“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”― Maya Angelou
I have decided to write you a letter to introduce some advice for writing, and for prospective writers. Even if you, reader, are not keen on, plan on, or focused on a career writing, or writing itself, I recommend that you spend a little time reading this post to get some insight about writing. You may be surprised what you find here. If it doesn’t come to your liking, then I appreciate your time anyway. If it does help, then I am happy as a writer can be.
Writing is a wonderful thing, and I’m hoping this advice will help you. I must note, that I am still going through my own process, so I am not guaranteeing success for you. I am, rather, encouraging that you see writing in a different perspective, and that you gain confidence in yourself as a writer.
My Best wishes,
Julian A. Menjivar
Before I continue, any section marked with a “ **” is a collection of information gathered by professional writers and credible sources.
Common Problems For Writers
The Truth in the Lie
Avid readers are also avid writers.
This is only partly true. Some writers don’t like to read, and write just fine.
It makes sense that if you love writing and reading you’d want to make a career of it.
Just like all professions, there are those individuals that only write for the money, and hate it later, or who write just to become the next big author out there. And writing doesn’t have to be a lifestyle. You can make it a hobby and still love it just the same.
Once You Have Been Published, You Can Quit Your Job
This is perhaps the biggest misconception in the book. Not every author—perhaps only 1%–are like J.K. Rowling who can do this.
What Matters is How Well You Write
You can write the best damn paper in the world—if it’s too long/short, is unclear, or the audience doesn’t relate to it, then it doesn’t matter how well you write.
You Always Have to be Original
At this point, human beings have been around for hundreds of years, so it’s kind of difficult to do this—unless all people suddenly lost their memory.
Self-Publishing Works Aren’t Legit
It’s the opposite actually.
The Writing Life is So Glamorous
Uh…no. Who ever told you this is probably not a serious writer, or hasn’t struggled in their writing journey.
Writing is always difficult for non-writers and non-English Majors/minors.
Never has been true, and never will be. All of us struggle with writing, even writers. Nothing is ever easy, and nothing great is gained if it was just handed to us.
Good writing must be perfect—especially on the first try.
Nothing is ever perfect, so don’t aspire to make it so.
Writers are Born Talented, not taught.
Everything in life that looks amazing and flawless is due to intensive dedication and practice. Writing is no exception.
Instructors Care Primarily about Grammar, Punctuation, and Spelling
Maybe in high school they are, but in college and in the work force, it’s all about quality and quantity. Grammar is still developing in the English language, and ben professionals struggle with commas.
It is Inappropriate to Use “I” in Writing
I is a personal word. Use it to make a connection, or to make a stronger argumentative piece.
Always begin at the beginning
This is a big cause for writer’s block. Think of writing as Frankenstein’s monster. Sure, it may looked jumbled up and messy now, but after arranging the pieces, you’ll come up with a masterpiece.
** Obstacles & Hurdles
These are some general constant personal struggles of both writers and non-writers when they talk about the difficulties and challenges of writing.
“ I have Writer’s Block, and I get stuck often”
“I have to wait for inspiration to write. Only writing that comes out of a rush of inspiration is true or good.”
“I can’t write until I figure out what I want to say.”
“If I were a ‘real’ writer, my first drafts would all be wonderful.”
“Every word I write in a rush of inspiration is sacred and I cannot change it.”
:Any criticism of my writing means that I’m a bad writer.”
“If I’m never going to be as good a writer as ________________ , why try?”
“If I write what I really feel or think, other people will think I’m stupid, crazy, dangerous, abnormal, etc.”
These are the struggles, obstacles and dissuading reasons why people are turned off from writing, reading and literary exploration. Later on, we will look on ways to resolve these issues, while also addressing that there is a problem, and that you finally learn what it is!
**Professional Tactics-13 Golden Rules For The Writer
1) Give it time to breathe and settle. Just like a fine wine, writing often benefits from resting for a bit, and the writer benefits as well. When you’ve written, edited and rewritten a new version, walk away from it, even if you can only give it 10 minutes, while you go get a treat. 9 times out of 10, you’ll spot some mistake or need for improvement in your writing when you look at it with a refreshed perspective.
2) Make sure all parts are relevant
Just because you have a lot of great quotes and data doesn’t mean you need to include it all. Summarize or paraphrase key information, and condense quotes. If you can’t read a sentence without running out of breath, it’s too long and needs editing.
3) Give examples.
Just as simple storytelling helps messages get across, giving examples can provide readers with a visual image that makes your words memorable. Just be careful you don’t decide to provide an example that is lengthy or still unclear. Descriptive is always a plus.
4) Make it visually appealing.
Most readers are willing to give any written piece about 4.5 seconds of their time, so using bullet points, subheadings or graphics can be helpful in getting them to stick around longer.
5) Observe your Surroundings
If you don’t think you have anything to write about, think again. There’s inspiration everywhere—you just have to be paying attention.
6). Find Your Space
How and where do you write best? Everyone is different, and this is where it is ok to remain in your comfort zone. Sometimes, it even helps to find a comfortable position or set of clothing, once you find a space. So, rather than trying to force yourself to write at a specific location, try out different spaces until you find what feels good.
7) Write Now, Edit Later
Your own worst critic—in writing and in life. So, when you’re writing, it’s really important not to judge what you write down right away. Even experienced writers don’t produce a perfect first draft, so setting your expectations too high from the outset is unrealistic and discourages you from writing. Don’t try to write too carefully or too intelligently or too accurately. In fact, stop trying, period. Writing goes much better when you don’t work so hard at it or criticize your every word. Even if you need to do a research paper, get some thoughts on paper. Write down what you know, build a skeleton that you can add to, and then add more research t later. Don’t let a lack of immediate knowledge hinder you.
