God knows I’m not an expert to be writing this. Not even close. I’m not Stephen King or Khaled Hosseini or Paulo Coelho or Chimamanda or any of these madly talented writers. Did I mention J.K. Rowling? But I have stumbled my way for so long in my writing journey like a drunkard, stepping on grammar thorns and hitting on plot poles. So yeah, I’ve done a lot of mistakes and I’ve learnt a lot from different writing gurus and fellows. They say, you learn best from a person who has come face to face, touched and embraced the failure wholly (of course I embraced it then made my lemonade out of it). I think I can share with fellow aspiring writers some tips that will help as you start/continue with your writing career.
The only way to become a great writer is by LITERALLY writing. There are no short cuts to this. Reading ten or even a hundred books on how to write won’t make you any better writer if you don’t take that pen and start scribbling. Writing guides will of course be really helpful in showing you the direction, but the rest is entirely upon you. Write that story you’ve always wanted to write. Write that very badly written poem. However much awful your piece will be, it will still be better than nothing at all. After writing it, don’t immediately throw it away. Keep it safe for some hours or days, then revisit it and go through it again. You might have some new ideas on how to improve your piece.
2. WRITING IS RE-WRITING:
Ask any writer/poet in the world, even the most famous one, they’ll tell you the same thing; writing is re-writing. You can’t have perfection from the word go. You can’t write one story and be frustrated that it isn’t how you want it to be. Calm down mate, this thing needs patience here. As we say here in Mombasa, ‘hii kitu haitaki hasira’ ama vipi? Every beautiful thing takes some time to be fully formed or functional or complete. So write, re-read it, make changes. Give it a break, go through it again. Add new ideas. Like that until you are finally satisfied with what you have in hand. If you’re a perfectionist, the process might make you crazy so it would be nice if you seek assistance from someone else that you trust, which brings me to my third point.
3. DON’T BE SHY TO SEEK HELP:
However rowdy and unappealing your story seems, don’t be shy to send it to someone you trust. NOTE, I said someone you trust i.e. they have good judgement in what a good story looks like, they have good insights and if they are grammar nazis that’s even better. (Grammar Nazi definition by Urban dictionary: One who uses refined vocabulary, correct grammar, constantly finds themselves correcting grammar and spelling (in forums, chatrooms, tumblr, YouTube, etc.) These people will ruthlessly point out all the grammar massacres you committed. Don’t take it personally, deep deep down they are good people who wan’t the best for you. So don’t get annoyed when they show you your mistakes. Most importantly, it should be someone you trust NOT to steal your piece and use it as their own. If you know someone who has experience in writing or an avid reader, the better. They will be the fresh eyes you need and can honestly tell you their opinions about your writing. Also, don’t send it to nice people who’ll always tell you ‘It’s good.’ Go for the brutally honest ones who will bluntly tell you what is wrong or right about your writing. You need this, trust me, you do. So take heart and swallow the bitter pill for now.
4. ACCEPT POSITIVE CRITICISM POSITIVELY:
Now there’s criticism that is good and healthy. The person correcting you isn’t trying to crash your dreams or ruin your self-confidence. They are just trying to show you how to be a better writer (and this applies to all matters of life as well). They will point out your mistakes and show you how to be better (or not) either way, they are trying to help. Then we have the negative criticism whereby the person is continuously trying to show you how useless you are or untalented. In short, they are just the villains in your story. Make sure to accept only the positive criticism. Remember that the only way for you to grow is to actually learn from your mistakes. And for someone to show you your mistakes they have to brutally honest with you WITHOUT crashing your self-esteem. So long as someone means well, don’t feel bad. Accept the criticism and learn from the mistakes to do better next time. And no, this shouldn’t be an excuse for you to quit writing. As for those who criticize you in a negative way, avoid sending your work to them. If you can’t keep your work away from them maybe because they see it on your social media pages, learn to ignore them without allowing their comments affect you. We all have received these kind of criticisms, so you’re not alone. Stop with the pity-partying and continue writing!
5. EXPERIMENT AND GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE:
Just because you write poetry doesn’t mean you can’t writing something else. Plus, you’ll never know if you can do something else if you haven’t tried it. I for one, never thought I could write in present continuous or in second person until I tried it. I realized I loved it more than writing in past tense or first/third person. So explore, get out of your comfort zone and try writing new things. You could be surprised how you could enjoy or be better in something totally different than what you do now. If you only write travel blogs, take some time to write a fiction piece someday or do a different language blog. Play around with your talent cards until you finally discover what you really love and are comfortable writing about, then embrace that fully.
Honestly, I am a disgrace to the writing community, and that’s because I am not an avid reader. I do read, but not to the extent one would expect from a writer. I source out my inspiration from different things and people, most writers seek it from books (thus making me a disgrace 😀 ) But I’ve made this my personal challenge, to push myself to read as much as I can. Reading opens up your mind to new ideas, new places, new characters and new experiences. We learn from our fellow writers like that and we grow from there. So make it your personal challenge too to read as often as you can and let that inspire you to write more and better.
7. BE AUTHENTIC:
You need to use your own voice. You need to echo out your own dreams, fears, aspirations, struggles, personality and let it reflect in what you write. Be authentic and don’t copy someone’s style. Create your own style, something that you will be remembered for. Be the master of the style you choose. Sometimes your voice could be your humor or your choice of words, or the way you unfold your story. It would be ridiculous if you try to copy J.K. Rowling’s style in Harry Potter to write your own Wizardry book, right? I thought so too. So be yourself, even in your writing. Especially in your writing.
