The first time I attempted to write a story, I was only 13. It was a collection of short stories that I never finished. It’s seated somewhere around in my childhood bedroom at the moment. Fast forward to right now, as I type this article, I have made my share of writing mistakes enough to share the things I wish I knew as a beginning writer with you.
These 15 things I wish I knew as a beginning writer are so dear to me, I wish someone whispered them to me when I decided to take my writing seriously, No writing coach or masterclass divulged these beautiful secrets to me, enough of the mystery, let’s get to it already.
Jump Ahead To
1. Your First Draft Will Be Trash
It is your choice to take this harsh writing advice with a grain of salt, but I wish I knew this before I started writing my book. The idea of a first draft is just to vomit those words. If words could smell, I bet you would perceive the stench of your first draft to show how bad It could be. And If you started reading this hoping for some jolly good news, I am sorry to burst your bubble, the truth hurts but we need it to thrive. Your first draft, not your first book! You have to accept this and move on, you cannot perfect the first draft, I mean that’s how It got its name. Don’t try to perfect it. It will never come out perfect, it will be full of errors that is why;
to write is human to edit is divine
Whatever you cannot perfect in your first draft, you can always revise later.
2. If You Prioritise Writing You Will Have Enough Time To Write!
I don’t have enough time to write; I live a busy life and my schedule is smacked with ten thousand things that do not include writing! If I have a dollar for every time I read or heard this on the internet, I would be retired, at my beach house. So a quick question, when last did you put writing first? When last did writing top your to-do list for the day? I am still waiting for that answer, you know.
people make time for what is importantGrace Ukeni
If writing is important to you, It will become a priority, and If It’s a priority, you will have the time to write! Now, writing is not thinking about writing, writing is not reading up who is writing and most definitely writing is not sitting down at your desk and staring at your desktop. WRITING IS WRITING! If you prioritise writing you will have more than enough time to write!
3. Self-doubt Is Normal
When I started writing, self-doubt was such a big deal to me, still is but better now. I would be stuck in my head for days, saying how terrible I was and whatnot, but I discovered that self-doubt is in fact very normal. Every best-selling author has experienced it, and aspiring authors who haven’t been born will experience it! Let me put it this way, It comes with the package of being a writer, In fact of being human.
4. A Writing Routine Is Important
When I started writing, I had no idea what a writing routine was, I wrote when I felt like or when the muse (inspiration) came out to play. Without a routine, you wander around because you don’t have a plan! You don’t know when next you are going to write, what time of the day is your most productive time, you don’t have all that planned out and when there is no plan, that is a disaster waiting to happen, now unless you have decided to take 20 years to write one book keep reading.
If you are a visual learner, I have a video explaining how to build a rock-solid writing routine around your lifestyle, but If you decide to read instead, start here.
5.You Do Not Need To Write In Chronological Order
Have you heard of the Jaga-jaga model? Jaga-jaga is a Nigerian term that means something is not in order. When I started writing I was obsessed with finishing a scene before hopping on to the next one. What this means is you don’t need to write in a sequence or pattern. If you have an idea for a scene in chapter five and you are stuck at chapter one, go ahead and write those ideas in chapter five and come back to chapter one when you are done, now a little secret, those ideas you wrote in chapter five will inspire some ideas in chapter one, because if something happened in chapter five that means you have to prepare for that thing to happen in previous chapters so you do not need to write in chronological order!
6. Writing Is A Job; Take It Seriously
Growing up, I never thought writing was a career, I thought no one will take me seriously, and that belief made me not take my own writing seriously, well let’s just say that wasn’t any good and ever since I started taking my writing seriously, I have seen a tremendous change in my writing. so treat your writing like a job, because It is!
7. You Can Only Learn To Write Efficiently By Writing
You have read this before, and this won’t be the last time you read it, Writing is not thinking about writing, not reading other people’s writing, not critiquing other person’s writing, but writing. You have to put those words to ink, all these are important but the first and most important thing is to sit down and dump those ideas on paper.
8. Writer’s Block Is Not The Enemy
Not writing Is! You can smash writer’s block with the right strategy but you cannot have a book without writing.
