Another new year approaches – write a good one! x
Another new year approaches – write a good one! x
Merry Christmas Writers & Bibliophiles! ☃🎄📚🎅
First things first. This isn’t an article for all y’all fiction writers who have actually been published. I’m sure you have your problems, but this post is not for you, you beautiful, successful monsters. This post is for the semi-clueless writers whose hearts are still full of hope, with their Word docs full of nonsense plot outlines and six different versions of the same abandoned manuscript. This is for anyone and everyone who is writing a book right now and has no idea what the hell they’re doing, because that’s where I’m at too. If you’re riding on this struggle-bus with me, you know all of these struggles way too well:
Apparently you have to work to pay rent? And see people to maintain friendships? Also, laundry gets dirty, plates don’t wash themselves, and the fridge is not filled by fairies? What! Does not compute???
*scrolls into the Twitter abyss*
*calls mum for a catch up*
*finds the lost portal to Narnia*
Oh man, no time to write! Better luck tomorrow.
When there’s no pressure, you can write upside down strapped to a rocket. When you’re writing The Novel That Will Make You As Famous As J.K. Rowling, So Help You God, then you need to have a candle burning, a half glass of red wine at your side, and a chimpanzee playing the violin before you’ll even think about opening your laptop.
I’ve apologised to at least ten different stationary objects that I’ve walked into this month alone.
BURN IT ALL DOWN. (Or rename it “ZZZZZ” so it hits the bottom of your Docs folder and you never have to see its ugly mug again.)
Which basically says “It’s just this little dumb stupid terrible awful horrible story I’m working on, sort of, kind of, maybe.”
Whilst thinking “OVER MY DEAD BODY. (Nobody has to read this for it to get published, right? Right??)”.
Is [insert favourite actor/actress here] available and will they remain available for the next 10-15 years while I’m getting my sh*t together?
Congrats, by the way. Can’t wait to read it and love it and eat an entire pack of Oreos consoling myself, you talented pain in the ass.
Writers are totally emotionally stable, though!! Honestly, we’re fine!! Everything’s great!!!!!!!!! (Help.)
You can stare at that blank page for hours, and end up typing every random word you can think of in the futile quest for inspiration. You start a sentence, and delete it. Get up and make a drink. Type another sentence. Delete it. At the end of the day you have a blank page and a headache from banging your head on the wall. And it’s not like you can talk to anybody about it, because then you’d have to actually admit that you were writing something in the first place.
Like, you’re a nobody. You have no deadlines, no expectations, and no cheerleaders to provide that much needed praise and admiration for the stinking pile of dog-poop you’re writing. So you are forced to plod on, without reward. Most likely most days you feel dead inside. TELL ME I’M PRETTY, INTERNET.
Click your heels three times, blow some glitter on your manuscript and hope for the best! According to the internet, the “real work” in getting published hasn’t even begun yet.
Being a writer by profession is an incredibly public thing to do. Our work will inevitably be distributed and read by extended audiences that we may never meet.
With the opportunity of self-publishing thriving, more and more writers have emerged and there is now a saturation of content. More than just asking ourselves how to produce great quality work, we now have to face the question of how to stand out among the crowd as well.
To do this, one of the most significant attributes to have is confidence.
Confidence helps us stay focused about our writing paths regardless of the amount of competition that is in the industry. Confidence also keeps us motivated to write and write some more regardless of whether our work is labelled successes or failures.
Here are a few simple ways to help writers boost that confidence.
Though it sounds cliche, it makes the saying no less true: writing is a learning process.
The more we write, the more we will learn about language itself and about the topics we are writing about. For example, if you’re writing about a character in your novel, re-writing the dialogues and revising the plot lines helps you to think more critically about that character and their situation.
Writing and re-writing forces you to make connections between ideas and self-expression. Consequently, the output of repetitive writing practice allows you to create more established thought processes for your next piece of work. In this way too, your confidence will be boosted.
The equation of becoming a better writer is simple. We must read and we must write. But to do this well, it is important to maintain a teachable perspective.
As easy as it is for others to read your writing, so will you of others. With no shortage of readily available reading material for us online, it’s become even easier to learn about writing on a more dynamic scale.
People are made up of different stories and their own unique experiences. Consider it a privilege to have incredible amounts of reading material at the tip of your fingers.
