How to Become a Passionate Full-Time Writer!

A previous article, How To Become a Full-Time Writer, inspired some (including myself) to stop procrastinating and begin publishing my stories through Amazon. However, there were concerned that they wouldn’t be able to write effectively if they didn’t care deeply for what they were writing.

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A previous article, How To Become a Full-Time Writer, inspired some (including myself) to stop procrastinating and begin publishing my stories through Amazon. However, there were concerned that they wouldn’t be able to write effectively if they didn’t care deeply for what they were writing.

So we asked around to see if other successful writers would like to offer their own advice and provide hope for those of us that would prefer to write what we know. Our very own Annie Grace wrote a great article about How To Become A Ghostwriter, and Storm Constantine replied to my email request with this little gem:

7 Tips for Aspiring Writers

Storm Constantine

I was asked for my thoughts on whether it’s possible to be successful as a writer while preserving your integrity. After all, the demands of the market can be extremely narrow and subject to fads. If you are fuelled – if not consumed – by the desire to write, is it essential to bow to these pressures and end up writing stories or novels you don’t even like, merely to maximise your chances of making a sale?

Personally, I don’t think so. To approach the art of writing with the desire to make a fast buck almost always dooms you to disappointment. Let’s make one thing absolutely clear: very few authors make their living entirely from writing. They generally have to support it through other sources of income. There are many extremely talented writers who never make it big, just as there are countless others of lesser talent who find enormous success. It’s hard to pinpoint the cause – is success merely down to being in the right place at the right time (or your book reaching the right editor at the right time), or tapping into a fleetingly popular vein? Knowing the right people? Untiring self-promotion in every possible medium? Pure blind luck? All of these are part of the picture.

However, I do believe that to attract readers, and more importantly keep them, you should look further than what money you might make. Your writing is your legacy to the world. Prize-winning books might reward their authors with large pay outs, but you can be sure those books are expertly written and have something meaningful to say. So here are 7 tips for the aspiring writer, who has words in their blood.

  1. Give your work heart. By this, I mean love your writing, craft it with care. If you love your work, then other people are more likely to love it too, because as they read they’ll sense this isn’t the shallow work of a passionless hack. The first novel you write should be the one you’ve always wanted to read but have never found. Don’t worry about its future sales, because such thoughts can cripple your creativity. Write the story for your own sake, see it as your initiation into the craft – your first child, if you like. Many writers feel their novels are a kind of offspring – which might account for why some authors take harsh criticism to heart so much!
  2. Read, read, read. I meet too many aspiring writers in workshops and classes who admit they don’t read much. This is a mistake on their part. You can learn so much from analysing other writers’ work. Determine what works for you and what doesn’t in a novel or short story. Look at your favourite writers and work out what it is about their story-telling you love. How do they do it? The same goes for writers you don’t like. Analyse why a piece of writing seems bad to you. All of this helps with refining your own work, as well as understanding how deft handling of language gives power and meaning to a story.
  3. Leading on to… Become a master of the tools of your trade. Your tools are language, and the rules that preside over its written form. For most people, it’s unlikely they were taught the intricacies of grammar, syntax and punctuation during their schooling. (I’ve held classes for university students in creative writing, and many have had little grasp of these important aids.) Getting to grips with your most powerful tools doesn’t have be a mind-numbing bore. Discovering how they sharpen your writing and clarify its meaning is fascinating, and there are dozens of entertaining self-help books and websites to learn from. You don’t always have to stick to the rules in creative writing, but you shouldn’t break them until you know them. Good grammar and syntax enable people to read your stories as you mean them to be read. You govern the pace of the narrative, place careful emphasis, create affecting drama. The last thing any writer wants is for their readers to be jerked out of a story because they don’t get the meaning of a sentence and have to reread it – perhaps more than once. At that point, the virtual reality of the story is broken, and the reader is reminded they’re reading – not living that story, as they should be.
  4. You should certainly write about what you know – because anachronisms and inaccuracies in sloppy writing can again break the virtual reality of a story and make your writing look amateur. Therefore, if you want to write outside of your store of knowledge – research.  Even if it’s only a short story, make sure there’s nothing in it that’s simply wrong. Historical pieces are the hardest to craft because of this. I once started to read a novel set in Victorian times, where the characters behaved and lived like modern people, complete with current slang. This was more than jarring – it made me abandon the book. If you choose to write about – for example – a book restorer (which I once did in a short story), you can be sure that there’ll be readers out there who are book restorers and will spot any inaccuracies in the description of their craft. For my story, I researched carefully how old books are restored, and how they are handled, as well as the history of book-making itself. These were only minor details in the story, perhaps, but gave it that all important authenticity – which many readers can simply sense while reading. Note that this rule also applies to fantasy and science fiction. You can make things up, yes, but there will always be parts that need thorough research to make your created world believable.
  5. Get your work edited. In my opinion, no writer can get away with not being edited at all. We’re so close to our work, that when we read through it multiple times, we can miss typos and also plot holes and other mistakes, such as sloppy grammar and syntax. I’m a professional editor as well as a writer, but I always get at least two trusted and capable readers to go through my work before it’s published. It’s also useful to read your work aloud – whether to yourself or a willing volunteer – as this helps you spot inaccuracies, missing words, and sentences that sound wrong or awkward. Some writers are prepared to hire professional editors (and there are a lot out there) to care for their work. Others might not be able to afford the expense. But if your work is edited to a professional standard, the people who buy your book are more likely to buy your next one, rather than produce acid reviews about how weak the writing and editing were.
  6. Make your characters realistic. So often, I see writers making their characters go through unlikely contortions, simply for the convenience of the plot. When editing such work, I ask myself, ‘would anyone really behave this way, talk like that, do such a thing?’ Often the answer is no and I have to tell the writer they need to think harder to get their characters to where they want them to be in the plot. Similarly, avoid clichés such as people dropping whatever they’re holding when shocked. Have you ever seen anyone do this? Also, when you have a character who is frightened or threatened, their first instinct doesn’t have to be to scream. They might go utterly quiet in their terror. Everyone is different, so endow your characters with quirks, preferences and habits personal to them. Think creatively and give your characters life.
  7. Finally, no matter how hard you work at your craft, not everyone will like your stories and novels. Don’t worry about that. Remember that a book you love might not work for the best friend you lent it to, even though you were sure they’d love it too. Readers have preferences and you can’t please all of them. If you stick at your writing, either through trying to sell it to a publisher or by going it alone, using the internet to promote and sell your work, you’ll find your audience. Never underestimate them or try to cheat them. If you have integrity and passion for your work, a desire always to improve, and a strong story-telling voice, those readers will keep with you and eagerly await your next release.

