When I decided to pursue writing professionally, I was filled with excitement then dread. I didn’t have experience writing creatively outside of one class in college, and I suspected there must be more to it than writing prompts.
Where did I start? Do I start pounding words on the page and hope for the best?
Luckily, I’m not the first new kid in town. There are entire websites, forums, newsletters, and Twitter accounts dedicated to writing advice. Several hours and resources later, I have the tools to start my long – and hopefully prosperous – journey into writing. Here are my lessons.
1. Find a Workspace
Before I started to write, I needed somewhere to practice or at least procrastinate. My house doesn’t have an extra room to use as an office, so I needed to set up my home base.
My desk and computer are in the living room. The desk was covered in layers of dust – hadn’t been used in a year – and the computer had broken equipment. The keyboard wobbled. The mouse buttons stuck in certain places. Junk mail and other useless pieces of paper littered the desk. I could go on and on, but you get the idea of the unwelcoming site of my sad little study. I was using an old Kindle as a mousepad.
After a quick session on Amazon, I had a working keyboard, mouse, and other tools I considered necessary for my writing sessions.
You’re going to need a place you feel comfortable or you’ll procrastinate to no end. I have trouble with that even when I sit in my comfy chair surrounded by my favorite books.
2. Plan, Plan, and Plan Some More
I love to organize and plan which helps me in my paralegal day job. If I miss a deadline, someone could lose their intellectual property rights and we have an angry client. Writing is no different for me. If I have no idea where I’m going, then I’m more likely to enter Procrastination Station because my workload is too tall to tackle. Wherever will I start?
I have a full-time job, a husband, and a surprisingly healthy social life. Additionally, I like to run so I must find time during the week to love, write, train, and play. To schedule everything without losing my mind, I bought a planner with a monthly view, a sizeable block dedicated to each day, and spaces for a to-do list.
Each Sunday, I review my workout schedule, my personal appointments, and my writing schedule. For writing, I come up with the blog posts I need to write that week, blogs I need to visit, MasterClass modules I need to watch, and writing pieces I need to work on.
I often switch up items as the week goes on because things pop up, but I at least have a direction to work toward each day.
3. Study the Craft
Once I decide to do something whether it is a hobby or a profession, I try to learn everything I can. I’ve found that even though I had 12 years of English classes, and an English degree, I don’t know everything there is to know about grammar and sentence structure.
I especially don’t know everything there is to learn about plot and character development.
So, I’ve been reading blogs, books, and everything else I can on storytelling and the mechanics of writing. My favorite websites are The Write Life, Creative Penn, and DIY MFA. If you need practice writing, but don’t want to start your own blog, The Write Life allows guests to contribute work.
4. Get Valuable Feedback
Once I finally finish a project, nothing is more important to me than getting feedback. While comments about punctuation and sentence structure are useful, I want comments regarding sentence flow, plot continuity, and weak spots in my characters.
I’m not going to become a better writer or learn anything if I don’t have useful or constructive feedback. Family and friends are useful, but an unbiased third party is even better.
Aside from the NaNoWriMo forums, I’ve found another resource for editing called Becoming Writer on The Write Practice. For $15 a month, you join a community of writers who post weekly pieces of writing. Once you post your writing, you review three other pieces of your peers’ work and they review yours. The money is what I used to spend every month on a World of Warcraft subscription, which would only keep me in Procrastination Station.
What are your writing plans for the week, and how do you stay organized?
Nicole C. Thomas
Nicole is a writer working on her first novel Samantha Darkened, created during NaNoWriMo 2016. She writes weekly posts regarding books, writing, and mental illness. She has an interesting sense of humor which includes a love of alliteration and puns.