Updated: Apr 8
Do you find it difficult to imagine writing an entire manuscript? Do you wonder if you'll ever be able to take a writing concept and create a finished writing piece from that?
Well, I know I used to wonder these things. I was overly critical of my own writing and had lofty ideas of the style and type of writing I wanted to produce. Yes, like many of you, I was a writing perfectionist. If my writing wasn't on par with what I originally imagined I was discouraged and stopped writing altogether.
Now, the problem was not that I was a terrible writer. That is just the first thing that a human mind wants to believe. But, it's not true! The problem was that I was not experienced enough and had not developed enough of the skillset and writing procedures in order to successfully carry a project to its end.
I was still in the amateur writer mindset. I still analyzed the clever scripts of t.v shows and movies and burned with a desire to emulate those writers. But, let me tell you something that I didn't know: those writers write day and night and they throw out a lot of drafts, just like the rest of us.
I don't want you to have to waste years and years in a frustrating writing-less state. I want you to flourish as a new writer, right now! So I'll tell you all about the lessons that I've learned over the course of my first year as a professional writer.
1) Learn the Secret of Outlining
As I'm typing this I cannot believe that there was a time when I did not outline my work! This new habit of outlining everything that I write has been just what the doctor ordered! Outlining is so important for a writer to understand how to incorporate the essential elements required for a story to be interesting to a reader. With an outline, you can clearly see where your character arches are, and build in tension within every chapter. With an outline, you can also easily see the trajectory of your story; that it actually does have a climax and a resolution. Without these structural components, your writing is at risk of including things that are not necessary for plot or character development.
2) Character Mapping
Character Mapping is a lot like plot outlining but is obviously specific to the character. Again, I can't believe that there was a time that I attempted to write fiction without mapping out each of my characters. In order for your story to work your characters need to have established themselves as believable, likable, and realistic people who are unique and whose voices can be distinguished from one another. In order to keep all your characters straight, you need to 'map' them out, determine what their likes/dislikes are, what they want and need and what obstacles are in their way. You need to have a clear idea of how each character propels the plot and adds to the conflict and tension. Another absolutely essential element of character, which can be almost impossible to implement without a map, is instituting character change. Your character has to change throughout your book, in order to be interesting to the readers. He or she needs to have learned a lesson, formed a different opinion of something important in his or her life, or change his or her desires, come to a new realization, etc.
3) Learn the Secret of Draft Writing
No matter what you are writing (a full-length novel, novella, poem, short story, etc) write with the understanding that your writing is never set in stone, not until it is published at least. That means that you can go back and fix anything, from grammar to word choice, to plot structure and overall flow of the writing. The important part is to just write it. Place your fingers on that keyboard and type. Don't do too much thinking. If you are a natural writer then you will notice that after a few pages of rubbish writing, the real brilliance starts to flow and you'll be inside that world that you've created.
These three writing procedures are critical to producing realistic, engrossing writing that won't take you over ten years to write.