Recommended books and sites:

The Way to Write by John Fairfax and John Moat. This is out of print but available second hand on Amazon and online second-hand bookstores. It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read on the writer’s craft and I still refer to it for my creative writing classes.

The Transitive Vampire by Karen Gordon. Whimsical and witty, with vintage illustrations, this makes learning grammar and syntax a pleasure. (There are companion books, The Well-Tempered Sentence, on punctuation and The Dishevelled Dictionary, a compendium of strange and unusual words.)

English Grammar Online https://www.ego4u.com/en/cram-up/grammar All you will ever need to know about how to use language effectively. Includes tests and quizzes so you can find out how much you know – or don’t!

So there you have it! Do you have 7 tips of your own? Let us know in the comments! 🙂

How To Become A Ghostwriter

I’ve been writing for other people for over a decade – but most of my portfolio is un-shareable. I’m a ghostwriter. I make money from letting other people take the credit for my work, and I’m OK with that.

I’ve been writing for other people for over a decade – but most of my portfolio is un-shareable. I’m a ghostwriter. I make money from letting other people take the credit for my work, and I’m OK with that.

Right now, I have a full-time job in content marketing – so I’m lucky enough to write all day, every day, and have a steady wage for it. I also freelance on the side, and have freelanced full-time for long stretches on and off over the years – so rest assured, I’ve been there, done it.

Ghostwriting is a good way to start off your career as a freelance writer – whether you’re a non-fiction or a fiction writer. Seriously, if you think ghostwriting is only for journalists who can’t catch a break or are anti-limelight, give it another thought.

Ghostwriting can help you develop your creative side. It’ll make you step into character: you’ve got to pretend to be the person whose name will go on the title of the book or the article. Become that person like a method actor lives the life of their latest role. Ghostwriting is also a great way to research more about different industries, people, and world views that you can incorporate into your novels and short stories at a later date.

Many writers start out as ghostwriters and move on to finding their own niche, their confidence, and a need for recognition. That’s totally OK! It’s also fine to want to make a living purely from ghostwriting – and it’s entirely possible.

So, how do you become a successful ghostwriter?

Define your knowledge

Work out what you know, and who you know. Discover if people in your network – friends, family, colleagues, mentors – feel the urge to write a book. Many people wish they could write down the ideas in their heads, but either don’t have the time or the confidence to do so. That’s where you come in!

It’s best to start off in areas that you already have some background knowledge for, to give you a running start. As a new ghostwriter, your quotes need to be competitive – which is why it’s usually best to start off with areas that you already have some knowledge in. However, if you find opportunities that are in completely new subjects, go for it! It’ll just take you longer to research the piece, so remember to account for that in your billing.

