Writing Advice: How to Get Started

Not all writing advice is created equal! This is just what works for me.

So you think you want to write? Well, there are some things you should know prior to getting started. Writing isn’t easy. People who think it is, are the people who never finish anything. That or they publish horrible books with weak plots that either become popular or flop completely. 

I once spent three days researching and practicing five ballet poses to use two of them in my writing. Writing is a lot more difficult than you think it is. So if you still want to do it despite my warning, here’s how to get started. 

One Does not Simply Write a Book

Start small. I wrote short stories, flash fiction, drabbles, news stories, blogs, articles, and social media posts. Each of these things helped me understand a little bit better how to write for an audience. That and every single time you write and are peer reviewed you have the chance to get better. 

Write fanfiction if you can. Fanfiction is the easiest way to get feedback outside of college and writing news stories. In fact, I got my start in fanfiction. It’s where I got my most criticism and where I learned to grow as a writer. I’m serious. Without fanfiction I wouldn’t be the writer I am today. 

So before you jump in to writing your epic story, I’d suggest doing something smaller. Books are a lot of work. I’ve written three and trust me. There’s a lot of crying and frustration and dumb bullshit you can’t escape. To date I haven’t even published any of them because I feel like they’re not my best work.

Writing is a lot harder than people give it credit for.  

Publish Small, If You Can

I’ve written a whole slew of blogs and news stories. I’ve been published on several different websites for poetry and editorials. You don’t have to self-publish short stories to add published work to your repertoire. 

You can also send short stories into magazines or self-publish novellas. I’ve been featured in a few anthologies in the past. That’s another great way to get the word out about your work. And it’s a great way to grow as a writer. A lot of anthologies employ their own editors so you can get a taste of working with them. 

Editors are merciless. I’m lucky that by the time I started writing for anthologies I had already experienced a lot of criticism online for my work. Editors will rip you to shreds and you have to accept it. Because honestly they’re trying to make you better and help shape you as a writer.

P.S. It is okay to cry. 

Read. Read. Read. 

You don’t have to read fiction to write fiction, but you do have to read. Writing isn’t easy and when you’re developing your voice, it’s important to understand how books and stories are written. Read books about writing, read articles, read Wikipedia, read something until you understand the basics of how to write a story. 

You should also read books by other authors. Read books similar to the ones you’d want to write. It is 100% okay to base ideas on another writer’s book, but all of your stories should be your own. 

You should be reading tirelessly!

Research Everything

Everything you write needs to be well-researched. That’s the bottom line. Just like reading, you also need to research anything and everything you want to put in your book. If you have first hand experience, great, but if you don’t? Research the shit out of it.

I’m an avid reviewer of Wattpad stories and Fanfictions and I’ve had a whole slew of writers tell me “there isn’t much information on this topic!” 

Don’t play with me. I know how to use the internet and I know how this shit works. I’ve been researching stories since I was 12 and if I can find information on it, so can you. 

If you’re writing something like what it’s like to die or what a specific mental illness feels like and you don’t have first hand experience go to Ask Reddit. I’ve done this hundreds of times. All you have to do is post a topic then wait for people to respond. If no one does, try to see if someone has asked the question before and read the testimonials on that.

Most of the time people are willing to share their stories and experiences. There is no excuse for you to have poorly researched stories. Not in the age of technology. 

If you genuinely can’t find anything on your topic or it is extremely difficult to find what you’re looking for, I promise you that there is a book for that. In fact, I had to buy a book on poisons and poisoning to write Wixen. I needed to know what a safe dosage of Belladonna and Mandrake were and what an unsafe dosage was. I spent several days trying to find it on the internet before caving and buying this book. 

I also own several books on witchcraft and runes and I’ve employed the help of several different witches to offer insight. There is literally no fucking excuse for you to not research your stories.

Not All Word Processors are Created Equal

Number one thing people ask me is what I write my stories in. Honestly? I use Google Docs. It’s easier to share and get feedback. Plus you can block people from copying and pasting your work, etc. 

Some of my friends swear up and down that Microsoft Word is the only thing they’ll write in. Some people use Notepad or Wordpad or any number of things. Pick the one that feels most comfortable for you. 

Though I don’t recommend using Notepad because it doesn’t have spellcheck, but that’s probably just me. Not to mention you can’t format it. Unless you’re exporting it as an HTML file, but I don’t recommend that? Just don’t use notepad, promise?

Anyways, quick helpful formatting tips: Add page numbers to the bottom of the page. Center or right. Try to avoid left because that puts it in the crease of the page. Also change the background color of your story to something you can easily look at. White is going to hurt your eyes and burn you out. I use gray, blue, green, and pastel pink. 

Outline or Write a Vague Idea Down

You don’t have to outline every single chapter, but you do need to have a vague idea of where you’re going with the story. It can be as short as half a page or as long as 200 pages. Just get something down. I promise this will help you so much in the long run. 

I also use journals and the notes on my phone to write down any idea I have when I’m somewhere where I can’t sit down and write. I always carry a journal and a pen on me at all times. I’ve collected over a hundred of them in my lifetime. I write a whole fucking lot. 

Write Every Day*

You should be writing every single day. Whether you want this to be a hobby or if you want to make a career out of it, you need to write at least 100 words every day. This is the only way you’re going to get better. 

It doesn’t even have to be anything pertaining to any ongoing story. As long as you’re writing. Don’t ever stop. 

*I'm gonna be honest with y'all. I don't actually write every single day. However, I do do something creative every day. Like drawing or baking something cool or outlining a story or writing a blog. Do what works for you!

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