8) Read Your Work Aloud
In most cases, you should write like you talk. Even if you tend to use a casual tone, that’s OK—it will help you sound more realistic and understandable. You can correct obvious mistakes later–writing reflects the way you speak, which often showcases the most authentic version of yourself. As silly as you may feel, it’s the best way to make sure what you’ve written makes sense. Anything that doesn’t flow, is confusing, or is missing a word or two will quickly make itself apparent. If you are comfortable, read aloud to someone, to see if it makes sense to them.
9) Just Write
If your goal is to truly improve, the more you do it, the better. Take advantage of any opportunity to hone your skills. Compose well-crafted emails and clever tweets, start a personal blog, or ask for more writing projects at work or school.
10) Keep a journal.
Writing in a journal can help you improve your writing skills—it sounds corny and childish, but it actually works (Stephanie Meyer, author of the Twilight Series, kept a notebook by her beside). It can also help you discover new story ideas that could be developed into the next best-seller. When you write in your journal, don’t censor or edit anything out. Just write, and let the words flow.
11) Read beyond what you normally read.
If you have a preference for fantasy, sci-fi, romance, memoirs and all those other wonderful genres, get out of your comfort zone and read something different.
12). Join a writer’s group/ Attend a workshop.
Writer’s conferences and workshops are good places to meet editors, literary agents, publishers, and other writers. The sharing of ideas is always intrinsically valuable. You can take a class or two and improve your writing skills in no time, and the contacts you make are invaluable to your career.
13). Practice Writing Outside Class/Work.
Write to improve your writing skills. When you think you’ve finished writing, write some more. Set a goal for a writing count, or trying a different style. When you think you’ve really finished writing, keep on writing. To improve, you should try to write five days a week, 50 weeks per year, if not more. Writing requires care, dedication and time. (If you want to improve your skills and strive to be a best-seller, start writing at least 1,000 words every day.)
My Own Personal Advice
You can heed it or not. I’m not saying my advice is foolproof, but this is what I personally have learned from writing and from my life as a writer.
1) Write like yourself, for yourself, or for someone you care deeply about. Don’t try to emulate your heroes, or please others, and don’t judge yourself too harshly..
2) Writing is not a born talent, nor a learned skill. It is a learned talent
3) There is no correct and supreme style or way to write—take risks and experiment (especially if you’re in college).
4) Writing is like lying—you have to convince yourself before you convince others.
5) Your life is a story—so go live it, record it, and share it, or else, exaggerate and make up a different one (and that’s ok)
6) Prying is justified, as long as it’s for the sake of creative inspiration.
7) Never underestimate writers and the written word–or any one for that matter.
8) Don’t play games, and don’t lead others on…unless it’s Game of Thrones.
9) If you have a secret identity and live a double life, use him/her in your writing-they are still a part of you.
10) It’s Perfectly Fine To Cry, scream, punch a wall, and lay down When Blocked and Stressed.
11) Perfection is overrated
12) It’s ok to feel doubtful and angry at yourself, especially when You’re New to this.
13) When people say writing isn’t hard, just smile and laugh, and walk away with confidence.
14) You have to be cruel to be kind, and you have to fail to succeed
15) Remember this—as a writer, you have a skill everyone wishes they had, or needs.
16) Stop comparing yourself to others, especially your enemies. It’s a waste of time, and no one cares, except you.
17) We all have perceptions and assumptions of other people. Don’t let these define who you are or who you want to be—let writing and presentation define that.
18) A Penn Name/Psuedonym does not make you cooler or a better writer.
19) Just because you have the title of “Author” or “Writer” doesn’t make you a literary genius or superhero—it also means that everyone will expect you to have read every book ever written, so be prepared to eye roll.
20) When people mock your writing career or major, just remember—they probably suck at writing, and that you are the best damn writer there is, and it’s ok to think that.
21) If other people—especially in high school–think writing is gay, for p#$sies, stupid, a waste of time, and is for soft hearted people, look them in the eye and, in a calm, strong voice, tell them to piss off—or what ever it is you want to really say.
22) Never recieve critique from a best friend (especially if they aren’t in your class), enemy, or family members.
23) If you don’t bond with your professor, don’t be afraid to seek counsel elsewhere
24) Deadlines! Remember to post, print, or submit your work in the right place at the right time. P.S. Being early is on time, being on time is late.
“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be… all human thoughts and writings are but repetition of earlier thoughts held by others, strung together in new variations.”
“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”
“The first draft of everything is shit.”
“Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.
“There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.”
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot….Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay?”
“You can make anything by writing.”
“The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.”
EDGAR ALLAN POE
“Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality.”
“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
“Always carry a notebook. And I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea for ever.”
W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM
“If you can tell stories, create characters, devise incidents, and have sincerity and passion, it doesn’t matter a damn how you write.”
“Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page a day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.”
“You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.”
“True originality consists not in a new manner but in a new vision.”
“I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.”
I’ve been writing since I was six. It is a compulsion, so I can’t really say where the desire came from; I’ve always had it. My breakthrough with the first book came through persistence, because a lot of publishers turned it down!”
I’ve learned it helps me to work out the key structural points before I begin a story. The inciting incident, acts, breaks, mid-story reversal, crisis, climax, those sorts of things. I’ll know a lot of what fills the spaces between them as well, but I leave some uncharted room for the characters to develop. And if a door opens along the way, and I’m intrigued by where it leads, I’ll definitely go through it.
Is Writing Worth It?
That’s again up to you. Being a skilled writer and published author is not an impossible dream. It’s closer to reality than you might believe.
So, personally for me, Hell Yes!!! Writing is worth it—it’s a part of who I am, and I want to be the best writer I can.