How To Become A Writer

Do you want to know how to become a writer?

Here is a fun view of the writer’s journey.

First, there is the fear…

You slowly start to get traction.

But where are the readers?

How to become a writer

 

You start to make friends online.

how to become a writer

 

You meet amazing people.

 

But you still feel that you’re not a real writer…

How to become a writer

 

Sometimes, you just want to hide away.

how to become a writer

 

But within, hidden strength is growing.

how to become a writer

 

Not everyone is happy about that…

 

But you know that you’re onto a winner!

how to become a writer

 

And finally …

You sing your song  - and the world hears you.

That’s how you become a writer.

***

Do these pictures resonate with you? Please share in the comments.

About the author: 

Mary Jaksch is  Editor-in-Chief at WritetoDone.com and Creator of A-List Blogging. After creating two super-successful blogs of her own, Mary has dedicated herself to teaching students to grow profitable blogs that attract attention. Take her fun quiz to see how much you know about what makes a blog successful.

Dragons, Mommy Rabbits, and the Terror of Fictional Improvisation

fictional improvisation Does fear sometimes stop you from writing?

You see, the problem is that writers need to improvise.

And that can be terrifying.

Because there is no map that can help us get our idea or story onto the page.

Here’s how Charles Baxter described the process:

Sitting in the dark of Gregory’s room, with a cigar in his hand and Glenn Miller playing “Chattanooga Choo-Choo” softly beside him, Jerome began a bunny story. “Once upon a time, there was a bunny who lived with his mommy and daddy in a bunny hole at the edge of the great green wood.” All the other bunny stories started with that sentence. After it, Jerome was deep in the terror of fictional improvisation. ~Charles Baxter: Harmony of the World: Stories

Most writers have to dive deep into the terror of fictional or factional improvisation each time they write. It’s like walking into a dark wood where there are not only mom and pop rabbits – but also dragons.

What are your dragons?

For most of us, the dragons of fear and self-doubt lurk out there in the darkness.

Like in any dragon story, here’s the deal: you kill the dragon – or the dragon kills you. [Tweet this]

Let’s take a look at how to find ease and joy when improvising. But first, let me ask you a question.

Are you a brilliant writer?

Writing continues to be a scary proposition for me, as I don’t see myself as particularly talented and I wonder how much longer I’ll be able to massage novels out of my meagre storehouse of gifts. From Elizabeth George: Write Away – One Novelist’s Approach to Fiction and the Writing Life

Well, I’m not a brilliant writer. And maybe you aren’t, either.

That’s okay.

You don’t need to be a brilliant writer. You just need to be a ‘good enough’ writer.

And you must be willing to learn and practice. Because ninety percent of good writing is craft – and not innate talent.

Let’s talk about improvising.

The magic of the first thought

I recently joined Toastmasters to hone my ability to speak in public.

One of the exercises that I found most challenging is called Table Topics. It’s an improvisational exercise where you have to stand up and improvise on a random topic.

This exercise taught me something important:

The first thought is pure gold.

But it’s sometimes off the wall. If we discount the first thought, our creativity dries up and we instantly become self-conscious.

I found that if I let rip with my first thought and let it lead me –  something emerges that surprises everyone (myself included).

It’s the same with writing.

The first thought is precious. But it is often unexpected, or weird, or quirky.

My suggestion is to follow your first thought and let it lead you.

The magic of your first thought will lead you through the dark forest of mommy rabbits and dragons.

It will be your guide through the terror of fictional improvisation.

Trust it.

Oh, and talking of dragons… What is YOUR dragon? (Please share in the comments).

About the author: Mary Jaksch is  Editor-in-Chief at WritetoDone.com and Creator of A-List Blogging. After creating two super-successful blogs of her own, Mary has dedicated herself to teaching students to grow profitable blogs that attract attention. Take her fun quiz to see how much you know about what makes a blog successful.

Image Girl with Sword courtesy of Bigstockphoto.com.