Reading with a teachable perspective, though, makes a distinction between reading for enjoyment and reading to learn. Try not to spend too much time comparing, it will only disappoint you as you realise that there will always be someone out there who writes better or has found greater success.
When you read to learn, however, you give yourself potential to discover new ideas, more patterns of writing, new vocabulary and so on. This will help your confidence.
Rarely do writers find success overnight. The potential for an incredibly long process of trying, before your work gets recognised or published, can be confidence crushing.
One way to avoid this is to celebrate the little victories, because success is essentially made of milestones.
Milestones, like getting your articles published online, building your market of influence, extending your network of contacts and gaining inspiration for new ideas, are all included. Even through these victories, you’ll be able to learn more about the writing industry, how to build your writing career and even who to go to when you need help.
These little victories will boost your confidence as you know that you’re gaining achievements that’ll help you in the future.
Everyone makes mistakes. However, when we understand the learning process of becoming a better writer, we begin to appreciate the mistakes we make.
It’s through our mistakes that we discover what we can improve on in our work. Responding with determination and an active spirit for learning, rather than self-degradation, is a much healthier way of dealing with mistakes and failures.
For Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale and more recently, The Heart Goes Last, she says in an interview with The Guardian:
“Failure is just another name for much of real life: much of what we set out to accomplish ends in failure, at least in our own eyes. Who set the bar so high that most of our attempts to sail gracefully over it on the viewless wings of Poesy end in an undignified scramble or a nasty fall into the mud? Who told us we had to success at any cost? Get back on the horse that threw you, as they used to say.”
Confidence is a contagious spirit, but so is doubt. It’s crucial that you assess the type of environment you can allow yourself to thrive in.
Ask yourself: is it one that provides opportunities for you to flourish confidently?
Having a community that encourages and inspires your writing processes may be the only thing that is standing in your way of having some inner writer confidence.
More than that, having a trusted writers’ community will put you in a place where you can bounce ideas off each other, get feedback and even, discover ways to overcome challenges specific to a writers’ world.
Writing itself may be something you do alone. However, in preparing for it, ensure that positive energy fuels your writer-mind and places you back into a confident space.
Finally, criticism is a gateway to a steep learning curve.
As noted before, it’s through criticism that we find out more about what we can make improvements on. At the same time, it’s also through criticism that we see where our strengths lie.
But before you take the criticism too seriously, it’s important to know where your criticism is coming from.
In a digital era, anyone can scrutinise your work and publish harsh comments that may or may not be relevant. It’s easy to have low confidence because of this. After all, hearing negative views about work you’ve poured your heart and soul into can be hurtful.
Furthermore, you must understand who is criticising you. Are they people you can trust? Are they people whom you respect? Do they want the best for you? Are they offering constructive feedback or just being nasty?
Asking these questions can definitely point us in a better direction on who to trust without sabotaging our writing careers. Some criticism might be worth taking with a pinch of salt. And some can be dismissed altogether.
All in all, keep an open mind, and try to let your confidence flourish through all criticism, mistakes and little victories. Stay positive, and surround yourself with people who will support you and your writing.
So you’re a writer. My condolences. You might be a fresh faced creative writing major, or a veteran freelancer, or a new writing convert with a fancy pen and a lot of ideas. There are many different types of writers, and there is no one “right way” to write. But you’ve probably noticed by now that there’s a certain pattern to your particular writing. Like it or not, you have a signature writing style, and you should probably learn to embrace it or you’ll never finish that manuscript. Here’s what your writing style says about you.
If you’ve ever read about famous writers’ writing habits, you’ve probably notice that writing styles vary wildly from person to person. Maya Angelou wrote in a hotel room with a glass of sherry. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up. Haruki Murakami wakes up at 4 a.m. everyday to write before running 10km. The common factor with all successful writers just seems to be that they kept at it. So, whichever writing style seems to work for you, just keep going until you hit that final page count. And maybe take a moment to think about what your writing style means, because every writer could use a healthy dose of self reflection and listicle-based procrastination:
You have elevated Not Writing into an art form. You sit down to write… and then somehow you find yourself washing the windows, or watching unboxing videos on YouTube. The only thing that can actually motivate you to work is last minute panic — so you’ve become a master of the lightning fast rewrite. You can churn out ten pages the day of your deadline. You think that arriving anywhere early is an act of aggression, and you’re always changing plans so you can submit your work on-time, but you’re excellent when it comes to thinking on your feet and improvising (especially improvising excuses).
