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  • Pamela Cosel

How does a new writer get started?

I read a post on another site from a beginning writer who didn't know how to get started. Having been a writer for more than 35 years, I shared my personal tips with her. While writing comes easy to some, it also means one should "learn the craft" of writing. It's not that hard overall and there are many resources available for beginning writers.

My advice was:

1. Write, write, write -- about whatever matters to you. Get it on paper via pen or using a computer. Sometimes the flow of ink on a page feels marvelous as your brain engages and you see it on that yellow legal pad. It works for me, at least in the initial idea stage. Writing something doesn't mean it has to be published, but it's a good exercise to get the flow going. Put it in a file if you're not sure it's good enough, mull it over for a few weeks or months...and go back to it. You'll see it with fresh eyes -- and likely be amazed that your words read well and touch your soul. If not, then continue to revise. All the great published writers revise!

2. Join a writing critique group. This camaraderie and support goes a long way to garner positive feedback and encouragement. The suggestions one's peers make are valuable to a beginning writer.

3. Attend a writers' conference at least once. Mingling with other writers is exciting, and each gets to meet agents and publishing company representatives. The general and breakout sessions are always helpful, especially to a writer who doesn't really know how to get started. There are many conferences around the country -- most likely near a person's own city, which keeps costs affordable.

4. Read, read, read -- books by the authors whose work you like. It helps to see the sentence pacing and voice, which may influence your own writing voice development. Expect that your voice and sentence structure will change as you mature in the craft.

5. Subscribe to / read writing books and magazines. While every article may not have nuggets of gold, many of them will, especially for the beginning writer. Two I've subscribed to for many years are Writer's Digest and The Writer. I've kept a number of them to refer back to if some of the articles have been especially valuable to me. There are digital versions available in addition to print. Just a few of the writing books I own are "Bird By Bird" by Anne Lammot, "On Writing" by Stephen King, "The Art of Fiction" by John Gardner, "The Writer's Journey" by Christopher Vogler, and "Writing the Breakout Novel" by Donald Maass -- who was a keynote speaker at a conference I attended a few years ago. It was great to meet and talk with him.

6. Don't be afraid to jump in and start. I was in sixth grade when I realized I wanted to be a writer. I lacked courage then, but not imagination. I'd make up dialogue and plot lines in my head often. It took me until adulthood to put the stories to paper. Looking back, I know I should have started earlier. Life gets in the way -- but that's what stories are made of!

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