Writing is easy, it’s just putting one word after another until you get a sentence and putting one sentence after another until you get a paragraph… However it’s the selection of those words that’s the headache, right?
I get asked by people to teach them to write like me, I find it extremely flattering because I know I am not yet a good writer- I just dey try small. Believe it or not, I have been offered money for this and it’s getting harder and harder to say no to this money 😉
I’d always thought of writing as a thing that is innate, it comes fully formed and you can only get better with time, it isn’t exactly true. While there is no denying the place of talent, the most important thing isn’t talent, the most important thing is the willingness to work at the craft.
One day I’ll make a series on writing that I’d probably feature in an online course or something… further down the road. Today we’ll just look at a few tips for the beginner writer.
What’s your story? If you do not know what you want to say, will you stand up to address a crowd? We both know that is a recipe for disaster. The same applies to writing especially as a beginner writer. Don’t sit in front of your laptop or writing journal without already plotting your message- Whatever it is. You could be brimming with ideas but when you get your pen to write, the ideas evaporate.
What to do? Get a tape recorder- there’s one in practically every smart phone, you could record voicenotes to yourself on whatsapp if your phone doesn’t have a voice recorder tab or you could download an app on your app store. Google playstore has several on offer and they’re free too.
When was the last time you read? Wanna be a writer and you are not a reader, epic fail! Even if you are the best storyteller in the world (even ancient storytellers started out by listening to the stories of other master griots/storytellers) you need to read to know how to present your stories better. Who do you want to write like? Read that person’s work. Even if you don’t want to write like someone- truly you shouldn’t, you should get a style that’s unique to you. Read, Read and Read.
I cannot overemphasize how important it is to read, read everything you can lay your hands on, even product manuals. You’ll never know when you’ll need to incorporate the knowledge you got from that blender manual into your story.
Do you have friends? It’s important to have someone in your corner who reads your work regularly, it’s a huge ego booster and trust me you need one as an aspiring writer. Get someone who knows a little about your niche- for instance asking my brother Obinna to be your regular reader is a waste of time. Unless you’re writing about programming or cars, then by all means ask him, he definitely knows more about them than you do.
If you can afford to (good editors don’t come cheap), get an editor especially a grammatically inclined one. You will make many typos along the way, make many mistakes- I know I did and still do, maybe you’ll find one or two in this post. You can also get a structural editor who’ll help you structure your work and eliminate any fat or add flesh as the case may be. He or she may completely rip your work to shreds and ask you to start over, so do not get emotionally attached to your writing especially if you are submitting it for publication- their editors may turn your story/piece to something unrecognisable.
Will you just write?! The best way to get better at writing is by writing. If you do not write, you will not get better- I’m serious. Even if you do not write well at first attempt, keep at it. There’s always room at the improvement hotel and every writer you know has been a guest there and for those who are still alive- they are still paying occupants.
It doesn’t matter if what you write makes no sense, continue writing and one day you’ll amaze yourself. One of my favourite pictures is the one on the banner of my blog, yes the one about writing crap. If I showed you the stuff (a story about old friends) I wrote when I was nineteen, you would cry for me. Sadly the story was interesting but I couldn’t convey my message well and someone made a snippy remark that haunted me. I didn’t start writing again until I was twenty-five, I really regret those years of silence because I know how much I have grown in the three years I have been writing. If only I hadn’t taken that comment to heart….
How far can you go? There’s a saying I love with all my heart- “know your limits and then exceed them”. Keep looking for opportunities to stretch your writing muscles, give yourself a challenge and surpass it. My primary love is poetry, even as a child I wrote poems daily. Today I’ve learned to write other things, even the fiction that was hard for me in the past. Be willing to wait, wait for YOU to grow, wait for your writing to flourish. If you’re going to blog, you should not let your stats become a factor in your enthusiasm. Linda Ikeji didn’t get significant traffic until her fourth year and she’s a gossip blogger! Consistency is key. I just looked at my stats now and when I went to my yearly stats, I saw that my stats for this year (January-June) have exceeded my 2015 stats. Continue to encourage yourself even when it looks bleak, especially when it all looks bleak.
There are many resources on writing available online, keep your eyes open and you’ll find them. When we had a dialogue assignment at last year’s Farafina workshop, I had to Google writing dialogue because I rarely wrote dialogue back then. When I was done, my dialogue assignment stood out. Funny thing is, today I love writing dialogue. I often have to restrict my dialogue writing most times.
Is there anything you’d like to add or even subtract… let me know in the comment section.