It took me quite a few years to actually get my first book published. The House That Alice Built won the Choc-Lit Search for a Star competition in 2019, and since then there’s been New Beginnings at the Little House in the Sun and Finding Summer Happiness. In June, my fourth novel, set in Lagos in Portugal’s Algarve will be arrive.
I wrote, because I got something out of the process itself – disappearing into another world, creating something that was entirely from my own imagination, expressing things in my way, working though subjects and themes that interested me and by doing all of that somehow calming my mind for a while.
So, I want to encourage other people to take those first steps to put pen to paper, whatever the reason. You may have a burning desire to be published, or you could want to do it because you have something to say, but you’re not sure whether you want other people to see it or not.
Either way, actually starting can be daunting. I mean, if you’re writing a novel, for example, that’s around 80,000 words stretching into the distance. I’m not sure how far 80,000 words would stretch, but I suppose it depends on how many letters are in each word….
Here are a few little tips to help you get started:
1 There is no correct way to approach writing, so don’t put pressure on yourself do it the way other people do. You have to learn what works for you, whether it’s sticking to a word count, a certain amount of time spent on it, fitting it around other commitments or doing it when you feel like it. Remember, when you first start, you are doing it for you, so you need to enjoy it.
2 Allow yourself to make mistakes. Don’t expect it to be perfect right away. You may write a wonderful sentence followed by something that doesn’t make any sense – you can go back and change it when you’re ready to.
3 Read books if you want to write novels, watch tv programmes and films if you want to write scripts, listen to songs if its lyrics you want to write – basically, discover the world you want to be part of by learning from others.
4 Give yourself little tasks to help you along – you write the backstories for your characters, write short scenes with them in even if they don’t get used in the finished work, try a spot of flash fiction so you can have a finished piece and gain a sense of satisfaction for that (if you’re writing a novel or screenplay, it’s quite a long hall, so it’s nice to have pieces of writing done and polished along the way to give you a lift)
5 Talk to other people who are writing too – it makes it feel so much more accessible to have people with the same interest around you, and can be a real motivator. There are lots of groups around, whether you want to meet in person or online.
6 Do a course if you can. There are long ones, short ones, expensive ones and ones that are much cheaper. Whether you do one or not, bear in mind that whether you are writing your first or tenth book, poem, song lyric or screenplay, you are always learning and improving – that’s half the fun.
7 Dare to dream. Every writer does. That’s why we write in the first place.