Advice for New Writers

My friends’ daughter is reading “Jon Hansen and the Dragon Clan of Yden.” Just the other day she said to me “I’ve always wanted to write. What kind of advice can you give me?” Well… you can devote entire books to the finer aspects of writing and still not cover everything. I think the single biggest piece of advice I could give is this; be prepared to fill boxes (or computer memory) with cringe-worthy attempts at genius… but don’t let that deter you from pressing forward with your dream. My first screenplay was apparently so bad that the friend I’d asked to read it wanted to haul off and hit me. I brought in a short story to a college creative writing class once that almost got me thrown out. And when I introduced the initial “Jon Hansen” manuscript into my writing workshop, the first chapter was so frenetic that it gave everyone whiplash. No one sits down to write and gets it perfect the first time. It’s a learning process, much the same as a baby learns to walk. And just as a baby is thrilled with each bit of progress, so must the new writer be. There is no shortcut to finding your “voice,” and no writer should look for one. The process of writing does require a sense of humor and a somewhat thick skin. You must constantly guard against being defensive about feedback. Way back when, I wrote what I knew was a fantastic “James Bond” type thriller of a screenplay. But when I brought it into my writing workshop, the moderator told me “Your main character is so perfect he makes me want to kick him into a ditch. I hate his guts.” Sometimes you just have to laugh about stuff like that. There are days when the only thing to do is to go home and lick your wounds. But then, like a tenacious toddler, you give it another try. Eventually you’ll find what works for you and what doesn’t. Stick with it and you will be rewarded. Not everyone can be a best selling author, but almost everyone can become a better writer. So go to it.

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