3 Habits That Separate Good Writers From Tragic Wannabes

picture of good writer You want to become a good, maybe even a great, writer.

You study books on writing. You follow blogs on writing. Hell, you’ve even thought about taking a writing class.

But you’re tormented by a recurring thought.

What if you’re wasting your time? What if good writing simply isn’t in your DNA?

What if no amount of study and practice will take you from where you are now to where you want to be?

Because, let’s face it, not everyone can be a good writer.

 

The persistent myth of good writing

 

A certain snobbery exists around writing.

You may even be guilty of it yourself.

Literary fiction is better than genre fiction. Journalism is better than blogging. “Real” books are better than e-books.

But one form of writing is not inherently better than another. Good writing doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

 

The only true measure of whether a piece of writing is any good is the impact it has on its intended audience.

Did it engage them? Did it move them? Did it change them?

All other questions are irrelevant.

Of course, this creates a problem for serious writers like you who want to hone their skills. Because by the time you publish your work and learn your audience’s reaction, it’s too late to make any changes.

And if your writing isn’t connecting with your audience, the most common reaction is no reaction at all:

  • No comments on your latest blog post.
  • No emails praising (or damning) your bold manifesto.
  • No reviews of your latest Kindle novel.

So where does that leave you? How do you get good? How do you know if it’s even possible?

 

The big question: can anyone become a good writer?

 

I’ll come out and say it.

I don’t believe that just anyone can become a good writer.

Likewise, I don’t believe just anyone can become a good mathematician, a good artist or a good chef. Because nature inevitably plays its part.

But deep down, this may actually reassure you. After all, who wants to be good at something that anyone can master?

And while I don’t believe anyone can become a good writer, I do passionately believe everyone can become a better writer.

Before you get good, you need to get better.

 

3 essential steps to better writing

 

Becoming a better writer boils down to three simple steps:

1. Study – you learn the principles of good writing and the conventions of your chosen form. You study the rules of grammar and learn when it’s okay to break them. You seek to understand other elements of good writing, such as tone, pace and structure. You explore purpose and theme. And you recognize that there will always be more to learn.

 

2. Practice – you write and rewrite until your work is as good as your current skills allow. You create a writing habit and commit to a daily target. You write when you’re in the zone and you write when you’re not. You write when friends are out having fun because you said to them: “No, I have to write.”

 

3. Feedback – you seek comments and criticism from other writers, friends, teachers, perhaps a mentor. You know these people are an imperfect stand-in for your real audience, but understand that feedback is the fuel that drives your advancement. And when the feedback suggests that your writing falls short, you return to study and to practice.

 

This learning cycle is essential because it helps you to hone your writing instincts. It trains the internal critic that guides the hundreds of tiny decisions you make each time you sit down and write.

But it won’t teach you everything you need to become a good writer.

 

The elusive qualities of good writing that can’t be taught

 

While study, practice and feedback will improve your technical skills as a writer, some of the essential qualities of good writing are more elusive:

  • Empathy – the ability to put yourself in the mind of your reader or your characters. Empathy allows the blogger or freelance writer to connect powerfully with their chosen audience. It helps the novelist create believable characters who are nothing like their creator.

 

  • Imagination – the unique ideas and connections that exist below the surface of your writing. Imagination helps the fantasy writer create unfamiliar yet believable worlds. It helps a non-fiction author view an old problem from a fresh perspective. It gives the short story writer the premise for her next tale.

 

  • Passion – a love of language, a desire to communicate, and a delight in telling stories. Passion is the creative energy that carries you through times of uncertainty and rejection. It’s the voice that says quietly and consistently “be a writer.”

 

These are the qualities that help you capture the heads and hearts of your audience.

These are the qualities that create a unique and urgent voice that doesn’t need to fight for attention.

These are the qualities that separate the good writers from the tragic wannabes.

But if empathy, imagination and passion can’t be learned, how are they acquired?