There are several articles and videos talking about voices, how to find and develop your voice in writing so just search for them on google and knock yourself out. However, here is an example of what other writers talked about voice:
8. KNOW THE DIFFERENCE:
There are different kinds of writing out there and you need to know about them. This is important because for example, the rules that are there for fiction writing are very different from non-fiction or even poetry. There are similarities of course, but you still need to be aware of what is what before you dive deep into writing. We are on the 21st Century people, what better way to use the free wifi and google than to learn these things? If you google kinds or types of writing right now you’d find MANY articles and videos on the same. Help yourself; do yourself a favour and learn the differences of these writings.
9. HAVE SELF-DISCIPLINE & DO NOT GIVE UP:
This is very very important. Writing is one of those things one can easily push under the bed. It seems the easiest thing to let go of once someone is overwhelmed with their life. Its kind of the same thing with painting or any other kind of art. And I see this all the time. People keep saying, ‘I used to write by the way’ and when you ask what happened the answer is almost the same always; ‘Life happened.’ And when life happens to someone, writing is the first thing we give up on because we think ‘I can live without it’ (for those who don’t pay their bills with writing). Remember when we said, beautiful things take time? All these novels and stories we obsess about, how long do you think it took the writer to write the entire book until it got to you? Many months and sometimes, MANY years. So be patient and keep trying. Don’t say ‘what’s the point if it doesn’t pay my bills right now?’ The point is, you are leaving footsteps behind you. A legacy. You are inspiring people with your stories, and it doesn’t matter if the number of people reading your work are only five. If you are able to create positive change or influence just one person to be better at something or in their lives, that’s a great achievement for anyone. So don’t underestimate your work and write as often as possible. At least every day. Okay, maybe that’s a lot for you. At least a week? Yes, a week is good enough. At whatever cost, push yourself to write as per your schedule (even if it means skipping an hour of sleeping. I mean, we skip sleep to chat. We can do that for writing too right?)
10. SHARE YOUR WORK:
If you leave your stories inside your drawers, they will just get dust and insects will come nibble your masterpieces away. Is that what you want for your masterpiece? Being murdered by tiny insects? Being consumed by a tsunami of dust? Come on. Your voice deserves a place out there. There is a space for your pieces to occupy in this vast world.
Point is, if you don’t let your work out there, you will never know how good and talented you are. You will never know if your stories can emotionally break someone into tears just because of its intensity. You can never know if someone thinks the same way as you do. For you to grow as a writer, take the risk and share the work. Don’t be afraid of ‘not being good enough.’ No one started off being good enough already. They too had to struggle. So share you work; on all kinds of social media, on blogs, in magazines…anywhere you can.
Blogs and websites are great platforms to share you work. If you are just starting of and still unsure on what kind of writing to take up or how often you’d write, you can start off with the free blogs from wordpress or blogspot accounts. If you have a friend or relative with computer/IT knowledge, ask for their help in creating and designing your blog. Again, the internet is right there at our service. You could create your own blog by learning how to do it via google. For example, you could search ‘create a free wordpress blog’ and follow the prompts as directed. Nonetheless, the IT friend can be great help.
Here’s a link to a video that might help: https://winningwp.com/how-to-make-a-free-blog-wordpress-com/
11. MAKE CONTRACTS. EVERY.SINGLE.TIME
I learnt this the hard way, so hear it from me. Do not, and I mean, DO NOT EVER, go for a writing gig without making a contract. It doesn’t matter if the person is a relative, a very good friend or the work is just 500 words. Make a contract! Most artists don’t know what their rights are and thus, many people end up taking advantage or just disappearing with your work or payment. Rather you protect yourself than regret later. Even if it is someone you know very well just say it, ‘No offence but I need a contract for all that we’ve agreed on’. And make sure that indeed, all you agreed on is in the contract and SIGNED by both of you. At least you know if they go against you, you have proof to demand your payment or rights from them. Thank me later!
12. DO NOT COMPARE YOURSELF:
Just like with everything else in life, we have those who are ahead than others. You probably know of writers who write everyday, maybe 2000 words every morning or so…DO NOT COMPARE YOURSELF WITH THEM. Everyone has their own pace with things, so don’t beat yourself for it. Do what you can and do it within your own pace and at your best ability. Don’t let people’s achievements crash you, instead let it be a challenge. Also, don’t force yourself to be like someone else just because ‘they’ve made it’. Remember we talked about having your own voice yeah? So do that. Be self-disciplined, write as much as you possibly can and grow from there.
13. DON’T BE SHY TO AIM FOR THE MONEY
Look, we all are striving and hustling hard to make ends meet. So don’t be apologetic if you are writing simply to earn money or make a career out of it. Don’t be shy or guilty about it. Do your best and achieve your goals yo. Be unstoppable and buy that classy car.
I had no point for number 14 but because I am a perfectionist and ending my post with an odd number itches my gut, here is number 14 🙂 All the best in your writing journey and please, please don’t sit or sleep or eat (if there’s anything like that) on your talent.
I hope these will be helpful as you take on your writing journey. Kindly share and subscriibee!! Thank you!