If your writing time isn’t rigorously scheduled, it’s not going to happen. You’re an early riser who sets word count goals, takes regular snack breaks, and keeps track of pens. People think you’re naturally organised, but really, if you didn’t schedule things, your life would very quickly collapse into a vortex of chaos. You’re the friend who people rely on for getting to the airport, you keep a physical planner, you set timers, and lending out your good pens makes you anxious (you’ve been burned too many times before).
You’re basically a vampire, if you replace all that bloodsucking with writing and eating dry Lucky Charms out of a mug. During the day you work a day job or sleep, but when the moon comes out you set up shop and write long into the night. Or maybe you plan to stop writing at a reasonable hour, but you get caught up in your screenplay and/or suspense novel, and before you know it the birds are chirping. You’re passionate about your writing, but frequently tired, and you’re forever frustrated when friends won’t answer your texts at three in the morning.
The Diligent Note-Taker
You never go anywhere without your notebook (or legal pad, or voice-to-memo app). You’re constantly scribbling down ideas, or even entire overheard conversations. You’ve gotten in to trouble for putting your friends’ quotes into your writing verbatim, but you’ve got to draw inspiration from somewhere, right? You’re almost constantly in writing mode, which is great for coming up with new ideas, but not so great when you need to put your story on pause and focus on your so-called “job.”
The dark cousin of the Note-Taker, the Plotter doesn’t write a word without several charts, outlines, and perhaps a binder full of paper on plotting. The Plotter approaches writing as a subset of engineering: in order to build something great, you first need several month’s worth of math. As a Plotter, you take a little extra time on big projects, and your friends don’t understand half of what you’re talking about. But your detail work is impeccable, your character backstories are extensive, and you throw the world’s best theme parties.
The Research Fiend
You have an encyclopedic knowledge of Heian Era Japan and the history of conjoined twins in America, but you’re not quite sure how to fit it all into your Veep spec script. You live for the thrill of the research, frequently fall down Wikipedia wormholes, and you consider reading to be a form of writing (you’re absorbing material!). You sometimes overwhelm people with your enthusiasm and exhaustive knowledge of cat breeds/fencing/space travel, but you’re a killer at bar trivia.
The Inspiration Seeker
Writer’s Block is your constant nemesis. You make the time for writing… and spend it staring vacantly into space. You spend a lot of time “courting inspiration” by trying out various writing spots, music choices, and latte flavors, to see what gets your creative juices flowing. When the inspiration finally hits, though, you’re a writing machine. You also spend way too long looking at the menu at restaurants, trying to decide what you want, but you’re a great friend to talk to about emotions, because you understand frustration very, very well.
The Speed Demon
You’re all about writing as much and as quickly as possible. You’re strategy is to throw absolutely everything at the wall and see what sticks. You’ll pare it down later. That’s what editing is for! You’d much rather hit that page count as soon as humanly possible, and worry about the finessing later. You’re not great at sitting still and you have no patience for meandering slice of life films.
The opposite of the Speed Demon, you know that writing isn’t a race. You’ll put in one comma in the morning, go about your day, and take the comma out again that night. You’ve been working on your magnum opus for years now, because you know that great work takes time. You take font choices seriously. You’re thoughtful and methodical in everything that you do, and you never let anyone see your work until you have the description of every character’s hair colour precisely right.
You write under the table during meetings. You have two novels and one play going at once. You’re always reading no fewer than three books at any given time. You can keep four or five online chats going at once, not to mention all those group texts. If you get blocked on one piece of writing, you just bounce on over to another (starting things is a no brainer, but finishing them is a tad harder). You drink a lot of coffee and sometimes have to be reminded to eat.
You live for the feedback. Giving it, getting it, either way — you like having a writing workshop group to force you to actually sit down and write. You never know what to do with a finished piece of writing until an incisive piece of feedback slaps you in the face. You regularly outsource your outfit choices to friends, you send detailed reports on first dates, and you’re always trying to trick people to come to coffee shops with you and make you write.
