Firstly, I'm not a professional writer, although I have had a fair bit of my writing published in newspapers and magazines.
Just for fun, I tried writing out a list of tips for new writers BEFORE I read all the excellent advice from Faralas and others here. Now that I have subsequently read through everybody else's much more detailed and specific advice my list looks rather slender. <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/eek.gif" alt="" />
But just for fun I'll post it anyway, without changing or editing it to include the superior wisdoem of others. <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" /> Will it provoke howls of "No! NO!", a few nods of agreement, or indifference?
SOME QUICK THOUGHTS ON STARTING OUT
JUST DO IT:
The most succinct advice I ever saw was just two words – "writers write". In other words, stop thinking about it and just get on with the job of putting one word after another. Anybody who says things like "I'm playing around with a few ideas for a novel" usually means they’re not doing anything! Stop mentally composing favourable reviews and get on with writing the piece. <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/winkwink.gif" alt="" />
Start by writing for yourself. If you can’t please yourself you’re unlikely to ever please an audience. Don’t begin by hobbling yourself with worry about formats, technical approaches or the like. There will be plenty of time for that later. Just write whatever you like, however you feel like doing it. If you have no talent it should soon start to dawn on you. But if you do have some promise it won’t be long before you’ll want to know how you can improve. You may discover that writing solely for yourself is all you want to do. That’s fine too.
TIGER WOODS DIDN’T LEARN GOLF BY READING BOOKS ON PHYSICS:
Initially, don’t read too many books on how to write. Instead, re-read authors you admire and try to analyse how they do what they do and why it works. Don’t try and copy their style, but do try and understand the technical side of their skill. Then read some B grade stuff and see if you can see why it doesn’t work as effectively. Take a passage and re-write it – was it better, worse or merely rehashed? This practical approach should bring the craft to life for you in a way that detached analytical discussions often don't.
CRITICISE, NITPICK, EDIT AND REJECT:
There are many types of successful writing and some of them are diametrically opposed. Just try and see what makes each one work. Then apply the same critical eye to your own work. This is not always a simple or comfortable process, but you will need to develop the ability to be self-critical. It’s often easier to spot the weaknesses if you put work aside for a few days, or even weeks. Then see if the detail and atmosphere is still there, or whether much of it remained in your mind while you were writing it and never actually made it down onto the page.
Learn to be your own fiercest critic, but also try to develop the ability to accept feedback from others. Listen to anybody who tells you they don’t understand what you’re trying to say, but also be prepared to ignore them and back your own judgement on occasions.
Be aware of what the market wants. Many writers begin by saying "This is want I want to say", but don’t forget to sometimes also ask yourself the question "What do editors, publishers and readers want to hear?"
So what are you doing here still reading this tosh?? <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/biggrin.gif" alt="" />