You’ve dreamt of being a writer but haven’t done anything about it. You’ve attended plenty of book fairs and festivals in an attempt to glean how other writers do it. But you’re still not sure where to start.
Firstly, it’s worth asking yourself why you want to write. For your own pleasure, self-development, or do you aim to get published one day? Note the one day. While occasionally, a writer achieves instant success, his/her masterpiece ‘wowing the world’, for most writers, it takes a long time to place a book, especially if it’s your first offering. And many writers experiment, re-draft, and re-work before they dream of sending their manuscripts to a publisher. So have some sobering but realistic expectations before you begin writing your book. I spent four years consistently writing – mainly children’s books – before my first manuscript was accepted. So if you’re passionate about writing, don’t give up. Don’t be discouraged. Keep going. You might even end up doing much better than you expected. Les Brown put it so well: “You don’t have to be great to get started, but you have to get started to be great.”
Secondly, think quite carefully about what you want to write. Which genre are you going to choose? Fiction – children’s books, Young Adult Fiction, drama, adult novels? Or non-fiction – memoir, biography, autobiography, essays, diaries. And who is your target reader? Very young, a teenager, a mature adult?
Of course, during the course of your writing career, you might attempt many genres, as I have done, but you will need to decide on which genre to start with.
Thirdly, a non-negotiable for any writer is – you need to be OBSERVANT. Very observant. Notice the details of places. Notice what people look like. Be aware of how they speak. Carry a notebook around with you. Write down bits and pieces of what you’ve noticed during your day.
And if you do think of a brainwave, allow yourself to get excited. Very excited. The initial idea for a piece of writing often comes with an adrenalin-rush. I remember how exhilarated I became when I thought of the idea for my children’s book, Trees Full of Treasure, as I visualised two children going on a treasure hunt to find what they weren’t expecting, real treasure. Of course, as writing is a visual art, you will need to imagine that you have a camera in your head so that you can describe, in a fair amount of detail, what you can see for your reader. You will need to re-live moments you’ve experienced and describe them in specific detail. Meticulous detail will add colour to your writing, helping your readers to imagine that they are right there with you as you walk them through the pages of your book.
Once you have those details in mind, plan your book. Use spider diagrams, bullet points, or whatever method suits you, then order your thought: number them, place arrows next to your points or choose your own approach to present what you’re writing logically and meaningfully.
And make sure that you discipline yourself to write as often as your schedule permits in your favourite place for writing. One author, Pieter de Vries, was asked by an interviewer if he waited for inspiration before he began writing. He replied: “Yes Madam. And I make sure it strikes me at 9 ’o clock every morning.”
So if you genuinely want to be a writer, keep writing, explore new ideas, and forge forward until you achieve success, whatever success might mean for you: one book, your first; a book in another genre; many books. And above all, enjoy your writing journey and appreciate every single person who gives you a helping hand, guiding you to what you consider to be your success.