By Author Kelli A. Wilkins
One of the most common questions I’m asked when I do an interview is, “Do you have any writing tips or advice for beginning writers?” Well, I sure do! These six practical tips are based on advice I received in my writing classes when I was just starting out and discoveries I made as I wrote. Enjoy!
Take Writing Classes: I took my first writing class at a local community college “for something to do” and was hooked. Writing classes are an excellent way to learn the basic mechanics of writing, to understand storytelling techniques, and to explore different genres. However, they’re not for people who “think about wanting to write” but never do. Homework and class participation are required.
In most cases, the instructor gives you an assignment (to write a short story or an opening chapter of a novel) and has you share it with the class. This may sound easy, but over the years I saw dozens of people drop out of writing classes because they actually had to write!
Writing classes help you overcome a fear or shyness about sharing your work with others and different readers give you feedback (and critiques) on what you’ve written. Before I took a writing class I never shared my work with anyone, but I quickly learned to move past a personal attachment to the work and be open-minded when it came to suggestions and comments.
Connections you make with other writers can also continue once class has ended—you may form your own writing group or get together to critique each other’s stories. If there are no “in person” writing classes available in your area, consider taking online classes or attending workshops at writing conferences.
Avoid “Bad” Words: Make a list of words you find yourself repeating (or over-using) in your writing. If you belong to a writing group or have a critique partner, ask them to identify words you use too often. (They may be more obvious to an outside reader.) After you’ve finished a story, do a search for each word and either delete it (if it’s not needed) or change it to a different word.
Some of my “bad” words are: glanced, looked, laughed, that, even, just, once, would, could, felt, shook his head, somehow, started to, although, even though, suddenly, a minute later, a few minutes later, after a few minutes…
It’s also a good idea to search for similarly-spelled words and make sure you’re not accidentally using the wrong word. Spellcheck won’t know you meant to say “tried” instead of “tired.” Some to look out for include: gaps/gasp, gong/going, from/form, though/thought/through.
Rejection Really is Subjective: Got rejected? Join the club. Everyone (and I mean everyone) gets rejected. Rejection is probably the only 100% guarantee in writing. If you send your story (or query) out to five people, you’ll get five different responses. Rejection is hard to deal with, but as a writer you have to understand that the editor is rejecting the story, not you.
All editors are not created the same, and sometimes you’ll never know why your story didn’t make the cut. You might get a form letter that tells you nothing, or get no response at all. Other times you might get a cryptic line about “not what we’re looking for” and sometimes you’ll get a paragraph with some explanation (weak plot, characters are not interesting, etc.).
Several years ago I received two rejections in the same day for the same book. Editor A said she loved the story and the characters were fantastic but didn’t see a market for “that type” of romance. Editor B said she despised the characters and hated the clothes the heroine wore, but would consider re-reading it if I changed the entire plot and made the heroine into a perky sexpot.
Who was “right?” Neither of them. I considered their rejections a perfect example of “everyone has his/her own opinion” and moved on. The important thing to remember after you’ve been rejected is to keep going. If the editor made suggestions (change the ending, add more dialogue, make the heroine a blonde with four kids) consider the comments and either make the changes or don’t. No matter what, it’s your story. But keep writing and submitting, because you never know when you’ll get an acceptance.
What’s Where?: Keep a list of when and where you submit your writing. Note the title of the piece (or query subject), date, and publication. This way, you’ll know what’s where and how long ago you sent it. This is handy in case you need to follow up on a wayward query or submission. I also make a list of places to submit to next, (just in case of rejection!) so I’ll know where the story is headed.
Reading Everything is Fundamental!: Writers are usually doing one of two things: reading or writing. Read anything and everything—in your genre and out of your genre—to expand your horizons. The more you read, the more you’re exposed to different styles of writing, tone, voice, and characterization. Read fiction, non-fiction, magazine articles, writing magazines, and the back of cereal boxes. You’ll see how other writers (even famous authors) create setting, mood, and how they tell a great story. (And why not learn from the best?)
Give Yourself Time to Rest: No, this doesn’t mean get lazy and slack off when you don’t feel like writing. A day (or a few hours) off can be a reward for finishing a long project, for completing all the work on your writing “to do” list for the week, or for celebrating a sale. Go for a walk and stretch after sitting in front of the computer and let your mind recharge. Give yourself some freedom and “play” time—you’ve earned it! Taking a mini-break from writing is also helpful if you need to break out of writer’s block. Think about something else besides your story, and in most cases, an idea or a great plot twist will pop into your head when you least expect it.
If you want even more writing advice, why not check out my online writing course, Fiction Writing for Beginners?
Fiction Writing for Beginners is designed for anyone who is interested in writing and needs practical advice on how to get started, plus motivation and encouragement to keep writing.
Thirteen easy-to-follow classes cover the writing process from start to finish. You’ll learn where writers get ideas, how to create characters, get expert tips on writing your story, and find out how to submit it for publication. Everything you need to know to start writing is wrapped up in this comprehensive and fun course.
Each class is self-contained and self-directed. This way, you can learn about a specific topic at your own pace, and not worry about completing the class by a certain deadline. Short writing exercises at the end of each class highlight the subject matter and get you writing.
If you’ve always wanted to write, Fiction Writing for Beginners will get you started. Visit the course page to learn more and enroll: https://kelliwilkins.teachable.com/
I hope you enjoyed these tips. I welcome comments and questions from readers. You can contact me via the address on the News page of my site, or on social media.
Kelli A. Wilkins
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kelli A. Wilkins is an award-winning author who has published more than 100 short stories, 19 romance novels, 5 non-fiction books, and 2 online writing courses. Her romances span many genres and heat levels, and she’s also been known to scare readers with her horror stories.
She published the second half of her flash fiction series, Cupid’s Schemes, in early 2019. These two volumes of lighthearted mini-romances are perfect reads for a quick lunchtime escape or an after-work indulgence.
Kelli released her latest Teachable mini-course, Fiction Basics: Finding Ideas in February 2019. She authored Fiction Writing for Beginners through Teachable in 2018. These courses are perfect for anyone who wants to learn how to write. Visit: https://kelliwilkins.teachable.com/ for more details.
If you like horror fiction, don’t miss her latest novella, Nightmare in the North.
CATCH UP WITH KELLI
Here’s a full list of where you can find Kelli on the web.
Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/author/kelliwilkins
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorKelliWilkins
Facebook Historical Romances: https://www.facebook.com/Historical-Romances-by-Kelli-A-Wilkins-1703805359922371/
Facebook Contemporary Romances: https://www.facebook.com/Contemporary-Romances-by-Kelli-A-Wilkins-1965702023664339/
Facebook Gay Romances: https://www.facebook.com/GayRomancesbyKelliAWilkins/
FREE READS: http://www.manicreaders.com/KelliAWilkins/
Newsletter sign-up: http://eepurl.com/HVQqb
Teachable Online Writing Courses: https://kelliwilkins.teachable.com/