The Secret Writer
You don’t talk about writing. You don’t share your writing. You only write in total solitude, preferably in some sort of cavern or attic. You’re kind of hoping that you can become a wildly successful novelist without ever letting anyone read what you’ve written but you understand that might be difficult. You don’t like social media or workshop groups, but you do kind of like the dual identity thing you have going on, because you’re basically the Batman of writing.
The art world is always obsessed with writer wunderkinder who bedazzle us with their early life talent. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zadie Smith, Dylan Thomas, Jonathan Safran Foer, Helen Oyeyemi, John Keats: The list goes on, and the list is filled with the names of hyper-talented writers who were published and celebrated well before they hit 30.
If you are still waiting for your novel to find a buyer or for your short story to appear in the New Yorker, worry not. There is no time limit on achieving your writerly dreams. After all, dozens of famous writers didn’t “make it” until their 30s, 40s, 50s and, in some cases, even later than that.
These superlative authors don’t fall into the 20-something prodigy category. So take your time, revise that draft and write, write, write. These names should inspire.
1. Toni Morrison wrote her first novel at 39.
Toni Morrison may be a Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, but she was also a late bloomer. Her first novel, The Bluest Eye, wasn’t published until she was 40, while she was working at Random House as an editor. The Bluest Eye marked the beginning of a remarkable literary career that has included iconic titles like Beloved and Song of Solomon, all happening in tandem with an academic career as a Princeton professor.
2. Millard Kaufman published his first novel at the age of 90.
Sure, he wrote his first screenplay at 32 (Ragtime Bear, which featured the first appearance of a character named Mr. Magoo), but his first novel, Bowl of Cherries, was published when Kaufman was 90 years old. He also wrote a second novel, Misadventure, which was released posthumously in 2010. Kaufman is proof that it’s never too late to get a publishing deal.
3. Helen DeWitt published ‘The Last Sumarai’ at 41.
DeWitt was 41 when she finally published her first novel, The Last Samurai. In a fascinating interview with the Los Angeles Review of Books, DeWitt discusses her path to publication which includes a suicide attempt, years in academia at Oxford and then a turn toward the literary world. At one point with hundreds of fragments of abandoned and half-begun books on her computer, she quit her job and spent a month writing a new book, which would become The Last Samurai. After finding early interest, she felt pulled in too many directions and took time off from it before finally finishing and publishing the beloved story.
4. Bram Stoker didn’t write ‘Dracula’ until he was 50.
Bram Stoker, famous for Dracula, didn’t pen his opus until he was 50 years old. He left the civil service after many years to help run London’s famous Lyceum Theatre, writing reviews for free on the side. Though Dracula wasn’t his first novel, it is proof that you can write game-changing novels on the side.
5. Richard Adams wasn’t published until his 50s.
Adams served in World War II during his younger years and, like Stoker, became a civil servant, in what would later become the UK Department of the Environment. He wrote fiction in his spare time and told tales of a rabbit to his children on long car rides. The stories grew and became so complicated that he had to write them down. Eventually, when Adams was 54, a publisher picked up the now-beloved and best-selling Watership Down.
6. Anthony Burgess published his first novel at 39.
The man responsible for the controversial A Clockwork Orange came to writing very late. He served in the military, worked as a teacher, organized amateur theater productions of T.S. Eliot and later joined the British Colonial Service to teach in Malaya. It was there, while ill, that he began to write, and at the age of 39, he published his first novel, Time for a Tiger. Burgess went on to write a great deal more, also composing hundreds of musical works, and even wrote a translation of the opera Carmen.
7. Laura Ingalls Wilder was in her mid-60s when she published ‘Little House in the Big Woods.’
If you read the Little House on the Prairie books as a child, then you likely know the story of Wilder’s life. The daughter of a pioneer family in late 19th-century America, she was a teacher, a housewife and a journalist, and worked for the local Farm Loan Association. What you might not know is that Wilder didn’t publish the first book in her series until 1932, when she was 65. She began writing her childhood memoirs at the encouragement of her daughter. Her original biography, Pioneer Girl, which was rejected by publishers, will be released later this year.
