Compared to such professions as an artist, musician, designer, or actor, being a writer seems to not require any specific skills. It is natural for every person to have thoughts and to share them with people. And since a writer’s job is namely to think of something worth reading and simply to write it down, what could possibly be difficult about it, right?
Well, if you have never tried to write anything yourself, such a way of thinking is excusable. We are not talking about academic papers here. College essays and term papers are all about research and processing information, whereas creative writing involves something else: the ability to notice little things around you, vivid imagination, rich vocabulary, and a set of other specific skills we are going to analyze further.
Perhaps, this is not the answer you wanted to hear, but this is how it works: in order to be able to write something worthwhile, you must first nurture your mind with high-quality “mental food.” The more information you perceive and analyze, the more you educate yourself, the more observant you will become, and the better your mind will be able to build connections between phenomenons and things. You will also enhance your critical thinking skills this way. And aren’t these the qualities a writer should possess?
The best way to spoil your first writing attempt is to rush into drafting a novel without exactly knowing what it is going to be about. Writing for the sole sake of writing is called graphomania, and it is not something you would want to do. So, whatever it is that you write, you must have a core idea, something personal you want to say to the world, something you have cherished deep inside: a drama, a love story, a vision. It may not necessarily be new, but it must be true.
One of the common mistakes many amateur writers do is rely on their inspiration, creative juices, impulses, etc. They probably think something like, “This is art, and I cannot obscure it with pragmatic and rational planning. I will let the flow of my creativity carry me.” This sounds sweet and all, but it does not work this way. Planning is exactly what you should do after you make it clear for yourself what you are going to write about. Naturally, your plan may change during the course of writing, but having a roadmap of your future novel or story from the very beginning cannot hurt.
When you meet someone in real life, you automatically make a number of assumptions about him or her. Depending on their gender, role, age, and background, you chalk out an approximate portrait of this person even without getting to know them well enough. This is just how the brain works. Only after you communicate with this new acquaintance of yours, you can create a comprehensive picture of this individual in your mind.
As a writer, you create characters. Just like real people, they have certain distinctive features—and it is up to you figure out what they are going to be. Think about what your protagonist wants: from himself or herself, from life, from other people. What are this person’s reasons to get out of bed every morning? What motivates and discourages him or her? What does he or she do for a living? Are they single or married? Why?
Starting from appearance and ending up with psychological traumas buried deep within, you should know about your characters as much as possible.
If you are a novice, it might be easier for you to adhere to the classic structure of narration: setup, confrontation, resolution. In the setup, you introduce the setting, characters, the world they live and operate in, and the relationships between them. Confrontation raises and discusses the main problem the protagonist faces, as well as describes his or her attempts to solve it. Finally, the resolution is for happy (or unhappy) endings: you round up all the storylines in your novel, and bring them towards a logical conclusion. This structure almost guarantees you writing a consistent story.
You need to develop your own writing style, and there is no other way to do it but to write. Regardless of whether you write well or not, no matter what and how you write about—just keep on doing it. There is no workaround: you have to go through quantity to quality. At first, you will probably copy the writing manner of the writers you like. This is perfectly fine—how else are you supposed to learn? Just remember that you will never be able to write anything worthwhile from the first attempt: even skilled professionals spend weeks editing and polishing their writing before it becomes good enough to be sent to publishing houses.
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