Someone recently messaged me and asked: What's your advice to someone with fic/story ideas but has no talent/experience with writing?
Okay, well let’s see here. First of all, and this is completely corny, you have to want to write. Do you want to do it? Do you love it? Do you feel passionate about it? Like if writing itself were personified, you would totally want to make out with it? If you don’t write, do you feel antsy/angry/like something is off? If your answer is yes, then all right – you have the passion and fire in your system. So that’s good!
Write All the Time. Exercise Your Writing Muscle.
Now, writing like any other thing requires consistent dedication. And by that I mean that you have to write all the time. You can’t write once a month and expect to improve. Writing is a constant thing, and the more you write the better you will become.
Share Your Work with Others. Get Feedback.
“But how do I become better, Alex?” You ask? Well, you have to share your work with others. Find people whose opinion you respect – not just Yes Men who will say, “I like it!” even if you just wrote something that was a turd on wheels. No, you have to find people who will be brutal with you, who will be honest, people who will tell you what they think. Which leads me to…
Talk with Other Writers. They are Your People.
Writers are a very special kind of human being. We’re egotistic, yet highly sensitive. We are filled with bravado, yet highly insecure. (Most of us, anyway. Not all of us, however. Some are just talented mother effers who are basically like, “I am the shit, and I know I rock.” And they do! Bless!) Become friends with other writers, talk about your work, talk about your writing process. Other writers will speak your language, they will share feedback in a way other people can’t. They are also your best cheerleaders and comrades. You have writer’s block? They will sit and commiserate with you. You have a character breakthrough, they will serve you a drink.
Read Anything. Read Everything.
Expose yourself to the writing of others as much as you can. Read, read, read. Rinse, lather, repeat. Even if it’s a genre you may not like, read. Read canonical literature, read graphic novels, read biographies, read poetry, read about history, art, music – all of this will help you become more aware of the world, of the thought processes of others, and will expose you to good writing and bad writing.
This also touches on a big aspect of my writing process. Research. RESEARCH. To make something believable (even if it is in a fantasy or magical realism story) you have to have some truthful foundation to it. You have to write as though you know what you are talking about, what your characters are doing. My character lives in Baltimore? Then I will definitely research Baltimore. What neighborhood would they live in? Where would they go for dinner? I Google restaurants, then Google their menu. My character and his partner are looking for a surrogate to start a family? Then I will research what that entails as if it were me looking for the surrogate. You just can’t be like, “Oh, I don’t know anything about XYZ” and leave it at that. You’re better than that shit. You owe it to your readers – and yourself – to be thorough. Research, I stand by it. Always.
What About School, Alex?
My degree is in English with a creative writing concentration and I loved it. Do you need a degree in English/creative writing? No necessarily. Does it help? Sure. The writing workshops, the seminars, the readings – all wonderful, but to be a more fully fleshed out writer, I think a degree in the humanities is also lovely. For my graduate studies, I'll be persuing a degree in the humanities. (I'm currently in love with this program. We'll see.) Again, it’s about learning more about the world and people around us. All of this helps. The broader your general knowledge is, the richer your storytelling will be.
People Watch. Just Don’t Be Creepy.
I love sitting and watching people. You can learn so much about human nature just by being still and watching. Humans are the ultimate story prompt. I remember I was sitting at a restaurant one time, and a woman at the table next to me told her companion, “That’s when I realized my entire life was a lie.” I was leaning over thinking, Oh, shiiiiit. Tell me more. That became the basis for a short story I wrote. When you become a writer, all of your friends and family know that everything they say is up for grabs in your work. I know mine do.
Books on Writing? Sure, Why Not?
There have been several books on writing, punctuation, etc. Here are some of my favorites. There are many, many more.
I hope this helps and I’m open to any other questions from anyone.