Decide your form

What do you want to ghostwrite? If you’re a dab hand at blogs and writing for the web, there are tons of websites out there to get started – just avoid content mills if you ever want to earn a good wage from your writing.

You might want to go into long-form writing, and offer your creative writing services to those who have amazing ideas for a novel but simply can’t seem to craft it into a book. Non-fiction books are also a fantastic way for ghostwriters to earn cash – especially if your contract includes royalties.

Whatever your form, stick to it. At least, keep to it to start with. You’ll be able to build on your experience and branch out from there, rather than trying to specialise across a broad spectrum. You need different skills for writing a blog compared to a book, for example, so spend time becoming a master of one first.

Spread the word

You might be a ghostwriter but that doesn’t mean you need to BE a ghost. Have a writing CV ready to send any potential clients – and if you don’t have a portfolio yet, create one. Write a few samples in your desired niche or form, to show that you understand the unique requirements of writing for a book or a blog. A writer’s CV doesn’t need the usual bumpf of a standard CV – but if you have any relevant employment, background knowledge, volunteering work, or writing accolades, this all needs to be brought together in a one-page document to send in your pitches.

Social media is a great place to start: get on Twitter and Facebook, and start to connect with companies who clearly hire other writers. Then connect with companies who aren’t clearly using other writers, and study the work they put out. If you’re seeing a bunch of errors, or have ideas on how they could improve, that’s the time to message them.

Keep a pitch short and sweet, and be helpful without being critical. “Your website is littered with errors,” goes down far worse than “Hey, I have an idea that might help push your conversions up”.

Emails also work well. Funnily enough, I used to insist that phone calls were the only way to get through the gatekeeper to the decision maker when it came to freelance writing – but as times have changed, I’ve found that emails are the strongest lead generator for cold pitches these days. Keep them short, to the point, and directly address three things:

  1. What it is EXACTLY that you’re offering (to partner up to write a non-fiction book, to ghostwrite all blog content, or to help someone expand their short story to a full-blown novel);
  2. The timeframe you can both offer to them, and in which you expect a response (this is a strong way to ensure some kind of response, which opens a dialogue – the most important way to sell your writing services);
  3. How your previous experience ties in with their company in a very specific manner (blanket emails will. Not. Do.).

Be prepared for rejection.

Every writer gets rejected.

Repeat: every. Writer. Gets. Rejected.

Be realistic about your time

I’m incredibly guilty of two things: underestimating research time and ignoring procrastination time. For me, procrastination is essential to productivity. It allows ideas to fester in the back of the mind before they become a reality, so it’s an important part of the writing process.

However, if you’re ghostwriting alongside a day job, it’s vital that you include these hours into your working time. You can’t charge people for procrastinating, of course – but you can be realistic about the actual working hours you have each week to spend on their project.

Work out your research time, your procrastination time, and your actual working time. Then add four or five more hours to this estimate. That’s how long it’s going to take you to create your piece – so don’t be so enthusiastic that you promise unattainable deadlines. Missing deadlines is death to a ghostwriter.

Check your contract

I’m lucky enough to have built a good relationship with many of my clients over the years. They’ve been happy to provide testimonials, and let me include links to my work on their websites for my portfolio.

However, for every one client that allows it, there are around six who don’t.

Companies don’t want other people to know that they aren’t the ones writing these amazing works. For whatever reason, they want to think the information they send out is from them, directly. It’s understandable, but frustrating.

Make sure your contract is clear on whether you can, or cannot, include your work for them in any portfolio. This includes mentioning that you write for them in job interviews, adding their logo to your website as a ‘partner’ – anything. If you let slip on a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), you could land yourself in very hot water.

Quote fairly

Quote for your time and your experience. Quote for the research you’re going to undertake. Quote for the interviews and the time it takes to type up transcripts. Quote for the coffee you’re going to imbibe while creating a book outline. Quote on the assumption you’ll need to make at least one round of edits.

Don’t quote for the time it takes you to get from your bedroom to your office. Don’t quote for the time it takes to procrastinate while ideas percolate. Don’t quote for the time it took to secure the client with your pitch.

Your time is valuable, but you need to balance your need to eat and pay bills with a competitive market. There are many, many ghostwriters out there and you don’t want to price yourself out of the market.

Take time to research the average hourly rate of a freelance writer in your niche, in the form you want to write, and add 25%. That’s your premium for being a ghost.

Never, ever, undersell yourself.

