Inspired by the 10 Steps To Becoming a Better Writer poster, I have decided to put off my work for another hour or so and instead present you with:
Step One: Learn basic grammar. Seriously. I’m not saying you need to know every in and out of the impossibly complicated English language, but at least know how to form a basic sentence. A general grasp on punctuation and capitalization is also suggested, but not required.
Step Two: Figure out why you’re writing. Is it for fun, or because you’re aiming for eventual publication? What drives your writing spirit? Is this a short-time thing, where your inspiration to write will peter out in a few days, or do you actually have the gumption to sit down and type out an entire book? If a novel sounds like a lot, try a short story first. Maybe writing isn’t your thing after all. If you decide it is your thing, continue to step 3.
Step Three: Figure out what you’re writing. What’s the genre? Plot? Characters? What audience is the book intended for? Where is it set? What are the main conflicts? Are there any conflicts? Go find some conflicts.
Step Four: Read books. Find at least 5 books in your chosen genre, and read them. Take notes. What do you like? What do you hate? What are common elements that run through all the stories? Which characters do you fall in love with? Why do you care about them? Steal all these ideas and ruthlessly exploit them for your own literary success.
Step Five: Buy a notebook. Write down your ideas. Flesh out your characters. Make a plot outline. Sketch a map of the setting. Sketch your characters (stick figures are okay). You don’t have to know every little detail of what’s going to happen in the book, but you need to at least have a vague idea, or else you’re writing blind. And then you’ll just end up writing all over your coffee table or your cat, and that won’t end well.
Step Six: Do research. Unless your book is a memoir of your own life, you’ll need to research at least something. Research can even take the form of reading more books in your genre, or watching television, especially if you’re writing fantasy or sci-fi.
Step Seven: Write the book. This can take anywhere from a weekend to several years. The important things is that you keep writing. You can stop for six months if you want, as long as you come back to the story at some point. Ideas are no good if they stay locked up inside your cranium. Set them free!
Step Eight: Walk away. The first draft of your book is probably terrible, although you won’t think so. When you’ve finished writing it, walk away. Don’t go back for at least a month. By then you should have gained some emotional distance, and will be a bit more able to hack it up into pieces and reassemble it ala Frankenstein’s monster into something that only vaguely resembles the original novel.
Step Nine: Revise. This is the “big picture” step, where you fix all the gaping plot holes and make your mass of text actually resemble a novel. Get your friends or fellow writers to help, if you want. Make your characters more consistent. Fix the climax so that it actually feels climactic. Re-write the middle so it’s not drearily dull. Go through that sucker so many times you’re seeing your characters in your sleep. Don’t develop any emotional attachments to them, however. They aren’t real, no matter how much you wish it were otherwise.
Step Ten: Edit. Time to focus on the little things. We’re talking grammar, spelling, punctuation–which, if you followed step 1, shouldn’t need that much fixing. Run a spell-check. Hire a copy-editor to catch all those typos that inevitably slip through the cracks.
Will your book be perfect? No. But you’ll still have written a book. That’s a big deal. Pat yourself on the back. Then hop back to the beginning of the list (you can probably skip step 1 at this point) and start your sequel, because series sell much better than individual books, and who doesn’t want to be the next JK Rowling? Silly people, that’s who. Are you a silly person? No. Then get writing!
Random link of the day: Chatelaine Horoscope 2012
Since it’s October, I thought it would be fun to see if their “annual” horoscope predictions were even close to being true. The results? Actually not that far off, although the predictions are so vague it’s hard not to be more or less accurate. Anyway, check out your horoscope here.
Random video of the day: Ocelote the Pro-Gamer
It still boggles my mind that people can make a living from playing online games. I might be a little jealous …
Also, his name is amusing.