The Magic Formula?
In life, there are very few magic formulas that work for everyone, all the time. This is because there’s usually far too many variables involved – however, when it comes to writing, I think I’ve identified a four step magic formula that will help most along their way to becoming a published writer.
The Good Idea
I don’t think there’s enough emphasis put on having that ‘good idea’. You can take a million writing classes but if you do not cultivate your imagination and sow the seeds of creativity, then you’ll have nothing to reap when you come to write. I have written a blog on inspiration, so if you’re struggling then have a look through my archive and have a go at some of the exercises there. But the ‘good idea’ is really where it all begins. Don’t just re-hash someone else’s story and please do not fall into fan fiction that is confined to live in another author’s shadow. Break out and come up with something amazing – a story that would just burst your brain if it is not told. An idea so thoroughly wonderful it has to be shared with the unsuspecting world!
The Skill of Writing
Sadly, a skill that can be taught, but is often neglected. Let’s put this in perspective, we have universal languages for a reason –so we can all communicate with one another in a mutually accepted format. Grammar and sentence structure is paramount. How can anyone understand your work if its unreadable or comes across child-like in its structure. Your ‘good idea’ deserves better, it deserves to be constructed out of quality words and perfect punctuation. It’s fun to write, it’s even more fun for others to be able to read what you write. Take some time and brush up on your English Language skills; it could be as simple as examining your favourite book to see how sentences are structured, and their use of commas and the like. Ask people too; if you’re not sure, ask a writing buddy, ask an editor, or even just type in ‘punctuation’ into Google – only your internet browser then need know that you’ve never used a semi colon before.
I must admit that, at school, I glazed over every time the English teacher started talking about grammar; but I have learnt the hard way that ‘good ideas’ can wither and die on the vine if you don’t know how to put them across. This part of the formula is important guys – I know it’s boring, but please take the time to get it right.
Surrounding yourself with like-minded people is essential. Writing can be very lonely, it’s hard to keep excited over a secret project that you don’t talk about or share with anyone. Family and friends are great, but they won’t understand (unless they’re writers too) your efforts, and even why you’re trying at all. Finding a community of fellow writers makes a big difference. If you can’t physically do that, then join an online group through Facebook or even seek out fellow writers and connect with them on Twitter. It’s all too easy to give up on your manuscript if no one is there motivating and inspiring you to get it done.
OK so you’ve been motivated by your fellow writing buddies, to weave that good idea into a universally accepted format – now what? Well, you pitch it. You send it out. You take the plunge. You put yourself out there – you… well you get the idea! That manuscript isn’t doing you any favours sat on your computer mocking you with its little Word icon. The last step is to research publishers and send it to the right ones in the format that they ask for. Now remember, you can’t please everyone – they’ll be publishers who hate your work and equally those who love it. Embrace the love – forget the hate. Do not let rejections get you down. Remember what Thomas Edison said to that reporter who sarcastically asked what it was like to fail so many times at creating the light bulb, “If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.” Thomas A. Edison, Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Don’t let the fear of rejection stop you from moving forward. If someone rejects your work then mentally keep them as a character to kill off in a later manuscript – Wha ha ha!