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.
I’m always surprised to find people on the Internet who think they’re “too old” to write a novel and… they’re… 30 years old. Or younger!
It makes me wonder how literature is seen in the rest of the world. In Spain, important and famous writers are over 40 years old. The older, the better, since you have more experience and you’re supposed to write serious novels that critics will approve.
So I always thought 30 was young for a writer to start publishing. Below that? That was gifted-kid level. But maybe things have changed since then. Maybe it’s just different in Spain…
…Or so I believed until a Spanish friend mentioned she felt it was too late for her, and she’s younger than I am! So, here is what I have to say about this: no, you don’t have to accomplish everything before you’re 20, but it’s fine if you want to start before that (even though you’re not even an adult in some countries). You can also be a genius and write amazing novels before you’re 40, but life experience will always make them better with time. So go ahead and start writing as soon as you can, but don’t stop there. Keep writing and getting better at it.
As I said in this post, I’m glad I didn’t try to publish what I used to write years ago (because it was terrible). However, I’m aware that I’m taking the slowest approach and it’s not the best way to do it. That’s why I decided to create this blog and check what I’ve accomplished and what I have left to do. So far, I think it’s working: for the first time in two years, the mountain of notebooks I have to transcribe is decreasing!
I still have much to do, but at least I don’t feel too old or too young anymore. I’m just proceeding at my own pace, and trying to make it the right one for me.
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!
First of all, thank you for all your likes, comments and questions! It was a surprise to find so much support and encouragement after just a few posts.
Some of you have asked me about the actual contents of my notebooks. In other words, you wanted to know what I write about. I don’t know if you meant everything that makes it into my notebooks or what may become a book one day, but I’m assuming it’s the latter.
I’m still reticent about giving details because I’m not sure about anything I do… and I’ve changed plot and characters too many times to ignore the very real possibility that it may happen again. I’m aware that nothing is set in stone… but I can give you (and myself) some general ideas.
These are the stories I’d like to finish one day:
A fantasy romance with a disabled MC.
A paranormal/historical romance set in Madrid, Spain.
Another fantasy romance with an MC trapped in someone else’s body.
A paranormal/historical romance set in Alcalá de Henares, Spain.
Since I love fantasy, historical and paranormal romance, I want to write those, but I keep having ideas for other contemporary stories with main characters and situations that’d be fun to write. Perhaps even a superhero romance…
Maybe I should start with those, since the research wouldn’t take that long? I could write a short story first….