What defines a new writer? It's a tricky one. I wrote my first full-length 'novel-style' story at eight years old. I may have moved on from shipwrecked adventures, but I still feel very much like a new writer. I've been working on my novel for nearly two years now, and it is the first one I have ever completed to a point where I'm actually terrified at the thought of my USB dying, my laptop getting stolen, my home computer shorting and the back up versions in my email, sisters laptop and friends computers all disappearing. Everything else I wrote ended up getting the good ol' "move to trash" click of the mouse.
I still feel like a new author. Even if I get published I doubt I feel any 'older' as a writer. After all, writing is learning. About yourself, your characters, your world and most of all your writing.
Even so, I have been given some good advice that I can share. Here are the top five tips for 'new' writers that I have been given. They helped me so I hope they help you too!
1) Write a novel.
The sense of accomplishment you get when you write the final line of your first draft in incredible. To 'finish' (I'm ignoring the months and possibly years of editing when I say this) a novel is huge. To pour all your heart and soul into such a huge piece of work and actually complete it is a feat not many people achieve. How many people can actually say they've done it? We are an elite few. We should allow ourselves to bask in the glory for a while.
National Novel Writing Month is an exhilarating experience. 50,000 words in November. It's insane and not for the fainthearted. I wrote "Phoenix's Ashes" in Nano 2009. I'd been working on it since 2008, but decided it wasn't working so literally ripped it up and started again. It was the best thing I could have done. If you haven't taken part in NaNo before I highly recommend it. For those in the Southern Hemisphere, Kiwiwriters also hold SoCNoC, which is 50,000 words in June.
2) Work on more than one writing project at a time.
It's ok to work on more than one project at a time. I'm working on four. Concentrating on one, but the other three are stewing away. The way to finish that novel is to keep writing. Sometimes, when I'm ready to throw the towel in, I just work on one of my other WIPs. That way I'm always working on something and never have an 'off' day.
3) Critique other's work
Join a local crit group. Network online to find crit buddies. Critters.org is one I'd recommend for fantasy, sci-fi and horror writers. Not only will you get others to read your work, but you will learn so much from pointing out flaws in others work. My writing has grown 100% since I started critiquing. You start to notice repeated mistakes that make you look back at your own work and find the same ones.
4) Never (and I mean NEVER) let anyone read your first draft.
Other than the fact that it will be full of spelling and grammatical errors, cliches, horrible sentence structure and no flow, the person you give it to will probably never want to read anything else of yours again. You could end up with some harsh crits that make you want to give up. Take the time to edit first. Take the time to edit it several times! You will get relevant ideas from your critiquer that way, rather than having them point out every spelling mistake.
5) Don't be afraid to put your work out there.
Even though I said don't hand over your first draft, that doesn't mean you shouldn't let anyone read your work ever. Get friends and family to look at it. Yes, they will probably sugar coat everything and tell you its the best thing since Harry Potter, but they may come out with a few gems. Ask them the right questions and you may get some information out of them that is helpful. Plus, they'll make you feel good about your writing!
Then, be brave and search further afield. Join writers and readers networks like Books Down Under (who have a crit group!) and get to know other writers. Join Critters. Hop on twitter and find other writers. Find a local writers group like kiwiwriters. Meet people, and crit their work. Then find people to crit yours back.
Yes, some people might rip your work to shreds. Rise above the bad ones and learn from everything. Your writing will thank you.
That's all folks.