Seven Tips for Aspiring Writers

Tips for Writers

A friend of mine recently took the time to read my blog. She too enjoys writing and wanted to know what advice I have for her on how to get started.

I was humbled and surprised by her request. In so many ways I still consider myself a novice in the world of writing. What credentials do I have to be giving tips to an aspiring writer?

I have been writing for as long as I can remember. For many years, I kept my writing to myself. Having always enjoyed the writing work the teachers assigned in school, I have always kept a journal, and have written poems as a teenager that I never shared. The blog was only started in 2009, the writing course I completed in 2011, which is the same year I started working on the novel that I am yet to finish. It was only a few months ago I attained my first paid writing job with Faith Catholic.

As I said, I am still a novice in the world of writers. However, I am taking a leap here and writing this post for my friend and others who are thinking of writing. Much of this advice I received from other writers, friends and priests.

  1. Write! Stop thinking about it, stop aspiring to it. Just write. Write anything, but write every day. Even if all you write is a journal entry. Your life is your writing. Keep a notebook in your purse, back pack, car or desk. Throughout your day, when you read a great quote, hear an inspiring lyric in a song, have a thought you don’t want to forget, write it down. Remember to note the author of the quote or lyric that is not your own. Give credit where credit is due. You never know how someone else’s writing can inspire your own. So write it down.
  2. Pray! For Christian writers, this should probably be number one. I believe Christian writers have a greater responsibility. I have said this before a previous post. Writing isn’t just about sharing my opinions, it has the potential to bring others closer to Christ, and therefore prayer is essential to a Christian writer. I keep a prayer journal. It is a great tool as I read past entries and am reminded of all the prayers that have been answered. Occasionally my prayer journal does inspire a post I write for my blog or an article for submission to a magazine. Usually, I share the lesson I learned without the details of my personal situation. You don’t have to share details of your life to make for interesting writing. I write in response to the inspirations I receive in prayer. Sometimes I complete a blog post or article in one sitting, other times it takes days or weeks to complete. I go where the Holy Spirit leads me.
  3. Be Consistent! You learn by doing, the more you write the better writer you will become. I try to post a blog once a month and I have been working on a novel for about two years now. Posting more often would be ideal and I look forward to having that novel completed. Being a full-time wife, homeschooling Mom, daycare provider and working in various apostolates, leaves very little time for much else. I am amazed by other women who provide new blog posts weekly, or even daily. Maybe someday.
  4. Share! God didn’t provide you with a talent for writing so you could keep it to yourself. I know it’s a huge step outside of yourself to share your writing. My stomach used to go into a knot just before hitting ‘post’ or ‘share’. Sending a proposal or query letter to a magazine or publisher was even more difficult. What was I afraid of? Rejection? Ridicule? (More on this in upcoming tips) My first step to sharing my writing with the world was starting a blog. I started with Blogspot, then I created a second one with WordPress, and this is my third blog. I know another writer started by sending out an e-mail newsletter to all of her contacts, she now has a blog as well, and she has published a book.
  5. Do Not Fear! If you want to be a paid published author, expect many rejections at the start. Don’t get discouraged. Now, I could be wrong about this. You could be the next author to make it big overnight. However most writers need time to hone in on their skill, find their own voice and their particular niche. I don’t worry about rejection letters anymore. I see it as an opportunity to grow in humility and detachment. Yes, detachment from my writing. If you are going to tackle some controversial topics, as I have on my blog. Be prepared for the occasional reader who doesn’t like what you have to say. Don’t be concerned about who is reading your work. If you are praying and writing in response to inspirations you receive in prayer the Holy Spirit will bring the readers that need to read what you wrote.
  6. Be Detached! As I mentioned above this helps you to accept those rejection letters and you grow in virtue. Most of the time I feel like the Holy Spirit is guiding my pen or guiding my fingers over the keyboard. Even if the stats on my blog show only one or two people read my most recent post, I trust that those are the people who needed to read it. Also, it’s good to be detached from your writing since many times you will have to scrap an idea and rewrite it. It’s much easier to edit and rewrite an article or a story that you have not grown attached to.
  7. Focus! There is a plethora of information on-line for writers and countless books that have been written for writers. I know this post just got added to the list of resources available too. Reading is a key component of a writer’s life. In effort to learn as much as I can from other writers I have found myself overwhelmed and overloaded with articles, books and e-mails from writers. If all you are doing is reading about writing, its defeats the purpose of your desire to write. Taking us back to tip number one….just write. Choose one or two reliable sources, talented writers you want to emulate. The best sources I found are the works of the saints. Many saints were writers. Whatever you are reading, make sure you are also taking the time to write.

