As you know, I am a prospective writer myself (I also like the term unpublished writer), so I don’t have much experience… but I’ve been at this stage for a long time and everyone’s journey is different. Sometimes it’s better to share your experience before too much time has passed, I think, so this is what I’m doing hoping it will help other people out.
- Read a lot.
Especially in the genres you want to write. There’s no better way to know what the tropes are, what has been done before, and what the readers are going to expect and demand.
You may realize that your original ideas have been done many times before, but don’t get discouraged. As a reader, you’ll know that every work is different and you’ll always want to read more of what you love.
However, you may also notice that something is missing in your favourite genre and find a way to contribute by making it more diverse.
Some people avoid reading in their genre while they’re writing, so as not to be influenced by other works. That’s fine, and reading other genres may help during those long periods of time, but I think it’s important to note that those writers have been avid readers before they started writing. Better not skip this step.
- Join the community.
Thanks to new technologies and social media, now we have the opportunity to follow authors, editors, publishers and readers across all platforms. Take it!
Your favourite writers are all over Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads… and some of them can even be found on tumblr!
You can also follow their blogs if you prefer that, of course.
Readers of your favourite genre will also have interesting things to say, and they’ll share a lot of helpful information. They also share reviews and related news… even more often than authors, who are usually busy writing and panicking about deadlines.
I’ve learnt a lot this way, and I’ll share some useful links I’ve found if you’re interested.
- Don’t be shy.
I know I should follow my own advice, since I’m terribly shy and have no self-confidence… but if someone like me can ask questions when in doubt, you can too!
And the first thing I learnt talking to writers is that many of them are glad to talk to readers, help people and answer questions.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be polite. Please don’t send authors your work out of the blue and demand their opinion. It doesn’t work like that (sometimes editors and agents have free time and will read some first chapters and give their advice, in case you were wondering). I can’t fathom how some people think demanding things from authors is the best approach, but it’s apparently very common.
If you’ve already read enough (it’s never enough, I know), remember that practice makes perfect.
Well, nothing will actually be 100% perfect, so don’t become obsessed with perfection… but the more you practice, the better you’ll get.
Fanfics are the most common practice nowadays, and with good reason.
Some people prefer writing short stories and sending them to contests, but I am a fanfic advocate. You get lots of practice making short and long stories, get quick feedback, learn how to deal with critique and how to work with beta-readers… (And if you prefer contests because you have a chance to publish your story, remember that some fanfics have shared the same fate.)
This is also related to the previous point. Good fanfics need a good beta-reader… and that could be you! Reading allows you to devise a goal, practice allows you to realize which are your most obvious mistakes… but all works need a second pair of eyes (at the very least!) and you can learn a lot from other writers. It’s easier to beta-read fan fiction, since there are lots of fanfics being written every day and you don’t need a resumé to apply. Seeing other people’s strong points and weaknesses will help you discover your own. It is an incredible chance you shouldn’t miss.
That is all I have for now, but I am open to suggestions! Which steps worked for you? Do you agree with any of these? Tell me what you think!