As a person who has spent 20 years writing without another soul seeing my work, I think it’s fair to say that I’m a self-proclaimed expert on the difficulty of sharing.
I think this is probably something many writers struggle with at first. That transition from our innermost thoughts being just that, to allowing them exposure to the critical assessment of others.
It’s daunting, I get that. Really, I do.
Why do you need to share? Why do you write?
This is the first question you need to answer before you go any farther. If you have no aspirations to publish or simply love to write but have no desire to do anything more with your work, then you should feel no burden or need to share. For a lot of my twenty years writing I was exactly this, happy to write, no burning need for it to go anywhere or be seen by anyone
I guess I got to a point where I felt, why not do something more? See what happens?
Yes, I did want to publish. Yes , I did want the satisfaction of sharing what I had done, and hopefully someone (even one person) saying yes, this work resonates with me.
So, why should you share your writing?
Feedback is the only way to learn and improve: This is the truth of it. Yes, reading books about writing techniques, blogs, and online articles are all very helpful, and there is no doubt they will improve your work. But! There is really no substitute for ‘just doing’ and receiving feedback. In my opinion this is the only true way to learn and grow.
We don’t often learn by doing something once, or even twice, and we don’t learn without any feedback at all. Learning is an iterative process, which by definition means you have to do it more than once.
It gives us confidence: I can attest to the fact that sharing is the one and only way to gain any level of confidence in your work. I think it becomes less daunting with each increment of sharing. Less traumatic, and more encouraging.
So, you are ready for some feedback, how do you proceed?
A friend: It can be hard to find a ‘friendly’ someone you know and trust to be gentle, but who at the same time, will provide some valuable feedback on your work. That’s a big ask, and not everyone will fit the bill. So take your time, choose carefully and be brave. Critique Partners
Share anonymously: Using sites such as Wattpad.
Professional feedback: There are all kinds of editing options out there. Developmental editing for example will assist in story structure, copy editing for grammar and punctuation, or proof reading if the story is almost there and you need a final check. See Editing v Proofreading
Generally, this is a service you need to pay for. I used a copy editor who also offered some amazing developmental insights. I learnt an insane amount by having my story professionally edited.
Beta readers: Are kind and wondrous beings who are prepared to read your work and offer feedback…for free. My advice on engaging beta readers is to be polite and mindful that they are doing this for FREE, so make sure you provide background on your book to ensure it is a genre they like. Also, check the type of feedback they provide, some will offer a lot of detail and some will give you a summary overview of what they thought. Note: They often have a queue of books to read, so find out upfront when they may be able to get around to reading your book, and ensure the timelines work for you both.
A Note on feedback: All feedback is invaluable, but, you need to be mindful that you don’t need to act on it all. Not all feedback providers are professional, and even if they are a professional, you still need to think it through. I would say that generally when someone gives you good advice you just know it. I usually read it, let it sink in, and then read it again a little later. You can pickup some amazing gems even from what may at first seem like a negative comment.
My own experience with friends, beta readers, and a professional editor is that very little of their feedback was disregarded. And if it was disregarded I understood exactly why.
So what’s holding you back?
If you are anything like me, and you struggle with the idea of sharing, ask yourself why you write and if you are ready for feedback.
A few encouraging words can provide a world of motivation!
So, if you haven’t shared before, why not jump in. You might be pleasantly surprised 🙂
Many people aspire to write a book, and most have no idea where to start. There are many ways to become a writer, but they all come down to one important activity…
Tip 1: Write stuff…
I am a great believer in not trying to eat the whole elephant. If you want to be a writer, and to write a book, you have to start by writing stuff. Unconstrained, nonsense, and whatever pops into your head. Try different genres and styles. Try for something short, and then try for something long.
After about 20 years of doing this…just kidding! After doing this for a while, which will be different for every writer, you start to get the hang of writing, and something interesting starts to unfold…which is usually a story idea.
Tip 2: When you get a story idea…
Maybe you have spent a bit of time at Tip 1, playing about with ideas before you find something that might work out into an actual story.
Or maybe you are the sort of person who wants to jump straight in at Tip 2 because you already know a story and you are chomping-at-the-bit to get it down. Let’s PAUSE. If this is your first ever story idea treat it as a bit of fun, and don’t be too disheartened if it becomes nothing more than ‘Tip 1 -stuff’ that ultimately you discard.
However you find yourself at Tip 2, there is no point in holding back. Write it, or plan it then write it, whatever works for you. One of two things will happen at this point:
- You realise this is a GREAT story idea and that it will pan out into an awesome book
- You get bored and realise it was FUN but it’s not worth pursuing, or not at this time, because you have just had another story idea that might be better still.
Tip 3: When you get an awesome story idea…
Usually you know when an idea for a story is something worthy of pursuit. Now you have to decide whether you need to plan or not. Planning is a matter of personal taste, some people swear by planning, some people loath it with the enthusiasm of a dental appointment.
For planning: People who get the most out of planning are the people who suffer from writers block. If you are the kind of person who finds themselves hemmed in when writing, or not sure what should happen next, planning is GOOD for you. It lets you nut out all the problems upfront so you don’t waste time on something that will go nowhere. Better to tackle all the blocks now than write 30k of words and discover you just don’t have a solution to a key plot point.
