Whether you’re writing fact or fiction, these five lessons I’ve learned are invaluable.
It’s easy to become overwhelmed by all the choices
When you write, you’re faced with a myriad of choices, and the key is not to become overwhelmed by them. One of the primary causes of writers block is too much choice, so give yourself some criteria to work with. Criteria help you to choose what to write about if you’re a blogger; what to put in your book if you’re a non-fiction author; and how your story will develop if you’re a fiction author.
You need to be decisive!
With all those choices, you need to get really good at making decisions. There are no right or wrong answers, only wasted ideas thanks to indecisive writers. Before I started writing fiction I thought I had so many writing choices to make, but in actual fact I didn’t know I was born! As a blogger all I had to decide was what to blog about. Now that I’m a fiction writer I have to decide on all the names for my characters, all their individual characteristics, their flaws, their relationships, their backstory where it’s relevant, and what makes up the world that they inhabit. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lot of fun, but there are a lot of decisions to be made!
The more observant you are, the better the writer you become
In fiction this is about noticing the small, almost insignificant things that make us human, so that your characters have a 3D feel about them. So that they’re believable. The less time that your readers spend wondering about your characters, the more they’ll enjoy the story.
In non-fiction, this is about noticing your ideal customer. What do they want? What’s going on in their life? How do they use what you sell? What do they use it to do? Who or what do they talk about? What questions are they asking? Becoming more observant not only helps you to serve your ideal customer better, it helps you find ways to relate to them, and when you write about that, they relate to you more easily.
You can’t afford to get emotionally attached to the words you’ve written
If you write, whatever it is that you write, if you want it to be any good, or thought to be any good, then you need to accept that it’s highly unlikely that what you write in the first instance is what you’ll eventually publish. Editing, especially of a blog post, doesn’t have to be a laborious process, but for the sake of quality it should be a mandatory one. I always edit my blog posts because I can often find a better way to word a sentence or two, and sometimes even find whole paragraphs that while pithy and clever, lend nothing to the overall piece and can just be deleted. I used to find that quite painful, but now I’m not so precious. Although I’m not quite there yet with my fiction writing, and the editing of that is a lot more brutal!
Daydreaming and Imagination are assets
I used to get told off all the time when I was younger for daydreaming, and my active imagination was seen as more of a hindrance than anything else. But now I recognise it as a natural gift, and something that anyone can cultivate. It helps me to step into other peoples’ shoes, and see life from their point of view. So I use it to imagine what the ideal customers of my clients want to hear about, and it helps me explore otherwise untapped areas of topic ideas.
It should probably go without saying that daydreaming and imagination are invaluable for fiction writing, but it’s only recently that I’ve realised that I can write fiction. For years I’ve come across situations, wondered ‘what if…’, and ended up having mini conversations, imagining the scene, and what would happen next. But I’d repressed my natural talent for storytelling, and so I didn’t recognise these conversations as stories in the making. Neither did I realise that not everyone has these random chats going on in their head!