Q & A: How Do I Become a Writer?

Excellent question!  I think many people who aren’t actively involved in the arts are a bit intimidated when they start.  Really, the best way to be a good writer is to be a good reader. And by “good” I mean voracious. Consume books. Devour books. And when you’re not doing that, write.

Second – don’t worry. People will say you can’t do it. You’ll receive that judgey little smirk when you announce you’re writing a novel, followed by the withering down-their-nose stare when they ask how often you’ve been published. Screw ‘em. You aren’t writing for them. I worried myself straight out of a career that way. Don’t be me.

Third – listen to those who have gone before you, but don’t dwell on them. Neil Gaiman offers some nifty advice here (check out the very first thing he says and take it to heart):

FAQs | Advice to Authors

FWIW, my favorite “how to” book is written by Stephen King.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft – Wikipedia

Reading that made me feel like I was sitting down with my favorite Uncle. You know, the one who tells all the really cool stories your parents don’t want you to hear. At the same time his advice is clear, direct, and entirely useful.

Along with ditching the worry, don’t stress about getting it right. When I write I turn off both my spell check and my grammar program. If I edit as I write I’ll never finish a page. Don’t worry about “voice”. Don’t worry about “tense”. Don’t worry about format. All that comes later. Until you have something down on paper all you have is an idea.

Come on! The world needs your novel, or whatever the heck it is you’re writing. Speaking of which, one of my favorite motivations is National Novel Writing Month (aka Nanowrimo).

National Novel Writing Month

It happens every November but don’t fret. Even if you’re past the date (or too early, it really depends on your point-of-view) you’ll still find an active community of writers there. It’s great for encouragement.

One last thing. Writer’s block. It hits us all. Perhaps that’s why you were asking in the first place. If you’re still wondering how to write, what to write, when to write… do this. Snag your favorite pen, tablet, journal or word processor. Write this sentence:

“I can’t write.”

Write it out again.

“I can’t write. I can’t write.”

Try a few more. Seriously.

“I can’t write. I can’t write. I can’t write! And there’s this crazy American chick who just told me to write this stupid phrase when I really wanted to flirt with this amazing British actor. But here I am writing this stupid phrase anyway. So there, are you HAPPY NOW? Crazy American chick? I can’t write I can’t write I can’t write! I. Can’t WRITE!!!”

Congratulations. You just wrote. Not only that, you have the basis of a character! He’s talking to you. Listen to him. Write him down. In the end that’s really who you’re writing for. Your characters need a voice. Now, this one has one. Go get ‘em!


What to NEVER say to a writer. EVER.

tumblr_inline_n9g140tV701s1ll4kOr… how to earn a first class “E Ticket” into one of my stories.

I’ve seen lots of articles like this.  “10 Things To Never Say to a Writer“.  “Eight Things You Should Never Say to a Writer”  “19 Things You Should Never Say to a Budding Writer” (I like how that one tossed in “budding”).  People love lists.  And most of these cover the generic situations writers of all genres find mildly annoying.

Included in nearly every list are questions like “Will you write my paper for me?”  and “Can I be in your story?”  Personally, I’ve never met anyone bold enough to ask me to write something for them, but I’m often asked (sometimes joking, sometimes serious) if whoever I’ve just met can be a character in my book.  My friends know better.  If you end up in one of my stories, typically it’s not because I like you.  My stories are angst-fests so ending up in one generally means you’re either in for a lot of suffering (if I like you) or you’re a red shirt.

The last person I specifically wrote in was a stick-up-his-ass hotel manager in New Orleans.  I had asked if I could look around for a bit, because I’d love to use the place as a setting.  He – swear to God – had me escorted out of the building by security.  That earned him multiple appearances in several of my stories.  Usually  he ends up something like this:

Some days, it’s good to be a writer.

I found this note waiting for me on my NaNoWriMo account, from an admirer who will remain anonymous.

I thought that I signed up for the nano trial version of Scrivener and that it would last until december, however I went to use it today and was informed that the trial version was finished and would have to pay the full amount to continue.