Against planning: People who never run out of ideas, who are always chasing the next shiny notion…and could simply write forever! If this is you STOP, and go back to the planning. This may sound harsh, but people with too many ideas suffer from a completely different problem to those who suffer from writers block, and that is what I refer to as ‘Infinite Story Syndrome’ also known as the ’10 book saga’. There is nothing wrong with ten book sagas I love ’em myself. But each book needs a level of conclusion and a little bit of planning, even for the idea masters, goes a long way to getting a good first book.
PS. There is a happy medium..and yes planning will help them too.
Tip 4: Get feedback sooner rather than later…
A trusted friend or confidant is what every writer needs. Someone to sanity check your idea to make sure it’s not a complete dud. Once it is drafted look for beta readers. They will be delighted to pick holes in your plot and make it stronger in doing so.
Tip 5: There is nothing wrong with trying…
I must have a couple of hundred story ideas floating about in bits, scribbled dialog, plot points, and random chapters. All of which were great for my ‘Tip 1-Write Stuff’. I only finished 3 books completely to the draft stage. It was the 3rd one I decided I liked enough to edit, and I am now about to publish. The first 2 drafts—I am going to abandon—and I feel no guilt in that.
I have subsequently finished writing the next 3 books in the series. I spent a lot of time ‘writing stuff’, playing about with ‘story ideas’ and I even drafted a couple of ‘awesome story ideas’ into a full novel, before I found a book I felt worthy of publishing, and I don’t regret any of this time. It helped me to find my writers voice. I had fun. It gave me confidence.
Tip 6: Quality is never a waste of time…
I learnt a massive amount about quality by having my book professionally edited…grammar is definitely not my strong point! A writing course if you can afford it is worth while, but otherwise there is a ton of fantastic free information on the internet, and plenty of great books you can buy to improve your skills that way. No time spent on improving your writing quality is ever wasted time.
Tip 7: Simply read…
The last tip goes without saying…but just in case…when you settle on a genre, read it—a lot.
More more posts on writing…
Am I the only writer who is indecisive when it comes to my character names?
I don’t have any children, and yet I firmly believe naming a child would be far easier than naming a character in a book! Let’s face it you know exactly who you want your child to be when they grow up and a name is a massive part of this. But when you are naming a character in a book you experience so many conflicts of interest and dilemmas that its enough to make your head spin.
How many writers have a link to the latest top baby names website in their quick links/ favourites?
Ok, enough said.
More irony anyone?
Do you pick a name that suits your character’s personality, for example do you give your evil villain a gritty, villainesk name? Or do you choose the ironic option say something ‘fluffy’? Or even something normal?
Growing into our names…
Do you ever get the feeling that your characters grow into their names, or do they fight against it? While the real world has numerous examples of how your name can influence everything from job opportunities and salary to your likelihood of falling into a life of crime, it also has plenty of conflicts. For example the man who named his two sons ‘winner’ and ‘loser’ (let’s not get into a debate on why). Winner went on to be a criminal and loser went on to be a cop!
As a writer though, do we find ourselves attributing a personality and looks to our character simply based on their name?
I know as a reader I do, so I can’t help but think that subconsciously when I am writing I do the same.
Yeah, I still can’t decide…
I have been writing my current book for nearly ten years off and on. It is ready for publishing and has been through numerous rounds of editing, and I still find myself questioning the names! Ok, it’s not the main characters anymore, but I just can’t help giving some of the minor players a little tweak 🙂
For more cartoons by Tom Gauld… http://myjetpack.tumblr.com
Divided Serenity is out now on all Amazon stores, and free with Kindle Unlimited.
The journey starts with a single step—not with thinking about taking a step.
Jeff Olson, The slight edge.
If you need some fresh writerly inspiration, here is a list of things you can do to help generate new story ideas and rework old ones.
It’s the most obvious one, and it’s still the best. Reading can provide a bounty of ideas to use in your own work (..but maybe not plagiarise!)
It’s a great way to pick up style tips too!
Walking releases your mind to wonder off in the same way that your body does.
It doesn’t matter whether the route is new or familiar, either will help to set your mind free to explore new concepts in an unstructured way.
Loading up with a few key ideas just before you leave can inspire more detailed outlines for anything from a scene to a book.
Tip: Always take your smart phone / pad with you so you can jot any notes down as you go.
This may sound like the worst thing a writer can do, but shows and movies can really generate a plethora of lovely new ideas.
Music can inspire us in so many different ways.
A strong beat can really kick-off an action scene.
A new track can generate an entire story skeleton.
And of course, music can greatly influence the mood of our writing if we listen to it while we write.
Newspapers and articles can spark little gems that often turn into a juicy story concept.
They can also help us to research a specific scene.
People are the ultimate story inspiration.
I’m not suggesting you take you’re best friend’s relationship disaster and use it for book fodder!
But people are inspiring, and it can often happen in subtle or subconscious ways.
Taking a holiday somewhere new, joining a club, and generally embracing new experiences are all awesome for discovering new perspectives.
Our minds and our thoughts are only as good as the information we put into them, and opening ourselves to new experiences is a great way to generate surprising and intriguing ideas.
“When you start writing, the magic comes when the characters seem to take on a life of their own and write the words themselves.”
Divided Serenity is available to buy on all Amazon stores, and if you have Kindle Unlimited, it’s Free!