1. INSPIRATION – This can strike anywhere, at any time so keep a look out for news headlines, listen in to conversations and start some of your own in the search for ideas. Grab any inspiration with both hands, and never let it go. Make sure you’ve always got pencils and notebooks or a WP package to hand, so you can make notes on the spot. Pictures are a brilliant help, so keep your camera phone charged and ready. Posting your snaps on sites like
pinterest or Tumblr can provoke all sorts of reactions from potential readers, and you can use these to inspire your work.
2. CONVICTION: Whether you’re writing non-fiction or a novel, a short story or saga you’ve got to believe in your work – with a capital B. Making up your mind to put your thoughts down on paper is a big decision. You may or may not be aiming to get published one day, but the more faith you have in your idea, the better your work will be. Spelling and grammar can always be tidied up with redrafts and revisions, but if your writing doesn’t have heart, it hasn’t got a hope.
3. ROUTINE: When you start with a blank page or open a new document, there’s a mountain of words between you and your finished article, book or memoir. Just as the journey of a thousand miles starts with one step, the book of 100,000 words begins with an opening word. Make it easy for yourself. Break the long haul down into easy stages. Set aside some time each day to write, and find a place where you won’t be disturbed. It doesn’t matter where it is, when, or how long you can manage. The important things are consistency – make writing a regular, unbreakable habit. When you’ve had a good session, make a note of what made it so successful. Log the number of words you achieved, and try to beat your total next time. This is useful for when you get stuck. If you’re on Twitter, investigate the hashtag #1k1hr. Joining others in the quest for words is a great help! However you give yourself a target, it makes sure you get something down. A scribbled first draft can always be improved. A totally blank page will only glower at you when you start your next session. That’s a real buzz-kill.
4. PROFESSIONALISM: Always write the very best book, article or short story you can. If you’re aiming for publication, get a second opinion from a professional, or join the New Writers’ Scheme run by the Romantic Novelists’ Association. Take notice of revisions suggested by people you trust – constructive criticism will really help you to up your game.
Before you make your work public, read it through one last time, with the help of my final suggestion…
5. A GOOD DICTIONARY: The Oxford English Dictionary in all its forms is the most widely recognised here in the UK. This is invaluable – honestly, it is! – but harder to use than you might think. I find spelling really difficult. My brilliant Creative Writing tutor, the poet and critic Paul Groves, picked up on this fault straight away. I was on Dictionary Corner duties in every session after that. It was intended to improve my spelling, but he (and the rest of the students) soon spotted the flaw in his master plan. To look up the correct spelling of a word in any dictionary, you have to know how to spell it.
I’m still trying to discover how many k’s there are in Fokkkasia…