Be cheeky

Even ghostwriters can get extras here and there. Seeing as you’re not getting credit for your work, find out what else you can get instead.

Always, always, charge more for ghostwritten work than you would for writing that you can put your name to. Always. They’re making money off the back of your creation, so make sure they pay you fairly for it.

In addition, if the company is particularly interesting or useful, ask what else you can get from them. For example, I used to write for an accounting software company and managed to get a free copy of their (very expensive) software for my own books. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Get recommendations

Even if your contract says you can’t tell anyone that you’re a ghostwriter for a certain company, make sure to ask your client to provide word-of-mouth recommendations or introductions to their partners. Referrals are the strongest lead generation tool for any writer – be it a fiction writer (hence the power of the Amazon and Goodreads reviews), or corporate copywriter.

You’ll find that companies are more willing to provide personal recommendations even if you’re under an NDA, as their close partners are likely to be in a similar position of wanting a discreet writer who can keep their pride out of the agreement.

Don’t always ghost

Ghostwriters can make a hearty full-time living. However, for your own personal satisfaction, it’s important to be able to put your name to something.

For me, that’s my own blog, and my fiction writing. For you, it might be guest blogs, your own stories, or a magazine that you run.

Just make sure your identity isn’t lost as a ghost. You’re still a person, and a public portfolio can only strengthen your opportunities as a ghostwriter.

How To Become a Full-Time Writer

I know there are several people in Creative Writers that (like myself) want to make a full-time career as a writer. Today I had a conversation with an author, Candace Ayers, who had posted on Facebook “I make six figures a year from royalties. It supports my family very comfortably. I don’t love writing. It’s not my passion. But, I like it okay and love the lifestyle it provides me.”

I know there are several people in Creative Writers that (like myself) want to make a full-time career as a writer. Today I had a conversation with an author, Candace Ayers, who had posted on Facebook, “I make six figures a year from royalties. It supports my family very comfortably. I don’t love writing. It’s not my passion. But, I like it okay and love the lifestyle it provides me.”

This made me curious. I wanted to know how she’d managed to build a six-figure income from writing. I asked her if she had an article on the subject (I didn’t want to tread on her toes) and got this amazing response:

“I haven’t written an article about it, but I can share a few of what I consider important tips on the way I do it.

1. I write to market. In other words, I don’t write what I know, what I feel, or what I like to write about. I write what there’s already a market for. It’s easy to scour Amazon for best sellers and study what readers want. There’s a book by Chris Fox on the subject, which I haven’t read but gives more info on this.

2. I don’t just write because I’m in the mood, or have free time. It’s my job. I have to plan. Planning is not my strong suit, but I do the best I can. After letting the market dictate what I’m going to write, I plot, divide the plot into chapters, and determine how many words I’ll write each week, or each day, and as Nike says, “Just do it.”

3. Quality. This is tricky because almost every writer that ever existed improves on the quality of their work by writing. My aim is always improvement. However, I don’t recommend waiting until you have the perfect book written and perfectly edited before you publish. I recommend getting right in there and getting your feet wet. Write one; self-publish it; move on. I have a slew of novellas that I wrote early on that are still published and still earn money. Not my best work, and I’ve improved since, but my best is yet to come.

4. I highly recommend watching the YouTube video by Michael Anderle. The man’s brilliant, and shares generously.

5. Learn some easy and inexpensive ways to market your books. Lots out there on that subject, and I have only one caveat: you can spend a lot of money for little return if you’re not discerning.

6. Very important, and I believe it’s in line with what Dave Probert was saying in this post: There’s a reason I do this that transcends money. (Don’t get me wrong, I also do this for the money!) For me, it’s not the love of writing. I honestly believe I’m providing a service. I’m providing value to people, and I get occasional emails from readers to remind me. One that stands out was from a woman who emailed me the day after one of my books was published telling me how much she enjoyed it. I emailed back thanking her and telling her I was shocked she’d read it so quickly. She responded that she’d read all my books (I had almost 30 at the time). She told me her son had committed suicide 8 weeks prior, and she was grateful she had my books to escape to and help her cope. While this is probably the most poignant email I’ve received thanking me, it is certainly not the only one.

One more thing… #7. As with almost every other profession, with writing, you don’t have to be great, you just have to do it.”