9.Observation Is Your ladder to Success
I think every writer has the inborn skill of observation, I mean we spin stories from our head, we create beauty out of nothingness, puff… If that is not observation enough, I don’t know what is! You need to observe other notable writers, you can do this by reading the books of these notable writers to improve your writing. Now, don’t get stuck on their processes, remember you are trying to write a book here not practice productive procrastination, so observe, get inspired and get to work.
10.The Ability To Create A Masterpiece Is Within Me
If I told you that the tools you need to get to your destination are inside the trunk of your car, will you go and grab them? My guess is you said yes. Now, let’s think of your finished book as the destination, and your car trunk as your amazing mind. Now, will you go and grab it? If you said yes, all you need to know is there is no secret key somewhere to become an amazing writer, the key is already inside of you. Your job here is to get digging(writing), you alone can determine how much treasure you want to gather. If I knew this back then, It would have saved me a lot of time and energy.
11.The Process Doesn’t Have To Be Daunting
Now, don’t get me wrong, writing is painful, It is a solitary job that is as hard as a rock but who said having fun is off the menu? One of the ways to have fun is to simply enjoy the process of creating a beautiful journey of your characters and your ability to create beautiful stories. No matter how hard writing is, put it at the back of your mind to enjoy the process, there will be good days and there will be bad days, I mean there will be days you just want to pull your hair and cry on the balcony or even delete your entire manuscript ( please don’t), BUT despite all this, enjoy the process, IT GETS BETTER!
12. Tracking Your Writing Is Important
How do you know you are a step ahead if you don’t track your milestones? If you asked me this question a while back, I probably would have replied in gibberish. If you are not already tracking your writing, right after reading this, start immediately! Tracking your writing is essential and It helps you stay motivated to keep writing. You can do this in several ways;
- keep a word count tracker.
- Track the number of scenes you write weekly (or whenever you like).
- Track the number of chapters you’ve written.
- you can track the progression of your plots through your outline (If you use one).
- Track your main characters milestones (cheesy I know).
13. Character & World Building Is Essential Before You Start Writing
I had no idea what these words meant at some point, I just slapped a shabby reason why my main character wanted to be happy and went on a wild goose chase writing why. The best advice I could give on this topic is to get to know your characters, yes they are characters but respect them enough to drive your curiosity off the rails to build them right. As well as doing all the necessary research before you start, Now don’t get stuck in the research black hole of death. Ensure to create a balance between snooping through sixteen tabs about how salt will affect your main characters sleeping pattern and whatnot.
14. Trust The Process; Patience Is Key
Have you heard the saying that, Rome wasn’t built in a day, that’s exactly what I am driving at here, It is possible to write a book in a day but come on, setting a goal to start & finish a hundred thousand word novel in one week doesn’t exactly sound feasible Let’s get real here when you start writing, you will not get all the ideas right away. You need to build patience when it comes to your writing, you need time to flesh out those ideas and I’m not saying you should spend 10 years on one first draft, remember don’t get stuck trying to perfect your first draft . Take a leap of faith, Look at it this way, put your feet up expecting a ladder to be there or something like that.
15.The Ability To Edit Doesn’t Equal The Ability To Write
The saying that what you don’t write now you can edit later doesn’t apply to everyone because most writers are attached to their writing, and this gives a sense of false judgement towards our writing. Your ability to write amazing stories doesn’t mean you are a great editor, editing is a different skill from writing. If you are going to edit your manuscript yourself, you have to learn how to do it. Editing is a very important phase in getting your book ready for the world to enjoy; If you have no idea how to edit, you can do a little research to get started and hire an editor down the line, as editors do not come cheap.
Extra Thing I Wish I Knew: Feedback Is Important
Like any other writer(or not) we are very possessive of our first drafts because we cherish them like newborns, and that’s great but during the time of editing, you have to learn how to take feedback because you need it to grow and improve. Feedback helps you see your errors, strengths and weaknesses. And at this point, I hope this few points gave you some thoughts to carry along to improve your writing journey and prevent costly mistakes in the future.
Last words on things I wish I knew as a beginning writer;
This piece of advice is my personal truth about writing and should be taken with a grain of salt, gather the one that best resonates with you and filter out the noise. If you found this piece useful in any way, don’t forget to share it with someone you care about, sharing is caring!