Writing, a Never Ending Journey of Exploration and Learning

“Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.” — E.L. Doctorow

If someone told me as I first started writing about nine years ago that my writing would be a never ending journey, I’m not sure I would have set out on that particular path. Granted, most people start writing for a reason, which usually includes the buzzing of character voices and ideas that won’t shut up. That was my case, and even with that warning I probably wouldn’t have had a choice in the matter. I find writing to be the only way to get the voices to shut the hell up (yeah, that makes me sound pretty certifiable huh?). But it’s the idea of the never ending that might make most people bulk, though I have learned since then that never ending can be a good thing.

When I started writing, I didn’t even know how to put a decent sentence together. Of course back then, I thought I could do at least that much, but I was young, delusional, and a little stupid. I don’t even dare look back at my writing from the very beginning because I’d cringe way too much. It was embarrassing. Really it was.

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Writing Groups: Not for All Writers All of the Time

One of the first pieces advice I received as a young writer (about eight or nine years ago now) from multiple sources (mostly from writing books and sage advice from published authors) was that to be successful at writing one must join a writing group. I was told writing groups would make me a better writer by giving me a place to talk and learn about writing as well as put me around other like-minded individuals for the support I needed to keep writing.

I took that advice to heart and joined a writers group two years after I began my cool hobby of writing, because I wanted to take my cool hobby to the next level.

It was the best decision of my life.

Until that defining moment of joining my first writing group, writing was a fancy. Something I did in my spare time. I had big ideas of being published, but it was a pie in the sky kind of thing. Joining a writing group made me realize that writing isn’t as romantic as I first thought. It’s lot of hard work (and a building of strict discipline and great effort), but work that had a hell of a pay off in the end (and I’m not talking about being published).

Through the help of my new writing friends, I learned that writing was not just something to do or some passing fancy for me, it was a way of life… my new way of life. And for two years, I went to every single writing meeting religiously (every other Saturday afternoon). And no sickness or excuse would keep me from going (okay, so if I was running a fever I wouldn’t go, but you get the idea).

Then I started getting restless. Something was wrong, very wrong and I didn’t know what it was. The meetings weren’t as fulfilling anymore and more times than not I would come home from a meeting totally frustrated, wondering why I’d wasted hours talking about writing and other things that had nothing to do with writing (because my writing group did love to get off topic a lot).

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Should I Write a Novel or a Short Story?

What a great question, and one may writers struggle to answer in their writing journey. The best part about this question is there is no wrong answer. And yet, a writer often feels like the whole world hinges on that one important question… Should I write a novel or a short story?

The simple answer is… it depends.

It depends on the subject matter, how long you really think it will tell the best story, and how much staying power you have. Let’s face it, writing a novel is not easy. Many people have tried and failed. And many people have succeeded and wished they’d just wrote a freaking short story.

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Beginning Writers: What You Should Know

You’ve decided that you have a love of writing and would like to pursue it further whether it be as a hobby or a career, but you just don’t know where to start. As someone who has “been there and done that”, I can sympathize with your predicament, so decided to compile some basic information that will help on your journey to discovering the imagination inside.


Take it slow
The very first thing you need to remember is to take it slow. Don’t become too overwhelmed by all the possibilities, story ideas, or writing information. I know it’s easier said than done, but the last thing you want to do is to become so bogged down that you just don’t write at all. Also, a lot of pressure can have a negative effect your creativity, so try to keep it positive and fun!

Get the story out of your head
If you have a great story idea then don’t let it disappear in the chaos of your head, get it down on paper! Even just a few short sentences to get the gist of what you want is fine. You can always go back and write it out later.

Keep a journal or notebook
Where do you put all those story ideas? If you haven’t already, then you need to keep a journal or notebook. It can be a paper notebook or files on a computer. Whatever works for you. Just make sure you put it somewhere you remember, so it won’t get lost and it’s easily accessible.

Just write
If you feel the urge to write then do it, even if it’s for a few minutes. In fact, writing EVERYDAY is the best way to go. It keeps you in the habit of writing and the more you write the better you will get at it. So just let your thoughts pour onto the page (even if it doesn’t make sense). You have to get the junk out of your head before the real gold nuggets can be found.

Read
Reading is very important. It can inspire new ideas for stories, but it can also teach you how to write. The best way to learn the craft is to study what other writers have done. So read and read often. Read about how to be a better writer, read the area you want to write in, read areas that interest you, read things that don’t interest you (even areas that may not interest you still have great writing, the point is to be open to new ideas no matter where they might come from). Reading a variety of books, magazines, blogs and more will give you a bigger toolbox to pull from and will widen your reading experience. That being said, keep in mind if you read bad writing then you will produce bad writing. Reading a badly formed novel or story every once in a while isn’t going to kill your writing abilities, in fact, it will show you what NOT to do. Just don’t steep yourself in it.

Rewrite
Another way to be a good writer is to practice, but more important that that is to rewrite pieces you’ve worked on. Don’t just write it and put it away. Keep writing and rewriting until you find something you like then put it away and come back to it a few weeks later. This will allow you to learn to rework a piece until it becomes better and also it will eventually help you find your voice. Voice is the unique tone in a story that makes it special and stand out. This only comes with lots and lots and lots of practice. It also usually comes when you least expect it. Read my blog on Finding Your Writing Style and Voice for more information on Voice.

Get Feedback
Getting feedback on writing is essential to any writer, but most especially in the beginning. It is how you will find out what areas of your writing need work and what areas you excel at. It is important though that you don’t rely on just anyone to give you that feedback. The best kind usually comes from fellow writers, but not always. I have read critiques from writers that were not very helpful at all. They key is to look for someone who can give you constructive criticism that helps and doesn’t tear you down.

Join a Writing Group
This is the best way to find fellow writers whether you join a local writing group or find one online. It is important to be surrounded by people who think the same way you do. The will be instrumental in providing the support you need and will also be there to give you the feedback to make your work better. I found my writing group through www.meetup.com. Check them out and see if there is a writer’s group near you!

Discover your weakness and strengths
When you first start out writing, you might feel like you have no strengths and all weaknesses. Believe it or not, this isn’t true. We all have areas that we are better at than others, even in the beginning. Yes, all of your writing will probably need help at some point in time, but there will be some things that you are naturally better at, and some you will need lots and lots of help to get right. What I do, even now, is to I pick an area I feel I need the most help with and focus on that area only. Once I feel like my skills have improved enough, I go to the next area I want to work on, and so on. This keeps me from being too overwhelmed with what I don’t know and helps give me goals to shoot for. It’s also a lot easier to see progress if you focus on one area instead of jumping all over the place.

Have Goals
If you want to be a good writer than you need to set goals for yourself. This will keep you motivated to write and will keep it interesting. Set some short term and long term goals of what you want to accomplish in your writing and it will keep you moving forward. Also realize that life happens and that sometimes you’ll have to adjust those goals every once in a while.

Good luck with your writing experience and feel free to post comments with any questions you might have!