Friday, January 25, 2008

Getting Started

A friend of mine told me the other day she had always been interested in writing. Like most of us, life has gotten in the way and she kept putting it off. But you know how persistent those voices in a writer's head can be. She finally feels like she's ready to begin. She's read a few books, researched a few topics, and familiarized herself with the writing process.

Now what? How does a person actually go about getting started?

If you've ever opened a blank document or sat down with a pen and brand new notebook and prepared to make the first stroke of the pen, you know how intimidating beginning a writing project can be. Where do I begin? What if I can't finish? What if I find out I don't have a book inside me? What if I can't sell what I write. And the most intimidating---What do I write about?

Once you solve the what do I write about dilemma, you'll never know the answers to the other questions if you don't just start.

Easier said than done.

If you're straddling the fence and tossing around ideas and waiting for inspiration before taking the plunge, my advice is just start. Just do it, like the old Nike ad said. Write what you are passionate about, not what you think will sell. Trends are constantly changing. If you wrote the newest trend today that pleased the world, by the time it was published, the trends would have changed again. Not only that, you won't enjoy the process and you probably won't finish.

Almost anything with a romantic element or mystery element is enduringly popular. Readers love them and snatch them up faster the writers can keep up. If you don't believe me check out the new releases section at your local independent bookstore or library. the shelves are chock full of them. You may say, "But why should I write something if the market is already glutted?"

Good question. Just write an awesome, fantastic story the way only you can, and let your publisher worry about selling it.

I strive to incorporate romance, mystery, and humor into all my books. You may impress a few people with your degrees, but people remember funny. If you are not naturally funny in your writing, don't force it. Find your unique voice and follow it.

When I was first starting out, I heard all this advice about voice and style. I thought how do you develop something if professionals can't even explain what it is. The simple answer is you'll know it when you hear it. Be yourself. Don't try to be the J.K. Rowlings or James Patterson unless that's truly who you are. Only you can tell your story your way. You are unique. Be proud of that and let it shine through in everything you write, even nonfiction.

Most of all, have fun. If you aren't enjoying the process, you aren't doing it right. You are either trying to force yourself into a mold that doesn't fit or you're writing for the wrong reasons. Examine your motives. If you are sure you're doing everything right and it still isn't working, take a step back. Maybe the timing isn't right.

There's a time and a place for everything. Happy writing and let me know how it goes.

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