8. William S. Burroughs published his first novel at 39.
A tragic incident led to the late-blooming literary career of William S. Burroughs, beat icon and addict novelist. In 1951, while drunk, he shot his wife, Joan Vollmer, in a game of “William Tell” in Mexico City. Witnesses claimed it was an accident, but while awaiting trial, Burroughs began writing his novel, Queer, which he eventually published in 1985.
His first published novel, Junky, was published when he was 39. In the introduction of Queer, Burroughs mentions how Vollmer’s death was pivotal to his writing: “So the death of Joan brought me in contact with the invader, the Ugly Spirit, and maneuvered me into a lifelong struggle, in which I have had no choice except to write my way out.”
9. Raymond Chandler published ‘The Big Sleep’ at 51.
Chandler was inspired to write by the Great Depression: After losing his job in the oil industry, he decided to become a detective novelist and is now remembered as one of the greats. The Big Sleep, his first and one of his best-loved novels, was published at the age of 51, earning admiration from writers as diverse as W.H. Auden, Evelyn Waugh and Ian Fleming of James Bond fame.
10. George Eliot didn’t publish ‘Middlemarch’ until she was 52.
Mary Ann Evans, better known by her pen name George Eliot, is one of Victorian England’s most acclaimed novelists. Her first book, Adam Bede, was published when she was 40, and her seminal Middlemarch didn’t come out for another 12 years. She chose the male pen name so that her novels and words would be taken seriously at a time when female writers were associated with romance.
11. Charles Bukowski published his first novel at 51.
Bukowski released a few short stories in his 20s, but he quickly grew disillusioned with publishing and his lack of success, and so went on what can best be described as a 10-year bender. It wasn’t until publisher John Martin persuaded Bukowski, who had spent most of his life working in a post office, to write his first novel. Post Office came out to widespread acclaim in 1971, when Bukowski was 51.
12. Anna Sewell published ‘Black Beauty’ during the last months of her life.
Sewell’s mother was a children’s author, whom she helped edit many books over the years. Sewell began writing Black Beauty during the last decade of her life to bring attention to the need for kindness to animals, while she was struggling with illness. The novel was published in 1877, when she was 57. She died the next year, but lived long enough to see her book’s huge success.
13. Rev. Wilbert Awdry developed ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ from bedtime stories for his children.
The Rev. Wilbert Awdry was a lifelong railway enthusiast who made up stories about trains for his son Christopher when he came down with measles. After making Christopher a model of the engine Edward from his stories, Christopher asked for a model of the story’s large blue train Gordon. Unable to mock one up from his usual materials, Awdry made a small tank engine called Thomas, thus inspiring one of the most beloved children’s book series of the 20th century. The first story, The Railway Engines, was published in 1945, when Awdry was 34.
14. The Marquis De Sade wrote his first book in prison, at the age of 42.
When you’re the famous libertine and hedonist Donatien Alphonse François de Sade, many other things must seem more interesting than literature. However, his bacchanalian lifestyle landed him 32 years in prison. His first book, Dialogue Between a Priest and a Dying Man, was written in 1782 while imprisoned in the Chateau de Vincennes. De Sade was 42 at the time of writing, but it wouldn’t be published until 1926. He continued to write salacious and sexual texts all through his prison sentences, including The 120 Days of Sodom and, perhaps his magnum opus, Justine.
There are books that stay with you during important times in your life. A great book can get you through a bad breakup or a bad high school (though, that actually might take a whole series).
The authors behind your favorite books were drawn to literature and writing by their own literary all-stars, and besides gaining comfort and pleasure, they’ve found and honed the skills utilized in their own novels.
These nine authors received their all-important titles from family and friends, during their childhoods and while dealing with the milestones of adulthood, and each owes a debt to those inspirational writers. See them here: http://mashable.com/books-that-inspired-writers
I began collecting Authorisms – words, phrases or names created by a writer – more than a decade ago using a number of resources to determine the actual author of a given instance. Most of my word sleuthing took place in the Library of Congress where I consulted many printed and electronic sources. William Shakespeare whose written vocabulary consisted of 17, 245 words included hundreds of authorisms. Some of them, true nonce words, never went further than their appearance in his plays, but others – like bump, hurry, critical, and road — are essential parts of our standard vocabulary today. With many other examples to choose from here are my 10 favourites…