Wednesday, May 25, 2011

How to Be a Good Writer, Part 2

Last week I posted the first in a series of blogs about how to be a good writer. I’d like to say thanks for sticking with me past the sheer presumptuousness of the very idea. And now that my anti-self-aggrandizement clause is out of the way, let’s get down to it.

In keeping with the template, I’ve come up with three more things good writers do all the time:

  1. Write.
  2. Write.
  3. Write.

Point one: write. Keep notes, in other words. Again with the reference to Stephen King here, but good writers always have a notebook handy and that’s something I learned by reading his book, On Writing. You never know when your ideas will come. Well, scratch that. You know precisely when they’ll come. 5% of them will come at extremely inconvenient times, like when you’re driving on the freeway or in the shower scrubbing off the detritus of another sweaty day at the keyboard. The other 95% will come at the moment you are just drifting off to sleep. To minimize blazing fits of profanity, please at least keep your notebook on the nightstand. Try to make a habit of it. And don’t forget the pen. This is very important—writers should always have some way to record their ideas and keep their notes near at hand at all times. You may think, as I have done, that you’ll remember it in the morning. You won’t. Trust me.

Point two: write. Write articles. This is where the rubber begins to meet the road, folks. I read about this little bit of advice in an article (imagine that) on Helium, a great place to get exposure and get feedback. You can sign up to become a contributor there, or on sites like Factoidz or Start a blog. Get it on a schedule and post at least twice per week. I’ve done all this. And the discipline of writing concisely, clearly, accurately and simultaneously threading in various keywords for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) purposes will only help you in the long run.

And the long run perspective, by the way, is the one you’ll be wanting to adopt as your own. This is a little aside, but writers—or anyone, really—for the most part, do not make it big overnight. Sure, your life can change in a single day, but that normally only comes after years of hard work. So many of us newbies (a moniker I’m only now just beginning to outgrow) have this completely unrealistic attitude that something is owed to us. It doesn’t go well for anyone with that mindset. But I’ll get into that more next week.

Point three: write. Write stories. Now, I’m not recommending that you run off all half-cocked and dive into your magnum opus. I dabbled with that; it’s more work than it’s worth, really. Start off with a 5,000 word short story. Find a professional editor who will give you a read and give you some detailed feedback—you’ll probably pay them about $50-$100 for this, but the investment is well worth it. You might also want to look into joining a local writers’ group, where fellow writers meet perhaps once per month to read and critique their work, and read your stuff there. Your next short story might have a goal of 10,000 words, and you could do a novella, around 20-30,000 words, after that. You can even publish eBook versions of your (finely polished and edited) writing on Amazon while you’re busy working on the next project. It helps to earn rewards for all that work.

Next week I’ll share my thoughts on how to be a good writer a little more. We’ll be covering writing mechanics, plot and character development, and the all-important Attitude. Until then my friends, go forth and write boldly.