 

The simple habits that give you a shot at greatness as a writer

 

Surprisingly, the habits that give you the best chance of becoming a good writer have little to do with writing.

But if you integrate them into your life, they’ll take you closer to being a good writer than any teacher or mentor:

  • Live fully outside your writing. Life experiences are the fuel for authentic and powerful writing. Go out of your way to meet and understand different types of people – it will build your empathy muscle. Put yourself in new, even challenging, situations. Absorb everything. Life may sometimes imitate art, but more often, life inspires art.

 

  • Cultivate eclectic tastes. Read widely beyond the confines of your subject or genre. Watch film and television in a variety of genres – fiction and non-fiction – and listen to talks and podcasts on a wide range of topics. Unusual influences will make your writing stand out from your peers. Unexpected connections are the sparks that create new ideas and striking viewpoints.

 

  • Indulge your passions. True passion is a rare commodity and should be embraced wherever it arises. Don’t dismiss or downplay interests that seem unusual, uncool or irrelevant. Be bold in your enthusiasms and seek out others who share them. Learn to tolerate feeling different and precarious. Uninhibited passion tends to spills over into other areas of your life.

 

Are you ready to get good?

 

Anyone can become a better writer. It takes study, practice and feedback. And the right teachers and mentors will speed your progress.

But you don’t have a shot at becoming a good writer until you stop thinking of writing as a skill to be learned, but as one facet of a much larger project: to become someone worth listening to.

Because the world doesn’t crave people who’ve simply mastered the mechanics of good writing. But it will always need more writers with bold ideas to spread, and new stories to tell.

So which habits will you adopt to get good? Let me know in the comments.

 

About the author:

is the editor of BoostBlogTraffic.com, which helps people get more traffic and make money blogging. He’s also a writing instructor over at GuestBlogging.com – find out how to get your first 1,000 subscribers by writing for some of the world’s most popular blogs.

Image: Good writer courtesy of Bigstockphoto

How to Write a Poem (and Why This Will Help You Become a Better Writer)

how to write a poem Recently, I re-read a little book I created some years ago.

It’s a book of poems.

I collected my poems and then ‘published’ them in a book I handcrafted myself.

It made a special gift for my loved ones.

I’m not what people call ‘a poet,’ but I do tend to write poems now and then. Especially at key moments of my life.

The poems I created some years ago trigger memories, emotions and sentiments.

They are like condensed journal entries.

 

Do you write poems?

Not? Well, maybe you should.

Writing a poem means paring down your experience to just a few words or phrases.

 

This is great training for whatever else you write.

I know that my own writing has been shaped and improved by writing poems.

When you write a poem, the challenge is to capture a moment, a feeling or a fleeting thought. Here is one of my poems that invokes a moment when my son, Sebastian, went to visit his new-born half-sister.

 

Little Red Car

He waved to me

As he got onto the plane

Lifting his skateboard high

In his luggage

The little red car

For his new sister.

At the big old house

He used to play with it

In his room halfway up the landing,

Pushing it over the blue vinyl

With gold flecks

He was little then

And liked to crawl into my bed

At night.

When I pushed him out of my body

And gathered him to my heart

All wet and tiny

No one told me

He would become a man

The very next day.

 

Some simple suggestions on how to write a poem

 

First of all, it’s important to let go of any ideas of writing a ‘good’ poem. Your poems are memories frozen in time. They don’t need to be important to anyone else.

Here are a few pointers that make writing poems enjoyable:

 

Focus on a particular moment

 

Poems work best if you focus on a moment that expresses an emotion or is a metaphor for an idea.

Such moments occur every day. We just need to notice them.

Imagine you see a cicada shell on the ground. At that moment you might remember that cicadas emerge from years in the ground – and then only live and sing for a couple of weeks. Here is what Zen poet Basho made of such a moment:

Shell of a cicada

It sang itself away

completely

The more details you use, the more vivid your poem will be. Sensory details help your readers to identify emotionally with your poem.

