It helps if you know what you're doing. That statement can be applied to many things in life, whether it be using a petrol mower for the first time, changing a fuse, fitting a new wiper blade on the car. Nowadays it's easier than ever to find out how to perform a new task - search online, watch a YouTube video, read a DIY book. Perhaps even ask a friendly expert happy to pass on their knowledge.
What about writing? Surely you just apply pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and let the words flow. Certainly that is how most of us start and indeed continue. Very few get it right first time and go on to sell their first oeuvre.
Here is just some of the helpful advice I've been given:
- There are many self-help books which can help with the basics. Fortunately a degree in Creative Writing isn't a prerequisite for writing the next best seller.
- Read extensively. Examine books written by successful authors writing in the same genre as you.
- Research - study the market where you wish to be published.
- Ask someone you know will be honest to read and comment on your writing. (Probably not your Gran. Grandmothers are wonderful, they always believe in you, but 'That's lovely, dear' isn't the most helpful critique you will receive.)
- Join a writing group - online or in real life.
- Critique the work of fellow writers - it's a good way of learning to look at your own work more objectively.
- Enter competitions. Even if you don't win, read those that have and where available the judges' comments which reveal why the winner was chosen.
- Ask for advice - I've been humbled by the generosity of fellow writers who share their expertise so willingly.
But the only way to know if you have got it right is to get your work out there, to submit it and risk rejection. Learn to let your work go. It's sad that many talented writers I've met have never submitted their work anywhere.
What advice would you give to writers seeking to improve their skills?