Are you an aspiring writer who needs some advice to help jumpstart your career? You can submit your questions for our column by filling out this simple form. Then, follow us on Facebook, Google+, or Twitter to see our columns each week as soon as they go up! Now, on to this week’s letter.
Hey. I have several questions for your column.
1) Are there any tips you could offer someone who has a passion for writing, but wants build their confidence in their writing skills before submitting to publications?
2) Should a budding writer focus on carving a niche or being experimental?
3) What can I do to help with finding my tone or voice within my work?
4) What are some of the best publications to send work to when submitting work for the first time?
5) How can blogging improve my writing?
I understand that some of these could probably end up being answered in questions asked above them, but I had a lot on my mind.
Hi Christian! These are all really great questions, but before I launch into answering them, I just wanted to say a few words.
You ask what you “should” do as a beginning writer, and I’m not sure that I can answer that in any specific way. Each writer’s goals and style are very different, and the steps you’re going to need to take really depend on what you’re trying to achieve with your writing. Do you want to be the first zombie steampunk author to win the Nobel Prize? Or do you just want to make a modest living writing web content for online publications? Obviously, the approach needs to be completely different in those situations.
I’d think, first, about what kind of writing you’re most interested in doing. What subjects or genres you’re passionate about. What ideas really get you fired up. Where you want to be as a writer 10 years from now. Then it will be a lot easier to figure out which early steps will be most helpful for you.
So with that in mind, here are my general thoughts on each of your questions!
1. Building confidence in your work is mostly a matter of practice. First, write as much as you can. Try to set yourself a goal to write every single day – it doesn’t necessarily matter what length or topic, as long as you’re exercising your creative muscles. When you’re not writing, read as much as you can. Try to take in diverse subjects and genres – even stuff you don’t necessarily like or normally wouldn’t read. It will introduce you to new concepts and techniques you might not have seen if you stuck to just one type of literature. Finally, go back and re-read your work after a month or two so you can see how it’s developed and how much you’ve improved in the meantime! :)
2. Now, whether you should focus on a niche right away is a tough one. It really depends. Are you trying to land a book deal based on your blogging? Is there a particular subject you’re interested in that you’d like to land gigs writing about? Then specializing will definitely help you reach those goals more easily. But if your goal is just to gain experience and hone your craft for now, go crazy. Be as experimental as you like. (And who says you can’t do a little of both? I have two separate blogs – one where I post my fiction, which is, admittedly, pretty weird, and this one, where I focus on nonfiction writing about creativity. There are no rules!)
3. There’s not necessarily anything you need to do find your writing voice – your voice is who you are already. Try to be authentic and honest. You don’t necessarily want to write exactly the same way that you talk (though it depends on how formal you want your writing to be), but don’t strain yourself to write in a way that feels unnatural. Your voice will naturally emerge as you become more confident in yourself as a writer. I wouldn’t spend too much time worrying about it at this stage.
4. Where to submit when you’re just starting out? This is a pretty tough question – because it really depends on what you’re writing! Markets for nonfiction, fiction, poetry, blog posts, etc., are all really different. I would start out with publications you already read and enjoy, because you know what kind of content they want and it will be easy for you to send them submissions that fit their needs. Check to see if they have writer’s guidelines available, and if not, shoot them an email and ask if they accept submissions! If you really want to go the extra mile, pick up a copy of The Writer’s Market at the bookstore of your choice and look for listings that say they’re open to new writers. Don’t worry too much if your first few publication credits don’t pay (or don’t pay much). Once you have a few published pieces under your belt you’ll be more confident and it will be easier to convince editors you’re well worth the money.
5. The main benefit of blogging is that it gets you to sit down and write something on a regular basis, from start to finish. Creative writing can be a struggle because it’s easy to let the process of writing a short story or a novel drag on forever. With a blog post, you need to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Tackling small goals is really helpful in building writing momentum, and as an added perk, it’s a great way to get in that regular writing practice I mentioned back in my first answer.
I know it can be really intimidating when you’re just starting out – hopefully this will help set you on the right path. Best of luck!