Thursday, May 2, 2013

The process of becoming a writer

By Dennis Mellersh

Now that you are learning to write, and perhaps even starting to write your book, you are already in the process of becoming a writer and you soon will be living the life of a writer.

You are entitled to consider yourself a writer if you are making an effort to thoroughly learn all the aspects of the craft of writing and are also taking the time to practice your writing with a view to writing the books you are planning, whether that is fiction, non-fiction, or a collection of poetry or essays.

A new approach to life
As a writer, your approach to life will be now different than before you started to write. Now every aspect of your life has the potential to contribute in some way, either directly or indirectly, to your writing.

Everything you do, everything you read, everything you see, and everything you hear will become part of the background that you can draw on in your novels, short stories, poetry or your non-fiction.
Now that you are becoming a writer, when you go to the library, read articles in the newspaper or on the Internet, and read books and magazines, it will be goal directed, and not just for amusement.

You will be analyzing how you can use the information you are absorbing as a database to draw on in your writing. You will be absorbing the events of the world around you through the eyes and ears of a writer. You will see the world in a new perspective.

Building your writing database
As a by-product of your information gathering, a subconscious process of idea generation will happen. This is why you should always carry with you a small notebook so you can write down these ideas for your writing as they occur to you. And, ideas will start coming to you at any place and at any time.

But unless you write them down, you won’t be able to remember them. Ideas are often fleeting, and you can’t will them into existence, even if as a writer you are starting to develop an active imagination. So you have to be prepared to capture these ideas – hence the notebook. Similarly, you you should start to keep a larger notebook or journal where you can expand and develop your ideas as part of your daily writing program.

You will be reading a lot
An important part of your new life as a writer will be reading as much as you can whenever and wherever you can. Not just material about learning how to write, but equally important, and perhaps more important, reading the works of established, recognized writers such as novels, short stories, poems, essays and non-fiction in general. You should focus your reading more heavily on the type of writing that you are interested in doing.

The short story writer and novelist Ray Bradbury suggests that aspiring writers should reach each day: one short story, one poem, one essay. To that list we could add: a few pages from a novel.
It’s not easy, but it’s necessary

That is a tough order if you are a working Mom or have a full time job in business, for example. But you should do this reading because you may learn more about writing from reading good writing than you will from books and other media telling to how to write.

You will not be able to fully develop yourself as a writer unless you read a lot of what other writers have already done. You should read contemporary writers as well as writers from earlier periods.
To get an even better appreciation of quality writing, try writing out in longhand some passages from your favorite writers that seem particularly good to you. Soon, it won’t be long before you find yourself writing down your own ideas and fashioning them into literary format.

Your practice writing efforts
Regarding your “practice writing” efforts, you should keep all of this experimental or draft material on hand in a safe place. Try doing this draft work in longhand, but if using a computer, print it out instead of assuming it will be safe on your hard drive. It’s also easier to review this older material if it is permanently on paper.

Although you may still consider yourself a “beginner” writer you may be surprised later on when you go back to some of this material to find that there is a lot in these “early” writing efforts which is worth developing further.

Also keep your notes on the passages from your favorite writers in a central safe location. These notes can be a good source of both information and inspiration as you proceed on your journey of becoming a writer.

Another way of taking notes from the works of your favorite writers is to write down the quotations on index cards noting the name of the writer and the source of the information (such as book title). It can come in handy later on if you want to re-read the original source of the information. It can be frustrating if you have an interesting quote, but you don’t know where it came from, or worse, you don’t know who the author is.

The payoff
In all of this try to think of your desire to be a writer and the effort you are putting into it as part of an exciting and ultimately rewarding experience.

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