QUESTION: WHERE DO YOU FIND IDEAS?
ANSWER: Ideas come from everywhere, by observing life and your surroundings. Sometimes a single idea comes out of nowhere, in a flash. Other times creating a story is a slow, lumbering process with many ideas that weave together to create a whole. I keep an idea notebook, just to keep track of them, but I actually rarely look at it, as I get way more ideas than I can use.
Q: I LIKE WRITING. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS?
A: Some of the most important things I’ve learned about writing:
- It’s hard to learn to swim if you don’t try it, right? Writing takes practice, too.
- Writing is hard work, even something short.
- You have to find your own unique writing voice.
- Your writing voice comes through practice.
- Through practicing, you’ll figure out your best work style. Some people try to write a certain amount of words, pages, or minutes, every day. Other people write only when they are inspired to, and some people write best when they have a deadline. It’s good to develop all of these abilities, as you’ll be able to make much use of all of them in your writing life.
- It’s good to try different methods of writing, too. I scribble ideas and first drafts on scrap paper. Sometimes I use a typewriter. Only later do I use the computer.
- Some people like outlining and planning before they write. Others get an idea and just start writing and will see where that takes them. Experiment to see what works best for you.
- Don’t be afraid to hang onto things you’ve written, and don’t be afraid to throw them out (or put them in a separate folder) if they don’t work.
- There is no absolutely “perfect” piece. Create something and refine it.
- Read your work out loud to yourself. Listen to the words.
- Have other people read your work who can give supportive, but honest feedback.
- Revise. Revise again. At some point, it will be “done.”
- Sometimes, a problem spot can be resolved by taking it out. Other times, the problem is actually right before, or even pages before or after!
- Jump in!
Some ways to get started:
- Volunteer to write for your school newspaper or yearbook
- Write letters to friends and relatives
- Read a lot of different authors and topics
- Keep a journal or diary
- Participate in writing workshops or programs
- Take classes
- Copy other writers’ styles for practice. Think about what you like or don’t like about their style. Read them out loud.
- Go hear authors speak
- Listen to podcasts such as on “Just One More Book“
- Read about writing
- Buy a print dictionary and a thesaurus, and spend time using them. If you write poetry and songs, also get a rhyming dictionary.
The most important things I’ve learned about getting published:
- You have to be willing to revise and improve your material, and then you have to be willing to finish it and submit it.
- You should always submit your best work, work that you feel confident about.
- You have to be patient; the publishing process can be slow, unless you work in journalism.
- It’s true—plan to keep your day job.
- Writing is an art and publishing is a business. The team effort makes it all happen.