Monday, March 17, 2014

I want to be a writer... Where do I start?

A few weeks ago before youth group, one of my former AWANA clubbers came up to me with a big smile on her face.

“I read your book when it first came out, and I want to be a writer too,” she said. “I have all these ideas, and I don’t know where to start. What can you tell me?”

Wow. What can I tell her? Writing is such an adventure and a non-stop learning journey – and I am a very long way from my destination. However, I’d be glad to share a couple basics I’ve learned that I hope will help my friend – and any other aspiring writers.

Write what you know.

I learned this concept in my college creative writing class. For a Civil War history buff, historical fiction might be a good fit, but not Amish mysteries. For someone who enjoys teaching and Bible study, perhaps devotionals would be a good place to start.

However, I would encourage any writer not to limit himself by only what he knows. We can always research and expand upon what we know. We writers must never stop learning.

Jump at opportunities to improve your craft.

This could be as simple as taking a creative writing class or participating in a writer’s group. It could be as big an investment as attending a writer’s conference.

This was my second year attending the Florida Christian Writer’s Conference (FCWC), and I can’t say enough how helpful, informative, and inspiring a writer’s conference can be.

Here’s my list of why I love writer’s conferences…
… I’m surrounded by people who are as crazy (or crazier) about my craft than I am.
… I have a chance to meet with editors and agents and present my work in person (instead of hoping my query wiggles its way to the top of some editor’s slush pile).
… I can attend workshops, critique groups, develop friendships, and network with other authors.

Even if a writer’s conference seems intimidating, make it one of your goals. It will help you take your writing seriously.

Develop “rhinoceros” skin.

As writers, we have to have thick skin. At my first writer’s conference, someone called this “rhinoceros” skin. Not only must we accept criticism, but we must learn to welcome it.

I may have shared this story before, but it’s worth sharing again. One of my professors in college announced at the beginning of the semester that for our writing assignments, she would select the worst submissions, and we would critique them as a class.

All of us grimaced, hoping and praying ours wouldn’t be picked. However, we quickly discovered that if ours were selected, we were nearly guaranteed an A on the assignment after revisions. Score!

Learn to welcome feedback and suggestions. They will only help your writing become stronger.

Have a support system in place.

As much as criticism can help us write better, let’s be honest. It often hurts. Rejection hurts even more.

That’s why having a support system in place is so important.

I like how Ellie Kay described the need for what she called “author partnerships.” During one of her keynote addresses at FCWC this year, she outlined five types of people writers need in their lives:

1.       The encourager – Someone who comes alongside us and believes in us.
2.       The fun friend – Someone who helps us “lighten up” and have fun.  (Yes, we writers sometimes take ourselves far too seriously!)
3.       The adventurer – Someone who pushes us to try new things and to attempt things that scare us.
4.       The artist – Someone who helps us perfect our craft.  
5.       The prophet – Someone who speaks truth into our lives and helps us be accountable.
Do you want to be a writer? Start with what you know, and embrace the adventure ahead! If I can be of any help to you in your writing, please contact me on my author website.

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