Here’s a few additional tips of my own:

  • If you’re worried that selling books to make money like this would tarnish your brand as an author, then use a pseudonym (a pen-name).
  • You can take your time and make sure your work is beyond reproach before you hit ‘print’, or write what you want to write instead of what’s popular if you want, but it’ll take longer to reach your goal. Candace has been doing this for only two-and-a-half years and is now earning over $150,000 per year.
  • Schedule time to work as if it’s your job because it is. If you’re currently unemployed, set yourself a full 35-40 hour week. If you have to fit writing into your busy work life, set yourself 7-9 hours, with breaks and a lunch hour, on your days off.
  • Keep using the Creative Writers group to help you improve your writing, test your characters, check your wording, and tighten up your language. We’re a valuable resource. Don’t waste it.
  • Research this method of writing, but don’t spend so much time researching that you don’t actually write. You’ll learn a lot more from reader feedback after you hit ‘send’ than you would just to read about writing.
  • When Creative Writer’s Press has worked out the bugs (hopefully once we’ve published Monolith), we can help you with the marketing. Any book sold through CWP will have a recognisable brand on the cover, and a page recommending other books from Creative Writers’ Press.
  • Whether you go through us or not, it’s vital that you listen to customer feedback and write what they want. The best way to market your books is through word of mouth. If people like you, they’ll buy everything you put out and recommend you to friends. They’ll tell you what they want.

Personally, I’m excited to get started. What do you think of this method though? Are there any better ways to build your income? Any tips you’d like to add? Leave your comments below.

Happy writing!

How to Receive Feedback

Lots of Creative Writers would like to get feedback on their work, and become frustrated when they get no comments at all. This often leads to the writer deciding not to share anymore, which is a great shame since I wanted the group to be a place where writers good help each other develop their craft. So I decided it would be helpful to provide a few tips and tricks to encourage people to share their work again.

Lots of Creative Writers would like to get feedback on their work, and become frustrated when they get no comments at all. This often leads to the writer deciding not to share anymore, which is a great shame since I wanted the group to be a place where writers could help each other develop their craft. So I decided it would be helpful to provide a few tips and tricks to encourage people to share their work again.

One of the biggest hurdles we have is that members post questions that are far easier to reply to. At the time of writing, the top posts with the most comments include two threads asking people to share their Facebook author pages, a post asking “Why do you write what you write?”, and a member expressing frustration over losing some of their work.

Other examples I’ve seen come up include: “What app do you use to write?”, “What music do you listen to while writing?”, “How do I become a writer?”, and writing prompts that ask for a response in 4 words or less. These posts get a lot of responses, and they tend to overwhelm serious requests for beta-reading and literary critique, knocking them off the page.

They get a lot of responses because they’re easy. So tip number one to getting more responses is simple; make it easy for people to do so. Ask a simple question. Tell your audience exactly what you’re looking for. Not just “tell me what you think”, but “do these characters seem realistic?” or “I’m wondering if the setting is clear”, or something like that. If people know what you want from them, they can answer you more easily.

It would also help to make it easy to read. Keep it short. If you would have to scroll down to see it all as a Facebook post, share a link instead. You can host your writing on Wattpad, WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, or one of the many other options available. You could even share it via Google Docs or upload it to the groups own file library.

If you don’t want to set up an account at one of those websites, you can just share the paragraph or two you’d like feedback on. You may want to summarise the context in this case so the reader isn’t utterly confused as to what’s going on.

If the reason you don’t want your writing published on a live website is that you’re concerned it would prevent you from getting published, don’t worry, you can always take the story down again before you send out query letters. By then you’ll probably have improved it anyway. If you chose to use an independent publisher (like us) it may not even be a concern. In fact, I’d probably ask you to include a link to the book on your website! 🙂

Enough plugging, let’s get back on topic. When you get feedback, bear in mind that (even if you disagree with it) that it’s well meant. No-one is going to give you feedback again if you complain and respond aggressively to any comments you get. It may well be upsetting to hear that your masterpiece isn’t perfect, but take their advice under advisement anyway.

If they tear it to pieces, don’t despair. Sometimes ideas don’t work the first time out, but with the right feedback from the right person, or the right kind of unrelated inspiration, and you may find yourself with a bestseller. Thank people for their feedback, no matter how much it hurts. Sometimes it may help people to understand what you were going for if you take the time to explain it to them. They might even be able to help you to find a better way to word it.

Remember that the purpose of this group is to help one another improve. The best way to encourage people to leave comments on your work-in-progress, beyond what I’ve already mentioned, is to give them feedback also. Look through the posts from other writers and offer them suggestions. It will dramatically increase the chance they’ll do the same.

To summarise: Keep it short. Make clear what you want. Don’t take the feedback you receive as a personal insult. Be grateful and give back.

Has this article been helpful? Do you have any tips that I missed? What works best for you?

