A few days ago, I had the privilege to have a long discussion with a bright young lady about how to begin writing. She's almost thirteen years old, enjoys writing stories all over notebooks, and wants to take her writing to the next "level".
First, can I just say that I absolutely LOVE meeting and talking with upcoming writers? I become so excited when I think about all the adventures and stories in their futures. I felt completely giddy during my discussion with her.
Now that I said that, I can move on to what this post is really about. How to "begin". I don't like saying "beginning writers" because it makes it sound like there are "levels" to writers. And, perhaps, there are. But good writers should always be learning and researching and exploring new ideas and techniques. Just because you have already learned some of the techniques doesn't mean you've graduated the hypothetical writer school. The things you can learn with writing never end.
All that to say, I get irritated when I see other writers acting smug and over-confident around "newer" writers simply because they have more experience. Everyone has to start somewhere.
This post is directed for "upcoming writers". "Upcoming Writers" is a term I invented which simply refers to the group of people, no matter what age but particularly pre-teen and young teenagers, who are serious about writing. If you're truly serious about writing, then you will write a good novel, you will have readers, and you will continue to learn. That's all there is to it.
However, it is easy to get lost and scared when you suddenly find out just how big writing can be. This post will, hopefully, make things easier to navigate. Here are some steps that you can do to help make your upcoming writing easier.
(Like I've already said, this is for upcoming writers. If you are not absolutely serious about writing, I would not suggest doing these steps since some of them require money.)
1. The One Year Adventure Novel
This is an incredible curriculum written by Daniel Schwabaur. Even though it was written for high schoolers, I did it in the eighth grade and I LOVED it. This curriculum teaches you everything you need to know to write a novel. It comes with an easy-to-read textbook that also has examples from classic novels to demonstrate various writing techniques or ideas. It comes with a workbook that makes outlining insanely easy. The DVD lessons are quick and precise, explaining the writing in very comprehensible ways.
If you do this curriculum, you will have to write either a historical or contemporary novel in first person point of view. (e.g. I left the house. My cat jumped in front of me. I glared at him. etc.) Some might find this bothersome, but I think it is a good place to start. Fantasy and Sci-Fi require different "rules", first person point of view forces you to truly know your hero.
Also, buying this curriculum allows you to become part of the One Year Adventure Novel forum, a website where you can meet other young Christian writers and discuss elements of writing with them. You can also ask questions about writing so Mr. Schwabaur and/or other writers can answer them. You also get access to the One Year Adventure Novel Summer Workshop. I've never been (it's in Kansas) but I hear it is AWESOME. They also hold contests with epic prizes!
2. Start a blog
You can do this at the same time you are doing the above curriculum, or you could start it before! Starting a writing blog is an excellent way to meet new writers and to go ahead and get yourself out there. It shows others that you are serious and willing to learn. And don't be afraid to write posts simply because you don't have as much experience as other bloggers. Remember, nobody is a pro at this. Just write about new writing things you are learning, write about the books you are reading, write about what you ate for breakfast! Just start writing.
Also, be sure to begin following other writing blogs and author websites. You can learn so much just by reading blogs and articles! Try to find writing contests to enter them. Winning isn't the point...the point is to work on overcoming the fear you, and every other good writer, has ever had. I don't think it will ever go away completely, but you have to train yourself not to listen to fear.
3. (For Fantasy writers) Literary Lessons from Lord of the Rings by HomeScholar books.
True, this is not necessarily a "fantasy" curriculum. But I believe every fantasy author ought to read 'Lord of the Rings' by J.R.R. Tolkien and 'The Chronicles of Narnia' by C.S. Lewis. These were two of the earliest fantasies, and perhaps, the most well-known. Both were written by strong Christians and together, both teach valuable lessons about reality, morality, theology, story, and fantasy.
This curriculum teaches you, not only about Tolkien's epic work, but also about the different genres of fantasy, King Arthur, conflict, and many other important literary elements.
4. Read, read, READ
Make sure to read as much as you possibly can. Learn from the books you are reading. Read books in and outside of "your" genre. Decide what you like and dislike about them. Then, write reviews! Think about why the author made certain decisions in his or her writing. What can you learn from them?
5. (For ALL writers) Research
Yep. I'm talking to you too, fantasy writers! This isn't just for the historical peeps! EVERYONE needs to do some form of research for their story. Historical novels obviously need to try to be historically accurate. Contemporary novels need to be accurate too. Fantasy novels need to be grounded in some reality. Sci-Fi novels need to try to at least make their tech sound plausible.
Basically, just keep learning about the world around you. Don't just read fiction books. Read history books and science articles. Go meet new people and talk to them. Be interested. Don't get stuck behind your laptop. You've got to live to write.
And there ya go! Five steps to get you started! I know, I used a lot of words just to talk about those five steps. But hey, I'm an upcoming writer, what do you expect? :P