I love masterlists and writing reference posts, so I thought I could make a short one to go with my “Tips for prospective writers” post. These are some links I found helpful as I followed these steps, so I hope they’ll be useful for you too.
Read a lot
Sometimes it’s difficult to find what you’re looking for, and sometimes you find it and it’s too expensive. For those times, I recommend doing this:
-Find your favourite books on Goodreads. They probably belong to a list of similar books. See what other readers have added to the list and increase your Want-to-Read bookshelf. You can also check the most popular lists (and all the rest) here, but there are too many, so proceed with caution.
–Here is another masterlist where you can find many sites where you can legally download books for free.
-Do everything in this tumblr post: How to legally get cheap or free ebooks instead of pirating like a garbage person. If you’re an ebook-hater, some books won’t be available in this day and age, but authors and goodreads still organize giveaways for paperbacks; and bookdepository, already mentioned in that post, will always be your friend.
Join the community
You will have done it if you’ve followed the tips to legally get cheap or free books, but you can get more out of this experience if you’re a prospective writer, so:
-Follow your favourite writers and publishers on goodreads, twitter, facebook, their blogs… Join their newsletters and read what they have to say. It’s always interesting!
Don’t be shy
Yeah, you people should be the ones telling me how to do it. I just try to reply whenever I have something to say and keep my fingers crossed, but if you’re following your favourite authors, maybe telling them why you love their books would be a good way to break the ice. You’d like that if you were in their place, right? And they’re human after all. Amazing human beings, for sure, but still human.
-I don’t have links for this one, but please remember that being polite is always necessary when you talk to other people.
How you want to practice is very personal, so you may want to go look around the Internet and check what works for you. Here are some things that did the trick for me:
-Lee Welch shared a post On ignoring writing advice that I found extremely useful. I have problems with anxiety and self-doubt, but now I’ve embraced the thought that my first book won’t be perfect and it doesn’t have to be. I’m also thinking about writing some short stories before I write a novel. It’s all an experiment, right? We’ll see how it goes.
-Anyway, in order to ignore the advice, you have to read it first. And there are lots of places for that. I think I may make another masterlist about writing advice, but if you want to do some reading now, there’s a very complete list in thewritepractice.
-You’ll also find lots of sites that will share prompts daily, like the popular Writing Prompts account on tumblr.
-And, again, a good way to practice and receive feedback from readers is writing fan fiction. There are many places, but my favourite is Archive of Our Own.
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!