How to Become a Member of the Creative Writers’ Group

You’d be forgiven for thinking that this article is unnecessary. It certainly is for those who have already successfully become members.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that this article is unnecessary. It certainly is for those who have already successfully become members. However, there are a lot of people whose membership requests we have had to decline because they don’t answer the three questions correctly, or they only answer one or two of them, or they never answer them at all.

If you’re not a member already, and you’ve stumbled across this blog post due to some happy browsing accident (or because a member sent it to you), allow me to explain what Creative Writers is. Basically, Creative Writers has become a haven for writers that want to help each other become better writers. You can show off their work-in-progress knowing that you’ll get honest feedback (and without being shamed for promoting), and you can also be part of a writing project that I’m excited to be a part of myself, called The Monolith Anthology.

If this sounds like your kind of place, click on the words ‘Creative Writers‘. This will take you to a Facebook page. Providing you’re already on Facebook, you should see the word ‘Join’ underneath the header image.

Once you’ve hit ‘Join’, you’ll be prompted to answer three questions that we’ve carefully designed to filter out those that won’t fit our growing and supportive community. These questions are as follows, along with the simple answers that would get you accepted:

Accepted1

If you think you would struggle to truthfully answer these three questions with ‘yes’, then you probably won’t fit in. However, let me clarify my meaning and intent behind each question to see if you still feel the same afterwards.

Regarding the first question, I absolutely agree that, as adult writers, we should be able to handle any word we see with maturity and reason. I agree that we should be able to use any word we wish without having to worry about offending and being censored by fellow writers. However, there are many people with social anxiety, depression, PTSD and similar psychological trauma that might find your words trigger memories of a painful or traumatic nature.

There are also some young authors in the group. Some as young as 12 and 15 that may not be comfortable with graphic violence or sexual content. For their sakes please begin your post with a content warning and keep anything too mature for them below the ‘read more’ line. Even if you don’t feel responsible for the psychological responses of adults, please respect the innocence of the younger Creative Writers.

Regarding the ban on religious and political topics. This is a group for discussing fiction. There are some who believe very strongly that their religious and political beliefs are fact. We have no need to discuss facts in a fiction group. Feel free to discuss fictional governments and gods openly. In fact, as long as you’re okay with your beliefs being discussed and critiqued as if they were fiction, go ahead. Most people are not. If you want a group for religious or political debate, this is not the one.

The last question is the easiest and it’s there to make sure new members are aware that we expect them to actively participate in group discussions. Offer advice and suggestions to those who are struggling, ask for feedback and motivation from the group, and generally help to make the group a friendly, helpful and encouraging place. If you’d rather ‘tell it like I see it’, you probably don’t belong.

Hopefully, we’re all on the same page now and that you’re able to reply in the affirmative without being dishonest with yourself. Please do make certain you answer all three questions. Answering only two of them, even if you answer both with yes, will get you rejected. You would also be rejected for doing what this guy did:

Declined1

Not only does he only respond to only one question, but he also doesn’t actually answer the question. If you recognise this as your attempt to access the group, please try again!

By the way, if you have hit ‘Join’ and never received the three questions, please try again. We decline all requests 6 hours old or more if they don’t answer the questions, but we’d more than willing to help you if you’re having technical difficulties. If after trying to join again you still don’t get the questions, contact any of the group admins. We can ask you the questions manually! Sorry, there is no way to get around them. 😉

See you in the group 🙂

 

What do I write about?

Lots of people have posted in the group,

“I want to be a writer, but I don’t know how to get started.”

Lots of people have posted in the group,

“I want to be a writer, but I don’t know how to get started.”

There’s been some great feedback in these threads, but it’s a fast-moving group. It doesn’t take long before the last post on the subject is too far down the page to easily find, and someone else asks,

“Hey, I’m new here and I’ve always wanted to write. How do I get started?”

The most obvious, and frequently commented answer is, of course,

“Write”.

While this may seem condescending, obvious, and not particularly helpful, it’s also true. As daunting as it always seems to put pen to paper for the first time before you even have an idea, it really is the best start. Free-writing, which is writing with no agenda (for those that didn’t read Overcoming Obstacles), is a great way to practice writing, get in touch with your creative side, and kick-start your imagination.

Don’t get upset with yourself if you don’t get a killer idea on your first try. You might not even get your story idea from free-writing at all. It could be a conversation with friends, a movie, a video game, or even someone else’s book that gives you an idea you can’t wait to write down. You could even ask the group for a writing prompt if you like.

Once you have an idea, no matter how you got it, you need to write to expand the idea into a full story. Tell yourself the story in broad strokes. Who is the main character? What do they want out of life? What interferes with that? Do they overcome this obstacle? How does it affect them personally? Make any other notes about the timeframe, setting, and characters that come to mind.

