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September 8, 2013 / ldejong4

15 Tips for the Rookie Writer

“Lisa, do you want me to hear out your chemistry work or your German verbs?” my mother would ask when cramming for exams at school. She didn’t have to do much to do a lot. Teaching someone else what I learned was always a very effective reinforcement method. Since becoming an English teacher for the summer I was reminded of this when a colleague told me that the person who learns the most in the classroom is the teacher. I firmly stand by this phenomenon.

I will return from Spain shortly, enter my final academic year and proceed with writing activities, which I hope increase as daylight hours decrease into the season. I started this blog six months ago and I am delighted that several people have contacted me with questions, advice and feedback. It is still the start of an exciting journey and I therefore want to share some initial tips I picked up along the way. I realise there are countless sites with similar advice, but as I have interesting aspirations in store for the coming year I hope this post to serve as self guidance when I lack confidence, direction or inspiration.

1. Write drunk; edit sober: The most important advice is to just write. You can edit later. You as the writer will wear a different hat to you as the editor.

2. Read: Read things you like, things you don’t like, excellent literature, terrible blogs, inspirational lyrics and even abstract poetry. Be critical, understand your own opinions and ask yourself why you do or don’t like it. Don’t be discouraged if you are a slow reader. All this will help you to eventually discover your personal niche and know where to turn for inspiration.

3. Get your facts write: We live in the cyber age with no excuse for incorrect facts or spelling. Inaccurate grammar or punctuation can alter meaning so try your best here. Google can give you a lot of answers.

4. Keep a diary: As you enter this world, each person will become a story. People will want to share resources, ideas, books, movies and sites with you. You will be inspired by something when you least expect it. Keeping a notepad or using an app on your phone to take notes will be worthwhile when you sit down to reflect.

5. Be disciplined: If you commit to a particular goal, you will need to set time aside to write. This is my main lesson to focus on. Receiving input from various sources is important but can be distracting at times.

6. Don’t be shy: You could be an excellent writer with no readers – that is one option. Or you could be a writer with readers who give feedback to help you improve. Life is too short to be shy when you are passionate about it, especially if your writing could inspire or be enjoyed by others.

7. Take it on the chin: If you receive critical or negative feedback that is OK. Somebody took the time to read your work, form an opinion and communicate it. Your writing sparked a reaction and that is rewarding.

8. Get connected: The strategic functions of social networking are more exciting than the personal. Create lists and a home stream in and around your writing genre. Read what other bloggers are working on, join a writing group and go to any related events in your area.

9. Write in the early hours: This can be very interesting as your thoughts will be less logical and more creative the moment after rising. I have had moments waking at 3am for no reason, with an urge to change a small detail. If it’s important to you, then do it.

10. Make it a bit personal: Nobody wants to read the life story of your third cat and second hamster, yet nowadays people are interested in our personal lives hence the ongoing success of reality TV. It can be intriguing for the reader to know a bit about who you are but keep it subtle – FHM soft porn style.

11. Be open-minded: Embrace any opportunities that come your way, listen to people and try to read new books, watch new movies and listen to different music. Allow your mind to think creatively and don’t suppress your thoughts or emotions – allow yourself to experience and comprehend them. It will help to carry and express experienced feelings through words in fiction.

12. Don’t dismiss your own ideas: Last week I exchanged ideas with another teacher over coffee. She had years of experience on me. I was hesitant to share any ideas thinking they would be useless. After, she had a page of notes and thanked me sincerely for helping. I learned a big lesson that day and wrote it down. Your ideas are unique and therefore creative regardless of profile or experience so don’t dismiss them.

13. Be strategic: Follow writers you like on social networking sites, comment on posts, target certain people with particular audiences, tweet people you agree or disagree with telling them why. Consider the time of day you post e.g. early evenings are good when online traffic peaks. Self educate the blog hosting site’s tagging system and how to use hashtags effectively.

14. Consider style and technique: Use a thesaurus to avoid repetition, keep blog paragraphs relatively short and omit unnecessary words to aid flow – “that” is a prime example.

15. Take initiative: It’s a competitive world out there in every field. You can’t afford to sit around waiting for things to happen. Actively search for events, competitions etc. I hear whoever wrote Fifty Shades of Grey started her career blogging. Now isn’t that intelligent to approach a publisher with an already accrued fan base? Word of mouth marketing is massive and people like things other people like. That is how branding in a consumer society works so encouraging your own following a bit could pay off in the future.



Leave a Comment
  1. Clare / Sep 15 2013 1:35 pm

    Great post, Lisa. It’s always interesting to read what other writers recommend and I found myself nodding along with agreement at much of your advice. I’m a particular fan of the early morning writing bursts. Look forward to reading more of your stuff. 🙂

  2. Katie / Nov 17 2013 3:27 pm

    This is such excellent advice! I really appreciate that you mix the strategic/logistical with creative advice. There’s so much that needs to come together to be successful with writing (however you define success). There’s so much more to it than getting words on the page.

    Thanks for this!

    • ldejong4 / Nov 18 2013 12:00 pm

      There is indeed 🙂 You have good insight… I also studied business strategy in my undergrad so I guess I combine that now with my creative life. See you Tuesday x

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