Learning to write: where does a newbie writer start?

learning to write for the newbie writer

Learning to write, as with learning any new skill or job the theory is that you should start at the beginning which is fine if you as the newbie, know where the beginning is.

I didn’t

But, having made numerous contacts during my small business ownership years, I had a friend (as we all do in a time of crises) who is an academic writer and part-time lecturer on writing. She has also attended various courses on writing.

My plaintive pleas to part with her course material and/or lecture syllabus was met with a definitive NO! As it would have been a breach of copyright, she was having none of it. The reality is that I had no right to request it.

But she agreed to impart her wisdom in her own words and at a pace agreeable to her. I was lucky, there was someone who would hold my hand and guide me, a mentor if you will; a process that is still ongoing, one year later. (Image by kellywritershouse on Flickr)

For those who don’t have access to a free source such as I had the only suggestion I can offer is to sign up for a writing course. And there are plenty of them, both online and in the classroom. The question is: how do you know which one to sign up for?

There are websites that offer free courses but in the context of this post I assume that as a newbie writer you are looking for something more complex and encompassing than basic English or grammar courses

I would think it depends on what aspect of writing you want to learn and the positive reviews the various courses have received. I have looked at both local and online courses, but if I am going to adhere to my budget limitations, they are all out of my financial reach. Those that come highly recommended are just too expensive. But that does not mean they are out of your reach. If you have spare cash to allocate to your proposed career, then attending a good writing course should be your top priority.

Learning to write

If writing courses are beyond your means, learning what you can from free online sources and author websites and/or friends and family or, as in my case, personal contacts, may be the only option. (Image by Mariah Thompson on Flicker)

During the last 12 to 14 months I have spent hundreds of hours plowing through dozens of authors websites; reading blogs and articles about writing and watched as many videos on YouTube about “How to become a writer”.

By month six, I was confused and overwhelmed. I was on the verge of accepting that I would never cut it and being a writer was something you had to start learning about when you turned two or there wouldn’t be sufficient time left in the average lifespan to master the craft. Scouring the internet for free learning material is tedious and often disheartening, but there is a lot of terrific information and guidance out there, much of it provided free by very generous authors, editors and publishers; the trick is finding the sources that best suit your need and to stick with them. Which is what I have done to supplement my mentoring and to try flatten out that vertical learning curve.

Suggested resources for learning to write that I found helpful

Here are some sites I follow and maybe a good place to start, but you must find sources that best suit your purpose and meet your needs. I have followed these writers because their sites provide information, tools, and guidance on areas my mentor either has not covered or, by her own admission, does not possess the relevant knowledge. Some of them, such as Mark Dawson, also offer highly rated writing courses.

Mark Dawson and Joanna Penn also use podcasts to share information which I follow. Kindlepreneur has a 60-part podcast series which focuses very much on the practical aspects of writing, such as how best to use Amazon, book covers, and other helpful resources. Other podcasts I find helpful are:

These are some of the books I have read and highly recommend.

Learning to write
Learning to write for newbie writers
Learning to write

Getting started

You will find almost every author or writing site is going to tell you to read copious amounts of books and write, write and write. Reading has been a lifelong passion so I could tick that box, but the writing bit was more difficult. Sure, I had written plenty of blog posts, articles and even attempted an ebook series in a previous life, but this time it was different. Everything I had written before had been to support my primary endeavors at the time—marketing my small businesses. But now I was talking about writing becoming the primary source of income, it was, in essence, my new “small business”.

I began to write, write and write!

My writing apprenticeship included the revamp of my previously written four ebooks, which also provided some practice. The advantage here was that I had access to folks who had written books on similar topics who gladly proofread and critiqued, which helped enormously.

My other writing attempts; short stories, ramblings and thoughts met with a different reception. You know how it is with friends and family; after reading your writing they get that bemused look which usually means that they think, on the one hand, that it sucks but loyalty demands they voice a positive opinion—which to be honest, is not what you want. So, I insisted they be honest. After a brutal savaging, I decided they knew squat about what a good story was, anyway. Which was only fooling myself. What it is to be human!

Learning to write is, as with most professions, an ongoing journey, and the hope is that the more I write, the better I’ll become. So back to the keyboard!


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