You may wish to provide yourself with an outline. This can be as simple as a paragraph each describing the beginning, middle, and end of your story, or it could be an elaborately detailed timeline. Some people prefer to skip this step entirely and write by the seat of their pants.

Whether you’re pantsing or not, you’re going to need to make a rough draft. This is the first run through of writing the story. Keep your notes and outline handy, if you’ve made any, so you can be consistent. Don’t worry too much about it though, or about spelling and grammar, you can fix all of that later.

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If you find yourself deviating from the plan you made, that’s okay, you find the story brings itself back on track in a way you didn’t expect. Character’s personalities might even change as you’re writing them, that’s all okay too. Keep writing, and see where it leads. Getting a story down on paper can sometimes feel like wrestling with a live python.

Once you’ve managed to fight the story onto the pages, now comes the part that a lot of writers, including myself, hate. Reading through the rough draft and finding those errors in consistency, spelling, grammar and flow that you tried so hard to ignore while you were writing out your rough draft. Lots of people give up at this stage and say to themselves,

“I’m a horrible writer.”

Don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s a rough draft. Everyone’s rough draft is horrible. I’ve said this before in previous articles because everyone needs to know this. The rough draft is supposed to be rough.

Some people, Steven King included (according to his book ‘On Writing‘),  like to leave their rough draft in a drawer for two weeks to make this step easier. Read through your rough draft, as if it’s someone else’s work. If you have a writing buddy, you might even want to swap manuscripts at this step and provide each other with helpful notes.

There’s a variety of different ways to do this. Some people like to make notes as they’re reading, and then write up the new draft from those notes. Some (like myself) transpose the handwritten rough draft into a word processing document, making corrections as they go. Others will scrap the rough draft entirely and start from scratch.

Once the second draft is written, you’re still not done. Read it again. If it doesn’t need another re-write, now’s the time for beta-readers, which might include the aforementioned writing buddy again. Beta-readers, for those not familiar with the term, are people who get to read your story before it gets published, in exchange for their feedback.

You don’t have to agree with everything the beta-readers tell you, but if you find that many of them are offering the same input, you may have to add a little to the story to produce the desired effect. The missing piece that makes the story fully immersive may take a while to find, and that’s okay. Don’t feel bad about putting the story on the backburner until it comes to you. You may even find your incomplete story inspires a better one.

Writing well takes practice. Sometimes you’ll get stuck completely, in which case try to use your time productively. Free-write, work on another idea, help someone read through their rough draft, read books that will help you understand the subjects, places and people you’re writing about, or chat with other Creative Writers to try and get your creative juices flowing again.

In other words, the best way to get started is to get started. Let us help you if you get stuck, and if your short-story is as well written as you can get it, submit it for the Monolith anthology 🙂

If you like what we’re doing, please support us by backing our Kickstarter campaign. If you can’t back us yourself, please share the project around. If you have any questions about the project, just ask.

Have a great day 🙂

Antony M. Copeland

 

Overcoming Obstacles

All kinds of things can get in the way when you’re trying to write, and I’m going to mention a few. The biggest obstacle for most of us though is writer’s block.

All kinds of things can get in the way when you’re trying to write, and I’m going to mention a few. The biggest obstacle for most of us though is writer’s block. It doesn’t seem to matter how many of the other issues we resolve, writer’s block always seems to be lurking around the corner, ready to pounce, right as our fingers are hovering over the keyboard, or our pen is about to touch the page.

All of these issues have been mentioned in the Creative Writers group at least once. The first one I’m going to tackle is self-doubt. It’s doozy, and one that often disguises itself as various excuses. After you push through “I don’t have the time”, “I have to be available for my kids (or some other person-in-need)”, or “I’m always so tired after work” (all of which I will also talk about) you usually find yourself saying “no-one will want to hear my story” or “I don’t have anything to say”.

That’s twaddle, and it doesn’t even matter. Self-esteem isn’t necessary for writing. In fact, self-doubt is an almost universally understood state of being. Even if all you have to say is “I have no idea what to write about, but this guy AntonyM guy tells me I should try this, so here goes…” just start writing and see where it leads you. What you’ll find as you continue writing (“there’s no way this is going to work! It’s a complete waste of time…”) that the words start flowing a little easier, a little faster, and before you know it, you’re writing! You can do it, and it feels good!

It may take a few tries at this exercise to get the words really flowing, but you may even find yourself writing a story. Something you didn’t even know you had in you. I can almost guarantee you that it won’t be the story you imagined you’d write. The greatest gift my ex-wife ever gave me was teaching me this technique. I believe she learned it as she studied to be an English Teacher. It’s called ‘freewriting’, and it’s as easy as putting pen to paper, and seeing where it takes you.

