly not a slew. I found it easier to condense my thoughts and put them in poetry form. It didn’t take as long to write a poem as it did to write a short story either.

Ah, but that was my ultimate goal—to write short stories or novels.

And so I began writing short stories, more poems and then a novel. I’d post a chapter of my novel every week. That was doable. I could fit it in around my other duties. It was great getting feedback, and I learned a lot that way. But it was taking up a lot of my time; it was becoming an addiction. Not only was I writing, but I was also reading a lot of the other members’ work. The more work you reviewed, the more points you accrued, which in turn allowed you to post your next piece of work. There was another option, which was to pay for each piece of work you wrote. I didn’t choose that one for obvious reasons.

I began recognising names and making online writing buddies. It was a helpuful and fun community and remarkably well-run.

Since I live in Germany, I didn’t have a writing community here. Joining an online group was definitely the next best thing. In fact,  I was quite prolific during those couple of years. There were several published novelists on there and great poets too.

That was what got me started. I’m ever grateful for the advances in technology and the ability to connect with people from all over the world. I’ve met some incredibly helpful and supportive people online, particularly on Facebook. I’ve even met some of them in person. This is my motivation for sharing what I’ve learned.

But there are many challenges. Like posting pictures and removing the image of your face floating in the clouds. I’ll work on that.

Tschüss for now!