The oldest piece of written literature dates back to ancient Mesopotamia. Somewhere around 3400 B.C., the Sumerians started writing down financial records, myths, poetry etc. It marked an important chapter in human history. Suddenly, people could rely on physical records rather than just word of mouth. Since the advent of writing, it has evolved past just a means of record keeping and is now an important part of communication. We write to express ourselves and the written word has branched out into numerous genres. Fiction, nonfiction, horror, mystery, thrillers, action and poetry are all expressed in writing. It helps us imagine vast worlds and countless opportunities.
If you’re an aspiring writer yourself, you’ve likely faced a few hurdles along the way. Perhaps you have no idea how to begin or maybe you’re wondering if your work is even any good. Today we’ve compiled a list of DO’s and DONT’s to follow if you’re trying your hand at literature.
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Creating a routine is an integral part of the writing process. Many renowned authors throughout history have been known to follow a routine. A routine is not necessarily a strict 9-5 time allocation or a ticking countdown but rather a fixed schedule to follow. Waking up at an exact time, allocating different parts of the day to a specific activity and maintaining this schedule with discipline is a practical approach to establishing a routine. Writers like Leo Tolstoy, Ernest Hemingway and Jane Austen tended to wake up early and put in hours of writing time. Only during lunchtime did they allow themselves to partake in other activities. For writers with a day job such as Franz Kafka, a routine still worked and he was known for indulging in writing during the evening. Establishing a routine helps you create a balanced approach to writing and helps you give your best in your most productive hours.
Studies indicate that people tend to modify their work environments, actively or subconsciously to provide optimal working conditions. Your optimal working conditions can be anything, a coffee table placed a certain way, a small balcony with the right lighting or even a garden shed. British writer Roald Dahl was known for retreating into his garden shed for writing. Figuring out an ideal work environment is an important part of beginning the writing process. You’ll want to get started right away and always have easy access to your working space. Optimizing your work space can also include removing distractions such as the internet. For example, Essayist Susan Sontag was known for asking people not to call her in the morning.
Reading is a natural part of writing but many tend to ignore lesser works of literature. Truth is writers across the world strongly recommend reading all kinds of books. Whether they are good or bad, fiction or nonfiction, long or short. The idea behind this is that it gives a prospective writer an idea about how to approach writing from many viewpoints. Artistry often involves a method of adopting various techniques to create a robust whole. Simply put, you’ll want to read as much as you can if you want to be a serious writer!
If you’re going to write, you’re going to make mistakes. The sooner you accept this fact, the sooner you’ll start to improve. Many budding writers get demoralized when they feel like their work is not as good as they expected. As they say, you are your own worst critic. So it is completely natural when you sit down to write and feel your work is lacking quality. Simply accept it as a stepping stone and strive to improve the content with every iteration. When you feel like you’ve written something to be proud of, you’ll know it. If you’re feeling particularly frustrated then it might be a good idea to get an outsider’s opinion. Don’t feel discouraged by your earlier works, just keep at it and you will eventually produce quality literature.
Aiming to specialize in a particular style of writing isn’t a bad idea, but restricting yourself to writing only about what you know may cause your writing to become stale. If you tend to write exclusively about the things you know, chances are you’ve already got an idea about how others write for the same subject. This can lead you to subconsciously borrow ideas that have already been used in the past. This leads your work to feel unoriginal and boring. Writing about things you’re not familiar with helps expand your imagination. When you use your imagination, it can be a refreshing experience for readers. Don’t feel afraid to experiment with different topics in your writing. And remember, bad drafts are a part of the process.
When it comes to writing, this is a big no-no. A big draw of reading is the ability of the reader to interpret from their own perspective. This is especially significant in books of fiction. When a writer starts chronicling every minor detail, this robs the reader of the chance to imagine and interpret their own variations. This can lead to your work becoming boring and overly detailed. A great example of balancing the number of details can be found in the Harry Potter books. Author JK Rowling describes the key features of each character but never delves into excessively and lets the reader’s imagination run wild, making the experience personal. It is essential that you remember not to add excessive details.
Simplicity is vital when writing. Excessive use of fancy vocabulary is a major turn off for many readers. Wording your writing cleverly is important, but it should never feel like you were consulting a thesaurus. Readers value a simple, honest style of writing, which conveys a sense of authenticity. This doesn’t mean that a writer should avoid using any advanced vocabulary but rather to know where it might be necessary and where it feels phony.
Over the course of writing, you might want to consult with someone or get a friend’s opinion. This is perfectly valid and a good way to make sure your work isn’t inaccessible to an outsider. However, it’s important to remember that your work is a product of your creativity. Newbie writers tend to take too many suggestions to heart and keep making changes until the work no longer feels like their own. Remember that at the end of the day, you are the writer and your work represents you. Keep an open mind about improvements but never go overboard with suggestions.