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Advice to a Novice Writer


 By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

In a recent email, Teri asked: “I'm a novice writer. What is the most important advice you can give to someone who is beginning to write a novel? And why?

As I pondered how to respond to Teri’s email, I realized that if Teri asked a dozen authors the same question, she’d likely get a dozen different answers. We all once struggled (or still struggle) with a variety of different things: crafting an opening that hooks a reader, creating lifelike characters, keeping the conflict and tension high, showing and not telling, and more.

So rather than focusing on writing mechanics, I’ll give a broader piece of advice to novice writers, especially to novice writers in today’s digital age: Don’t rush the process.

In other words, slow down; don’t be in a hurry.

What do I mean by that?

Let me flesh out my advice by applying it to two different levels of the writing process: micro and macro.

The micro-writing process:

The micro process is the art of writing itself. Capturing thoughts. Crafting sentences. Evoking the senses. Twisting plots. Breathing life into words.

Don’t rush the process doesn’t mean write slowly and meticulously and take years to write your first book. Sometimes writing fast and unhindered unleashes the creative process so that the internal editor is completely pushed aside and can’t interfere to erect roadblocks.

Rather don’t rush the process means to take the time to learn everything possible about the beautiful craft and skill of weaving words so eventually you can move from simple, tangled, and knotted beginner samplers into smooth yet colorful tapestries that convey complex stories.

Learn. Practice. Learn. Practice. The process of becoming skillful takes time.



The macro-writing process:

The macro process is the bigger picture of being a writer. Becoming an author. The thrill of seeing words in print. Dreaming of having readers.

Don’t rush the macro process means write with abandon, without the pressure to publish. Give your mind the freedom to simply create. Take the time to please yourself before worrying about pleasing potential readers.

The first book and maybe even the second (third, fourth, and fifth for me), are all part of the journey, experiencing both the joy and angst of the love affair with words.

All too often, novice writers channel their excitement for their stories into publication instead of practice. With the ease of self-publishing, the discipline of delayed-gratification is ignored for short-lived fulfillment, which often turns out not to be so fulfilling when the difficulties of selling and marketing become a reality.

Write several books. Get feedback. Tread into publication carefully.

So, that’s my advice to the novice writer! Don’t rush the process. If it’s worth doing, then it’s worth slowing down and doing it well.

How about YOU? What advice do you have for a novice writer?

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