I am a WIP
If you, as an author, you may have been asked the same question many times: How do I become a writer?
The answer is not simple, but it should be. You become a writer by writing.
But—and there is always a but—, it is not as easy, is it? Some people might have been writing for years with no one knowing about it. I call them the closet writers. Others might jump feet first into it (like me), and first had to learn how to write crap, before they can become a good (or better) writer. I want you to know it’s okay to start writing crap. We all started there. It’s how you deal with it, that matters.
Today I’m kicking off a series of blog posts about writing. I need to warn you, though: I don’t know everything. I’m a WIP (Writer in Progress). I learn as I go along. There are definitely more talented and knowledgeable writers out there. I’m going to tell you about my mistakes, and how I deal with it. I’m going to tell you what I do to create believable characters, my favourite websites, and all the other things that go with being a self-published author. (Well, those I know!!)
Another thing I can tell you: I’m a motivator. If you want to tell me you want to write, I’ll tell you then, write. Don’t ask mine or anyone else’s permission! That is your choice.
If you ask me how to improve your writing, the answer should be the same. Write. The more you write, the better you’ll become.
Unfortunately, in the last week I saw a comment on an aspiring writer’s question on English books he could read in his particular genre so he could improve his English. I won’t mention the page, but some of the answers really made my hackles rise. I don’t know why some people think they are superior to others, that they dare tell someone they should first improve their English before they can consider writing. If I had a teacher like that, it would’ve crushed me for life. Luckily, I had not.
Now, for those of you who don’t know me, English is not my first language. My brothers and sisters will tell you that when I was about five, even before I went to school, I ‘read’ the English paper to my father in the afternoons. My Dad was Afrikaans, but he had Scottish and Irish co-workers, and that’s probably why he bought the English paper. My family found my reading attempts hilarious, of course.
I am lucky that I had an English teacher in high school who gave me this advice when I asked her how to improve my English vocabulary: Read. Read much and wide. If you don’t know a word, look it up.
And that’s what I did. I loved reading romance as much as I enjoy writing it. I have to confess: I binge-read Barbara Cartland and Mills & Boon in my late teens rather than try to understand Shakespeare’s English.
Nowadays I speak English constantly, as I’ve married a Scot who may understand some Afrikaans but can’t speak it. Or not in public. My first writing attempts were in English. My first seven books were only in English, but I now write in both English and Afrikaans. Therefore, if you want to write in English, even though it is your second language, write in English. Be prepared for critique. Be prepared to learn but then, learn to grow. Be prepared to make mistakes. You won’t be the first and you won’t be the last. There are people who can help you perfect your book like editors and proofreaders and beta-readers. There are programmes like ProWritingAid and Grammarly. You have online dictionaries like Pharos. Use it. And read.
R. L. Stine said he’ll answer people who asked him what he would tell people who want to writers, like this: “I say, they don’t really need advice, they know they want to be writers, and they’re gonna do it. Those people who know that they really want to do this and are cut out for it, they know it.”
So, to confirm my earlier statement about how to become a writer and my answer was to write? Remember, you can’t call yourself a writer if you have written nothing. You may, when you've written at least something, don’t matter how crap it is. You’ve heard all the clichés and sayings but just to refresh your mind, here are a few quotes by way more famous authors than myself, just to prove my point:
As an author, you must figure out why you are writing. Is it only to make money? Is it for fame? If your answer is yes to one or both questions, I suggest you re-think your decision. Nobody can guarantee that you will make a success. Nobody can guarantee that your first book will be a bestseller off the bat. Nobody can guarantee that you to make millions and buy yourself an island. I called those dreams. You may fulfil your dream, but not because those were your only reasons for writing. Or you may. I don’t know. You have as much chance to gain a fortune from your writing than you have of winning the lottery.
If you tell me you write because you love to write (even crap), then write. Let nobody tell you otherwise. They say everyone has a story inside of us. Some have more. So if you feel the need to get that story out, you need to write it. This quote from Maria Angelou perfectly sums it up for me:
That is why I write. If I don’t, I might go crazy. It’s better than therapy, I guess, but as an indie author, it may cost just as much. But, after I’ve dealt with the demons (actually, they are only my characters); I have something to show the world that I survived that beast. Dramatic much? I guess, but then, I am a writer. I can talk and write in clichés (but it’s better to leave them out in your fiction stories, if you can).
And, after that first book is done and dusted, you’ll find that the urge is still there to write another, then another. It’s like an addiction, experiencing the high when you type THE END, then the low when you realise it’s done. What now? Are you ready to say goodbye to the story and your characters? It always feels as if the answer should be “no”. Yet, a week later, you find yourself ready for the next. Or William Carlos Williams might be right.