This is when you might face another possible hurdle. Even if you weren’t freewriting. You might be deep in the middle of writing then, for whatever reason, you look at what you’ve just written and said to yourself, “This is crap! A 10-year old could do better!” Don’t throw it out. It’s supposed to be crap. It’s a rough draft. Get your ideas out on the page first, then fix it later. Let yourself think like a 10-year old. Just tell the story. Don’t worry about how well it’s written yet.

Keep writing until you feel like you’ve hit a wall. Is it time to sleep? Then sleep. Is there something else needs doing today? Do the thing. The obstacle to avoid here is procrastination. Once more it can hide in excuses that you can reasonably consider true. You got distracted. You had to stay longer than you planned. Things just kept coming up. You might even tell yourself it’s writer’s block. Personally, I love procrastinating and “I’m too tired” is my typical excuse.

I’m getting better at making writing my priority though. It can be tough though to say “writing comes first” and mean it. There’s always some loved one that you don’t want to hurt, a prior commitment, or even a job that you’ve learned to put first. I have to remind myself that when I put the needs first I never had the time to write. I truly mean to be a successful writer, and that means I need to make it a priority. If you want to see your book being read by someone way cooler than you think you are, make writing a priority.

So here you are, ready to pick up where you left off. You pull up the notes you were working on from your last freewriting session, story, or dream-born idea and….nothing. Writer’s block. Now you could just start freewriting again (“wtf? Seriously? Now? I finally got the best story idea ever, and now it’s just gone? Poof!? It’s just not fair!…”) about having writers block, or you could do one of my favourite things in the world to do lately, and that’s talking to you guys, the Creative Writers.

Beware using Facebook as a distracting excuse to procrastinate though. I do it myself. Far too much. There’s always another conversation I want to jump into. There have been quite a few times that I didn’t even get around to posting my question before a notification tells me that someone else wants to join, or I see a member asking for feedback on their own writing, or someone is spamming us with stuff that barely relates to writing at all.

I should be working on my Monolith submission right now, but old habits die hard and I know that the group has been literally calling out for this article to be written. So I will be making my own writing a priority this week. Feel free to check on me and make sure I’ve not found some excuse to procrastinate again. 😉

The point I’ve diverted from was that you can talk to other Creative Writers about your story, explaining the basic premise so far and the part that you’re stuck on. You can also do this with a real live human being if you happen to have one nearby willing to listen. I usually find myself figuring out exactly what happens next in the story as I’m trying to summarise the plot. If however, you’ve posted your predicament and have yet to perceive a possible solution to the problem (sorry I like to alliterate occasionally) it shouldn’t be too long before you have a comment, and probably several.

Here comes another hurdle. One that you’ll come across again if you ask for help with editing or proofreading later on. When receiving feedback, remember that it is only a suggestion. Take all of it with a pinch of salt. It’s your story, not theirs, and only you get to decide how you tell it. Having said that, listen to what people have to say. Their suggestion may not fit your story exactly, but if you poke at it a bit and adjust it for context, it may give you some perspective that you were lacking, and lead you out of your writer’s block.

Let’s pretend for a moment that you overcame your self-doubt, found the time to write between your kids, spouse, job and chores, managed to keep yourself on-task during that time, taken feedback like a champ and completed your first rough and terrible draft of your story. Now comes the horrid part. At least for me. This is my least favourite part of the process. You have to read through what you’ve written and fix all the mistakes.

The dreaded re-write. Filled with all the same pit-traps and shiny distractions that you got the first time around. As you find more and more horrible mistakes, you start to doubt yourself all over again (“I write like a monkey stole my brain!”) and come up with excuses not to do it. If you power through it though, getting help when you need it, the story that comes out will be much easier for other people to read!

Writing is a craft, it takes time, patience, and many subtle stages before the final piece is revealed. The more time and attention you can give to it, the better the finished story will be. Which leads me to the final hurdle (that I can currently think of). Knowing when it’s done. I still have a tendency to think a story is done way too early. It may be related to my distaste for re-writing, but I’m making myself re-write a rejected ghost-story for my Monolith submission to give myself the practice. Or at least I will be when I stop procrastinating.

Honestly, I have yet to master the art of knowing when it is done. I haven’t even come up with an idea besides “keep rewriting until it’s done”, which leads to repeating the question “But how do I know when it’s done?” Perhaps you have a suggestion?

I’d also love to hear your suggestions for the other obstacles. Let me know if I can help you overcome any because it will give me an excuse to procrastinate 😉

Keep writing! 😀