Here are some questions to elicit sensory details:

 

If your poem is set in a location, what do you see?

What colors are there?

What do you hear?

What do you taste or smell?

 

If a person is the focus of your poem, what details are telling?

What do they look like?

What do they say?

What do they see?

 

Here is a short poem with rich details by William Carlos Williams

 

This Is Just To Say

I have eaten

the plums

that were in

the icebox

and which

you were probably

saving

for breakfast

Forgive me

they were delicious

so sweet

and so cold

 

The fun of found poems

found poetry

A found poem uses words from non-poetic contexts and turns them into poetry. It’s like a collage. You can find scraps of sentences in your everyday life and put them together to make a poem.

Here is where you can find material for your language collage:

  • instruction books
  • recipes
  • scraps of conversations
  • horoscopes
  • textbooks
  • dictionaries
  • graffiti
  • phone messages, notes you’ve written to yourself
  • shopping lists
  • billboards

Here are two examples of found poems. The first one is by William Whewell who found the following poem in a treatise of mechanics:

 An Elementary Treatise on Mechanics

Hence no force,

however great,

can stretch a cord,

however fine,


into a horizontal line

which is accurately straight.

 

The poet Hart Seely found poetry in the speeches and news briefings of Donald Rumsfeld. Here is one of his tongue-in-cheek poems:

 Unknown

 As we know,

There are known knowns.

There are things we know we know.

We also know

There are known unknowns.

That is to say

We know there are some things

We do not know.

But there are also unknown unknowns,

The ones we don’t know

We don’t know.

 

If you want to create a ‘found poem,’ make sure you carry a notebook around with you. Jot down any interesting bits of language you find. You’ll find that your ordinary life turns into a treasure hunt!

 

 Editing: the crucial phase

 

The most important part of writing a poem is to pare it down to the essential. When you edit your poem, you need to test every word to see if it can be left out.

If you are lucky, you might end up with just a few words.

Here is a celebrated poem by William Carlos Williams where most of the content is pared away, and only a few poignant words remain:

 

The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.

 

 

What about you?

 

Do you write poems? If so, please share your poem so we can all enjoy it.

Or maybe you have a favorite poem someone else wrote?

Please share your poems and thoughts in the comment section.

 

About the author:

Mary Jaksch is Editor-in-Chief at WritetoDone.com and Creator of A-List Blogging. After creating two super-successful blogs of her own, Mary has dedicated herself to teaching students to grow profitable blogs that attract attention. Take her fun quiz to see how much you know about what makes a blog successful.

Thanks to Bigstockphoto.com for Brunette Lying on Grass
Found Poem on Flickr.

What Are YOU Writing?

picture of person writing What are you working on right now?

A novel? Your best article ever? A poem? A film script?

Maybe you’ve just finished something you’re really proud of? Or you just can’t tell whether it should get a Pulitzer or be thrown into the trash?

Here’s your chance to share and discuss with each other what you are writing about.

Whet our appetite with the opening paragraph of your future bestseller or give us a link to your best article. Tell us: what are you writing at the moment?

Who knows, your piece might even attract the notice of a major publishing house!

Here are some guidelines:

 

Writers:

 

State what aspect you’re working on. For example, you might want to say, “Here’s a link to my article “Whatever.” I’m currently working on eliminating superfluous words.”

 

Commenters:

 

* When commenting, first list everything you really like about a piece.
* Only then offer careful suggestions.
* Treat each other with respect, friendliness, caring, and honesty.
* Remember that we are all still learning.

 

Now it’s over to you. Take a deep breath. Then jump into the comment section and bring out your treasures!

 

About the author: 

Mary Jaksch is Editor-in-Chief at WritetoDone.com and Creator of A-List Blogging. After creating two super-successful blogs of her own, Mary has dedicated herself to teaching students to grow profitable blogs that attract attention. Take her fun quiz to see how much you know about what makes a blog successful.

Image: Writing courtesy of Bigstockphoto