There you have it for now. There is more that could be said on this topic, but the goal is not to keep you reading, but to get you writing. You can only start once. Once you start, you just have to continue.

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The Writers Responsibility

When I began to put pen to paper, it was simply a means for me to connect my thoughts. Connecting my thoughts seemed to come easier on paper. I am certain this is true for all writers. Even to this day if I have something to say, articulating it verbally, or thinking aloud, as some do, doesn’t do justice to my thought process. That doesn’t mean I don’t like to talk, I certainly do, too much at times.

However, having recently realized that writing is meant to be shared with others has stretched me out of my comfort zone. It terrified me to think that others would be reading and forming opinions on what I had written. It has become and act of humility and obedience to share my writing.

Writing is a talent, a gift, a craft.

Writing is a talent, a gift, a craft.

It takes humility to share your innermost thoughts, strongly held convictions and your sense of creativity with others. Some may enjoy your point of view, your wacky sense of humour or your strange sense of adventure.   Yet, others may simply not be interested in what you have to write. Those with strong opinions on what you write can be the most intimidating or provide the most to learn from.

My first step in sharing my writing was creating a blog. There was no theme or mission to this blog, simply a means for me to share some of my musings with whoever would read it. At first it felt as if no one was reading it. Slowly, friends and family began to comment on my posts and I started to work up the courage to actually talk about it and direct others to my blog.

A few times there have been people who have had some strong opinions on what I have shared. Especially since I have written posts on some controversial issues such as abortion, chastity and contraception. It is inevitable that some people will not like what you write, and will be very forward in sharing their opinion with you. That shouldn’t stop us from writing. Writers have to develop a bit of a tough skin while also approaching criticism with a grain of humility. It’s an opportunity to get a pulse of our readers and to keep us humble as we accept that not everyone will enjoy our writing.

Writing is a gift, a talent and a craft. It’s a gift from God. Writing has the power to affect change, not just from today’s readers but from those who will read your writing for generations to come.

If we look back we see works of writers from generations past that are still popular to this day. Writers such as Jane Austen, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, G.K Chesterton, and many more, are still influencing and touching the hearts of readers to this day.

Yet even they had to contend with their share of criticism. I know J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” series was criticized by many Christians for its use of wizardry and magic.

Personally, I think as Christian writers we have a greater responsibility. Writing is not just a means to share my opinions and feelings. Writing becomes a means for us to bring others closer to Christ. Even if our audience is not Christian, if we write well enough, even a non-Christian will be brought closer to truth, and to the natural law written on their hearts.

We see this through works of literature that have since come alive on the movie screen or a play. Recently, I watched two movies in the theatre that had me sitting in awe. It is amazing that these two movies “Les Miserables” and “The Hobbit” have made it through main stream entertainment. These stories are rich with Christian elements and they have captured the hearts of audiences for generations. It makes one wonder if the non-Christian viewers and readers actually see the elements and welcome them or if they are oblivious to it and just see the human characteristics and virtues that are relatable and entertaining.

With this responsibility to move hearts closer to the truth, comes the assurance that we are never alone in our plight to create masterpieces in literature. As writers, when we feel discouraged or lack ideas for a particular writing project, we are blessed to have sacred scripture to turn too.

At times as writers we have an idea, but we may over analyze and fool ourselves into thinking that we don’t have anything original to offer. That someone else is more talented to write this piece. In scripture we find Luke: 1:1-4:

In as much as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.” (NASB)

Sounds to me like St. Luke could have just as easily left the gospel writing to others. He is responding to a call in humility and obedience.

An author once shared this with me, “Right up to the last second, as I prepare to send my book off to the publisher, I am revising, adding, changing. I am not sure anything I have written has ever been considered complete in my mind.”  We can be our own worst critic. Even non-Christian writers battle with an inner insecurity and discouragement. As Christians we have a source of inspiration, the Holy Spirit writes with us and through us. We need only to respond in humility and obedience. Accepting our responsibility to write we use the talent given to us, and God gets a great return on our investment.