#119: Where Do You Start?

Articles, blog posts, newsletters, podcasts, tutorial videos, online courses, masterclasses, e-books, workbooks and even subscription boxes. The Internet is full of readily available advice for emerging writers–from coming up with ideas to submitting your work to agents. Dozens of new resources from writers at all levels are coming out every day – it’s impossible to keep up. Most of it is pretty good advice too. People are happy to share epiphanies that may have taken them decades to realise and even mistakes they’ve made so that you don’t have to.

As a fledgeling writer, it’s easy to pour the majority of your enthusiasm for your newfound pursuit into research. You may subscribe to a variety of writing blogs and newsletters. You may head over to YouTube to watch a few tutorials and pick up a handful of notoriously discounted courses from Udemy. Later on, you may buy the top five titles about writing that you hear people keep recommending on podcasts over and over again.

Months go by, and you have read those books and binge-watched all the video lessons that you could get your hands on. And now, you’re stuck.

In a way, it has never been easier to get into writing. With Indie publishing on the rise, you no longer have to wait until a publisher picks you. You can publish your work and even build a considerable readership for it. If you have an Internet connection, you have everything you need to become a writer.

Still, plenty of people struggle to get started, and it isn’t hard to see why. Reading all the advice is like drinking out of a fire hose. It covers so much–characters, plot, world-building, voice, style, pacing, genre tropes, symbolism, various interpretations of the story structure and even the writing process itself. The more you learn, the more anxious you get. How can you possibly ever incorporate all of these things into your stories? And by the way, you’re not allowed passive voice or any adverbs.

Being a fledgeling writer is hard as it is. Putting this extra weight on every word that you write just isn’t helpful. More than anything else, new writers need space.

If you’re just starting out, I’d recommend that you ignore writing advice for as long as you possibly can. Spend the hours that you’d spend reading blogs or watching YouTube tutorials writing your story. It won’t be perfect, but that doesn’t matter at this stage. Writing a bunch of stories first will give you the context that you need to grasp what the writing advice actually says. It will make reading books about writing a lot more useful.

After writing a story, you’ll have a specific area that you want to learn more about. You may feel that your characterisation was lacking and start looking into character questionnaires as a result. Or you may find that you’re getting stuck rewriting the same paragraph over and over again. In that case, it would be the perfect time to learn about shitty first drafts and not revising as you write.

Writing advice or indeed any advice is best served in a context where you can apply it instantly. Otherwise, it will only make you anxious about how little you actually know, and you’re unlikely to follow it in the future anyway.

When starting out, the best thing you can do is just write.

What I Am Reading

I wanted to bring three novels along with me to read while travelling. I’m ashamed to admit that I’m happy that I didn’t. I’m flying back to London tomorrow, and I only managed to read about 5 pages total. There was constantly something else to do. On top of that, I’m the person who drives the rental car when were moving around.

Anyway, I’m hoping to finish Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? next week.

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