For over twenty-five years, every time I read a good book, I wistfully told myself, someday, I too would write a story. I knew there was a story (if not a few) in me. It just needed, I convinced myself, the right time. Now and every moment, I deluded myself with ‘I have a full-time job, a fuller time wife and kids’ and so, I whiled away years waiting for the right time to come.
It never does. The right time.
One day while reading the newspaper, I came across a national short story competition for the public. Three thousand words, I told myself, I can manage that in my spare time.
Let me try.
So, I sat down and wrote my first story.
Proud as a peacock, I showed this to my wife. It was horribly written and an abomination, my wife loved it. Wives are like that. She encouraged me to send it to the competition. That I shared the horrendous piece of work with anyone shames me to this day. That shame though burned in me the need to learn. I started on a journey to educate myself on the craft. The third story I ever wrote made it to the top ten of the same story writing competition.
Below are the six things I did from my first poor effort to the third attempt where I had a slightly better handle on the finer nuances of the writing craft.
1. Learn what your core genre is
Writing is about expression but good writing is about expressions that you enjoy and want to write. It is about understanding yourself. A good clue is figuring out your core genre is which piece of writing made you look up from the book you were reading with a wistful sigh of enjoyment. That is the genre you below to. It does not mean you cannot write other genres. Of course, you can but this is the genre that you writing and words will appear from the heart with your will behind them. Those are the stories that make an impact, a difference.
2. Find the right “writing method” that works for you
Two million plus. That were the number of Google results when I first searched for “learning creative fiction writing.” There are so many different books on writing and how to go about it. Many of them promising that you just follow a method and you will end up writing a book. All of them are correct. The most important aspect is to understand what is the right method for you. For some the regimented approach works- structuring the work to the nth detail and then writing. For some, Stephen King is the boss, his style of a core idea to begin a story with and then let it write it out itself and gain shape works. No matter what path you take, and you have a choice of the path, keep a eye on the goal, a good story.
3. Write what pleases you
Love stories sell more. There is no market in India for fantasy fiction. I hear and read so many of these statements. I have not let any of this colloquial wisdom make any difference to me at all. I write what catches my fancy and interests me. Have learned that my writing is the best when it isn’t forced by any external influence.
4. The style of your writing
We are influenced with the style of every new author we read and are impressed with. We try and emulate our favorites. Nothing wrong with that but blatantly using a style or copying is where the problem starts. My suggestion, create a style of your own basis what you are comfortable with. Practice and use the style that comes naturally to you.
When you start writing, you put more time to writing and reading takes a back seat. When I figured this out, I changed my behavior and started to read again. If you don’t read, says popular wisdom, you cannot write well. Reading feeds the soul, burns the fire and from that fire come words that pour onto the paper or computer into your story. Read. A lot.
Last but not the least, don’t fall in love with your words. The hardest part of any writing is the rewriting. Be merciless in your reviews. The phase or the words that came together like magic but doesn’t feel right when you review them, please cut them.
Every few months, I go back and read the first story I ever wrote. In my heart, hideous though it is, it is the first words I put on paper. My first effort. Flawed but mine nonetheless. I read it again and again to understand all the things I got wrong and find a new error every time I read it.
That’s what writing is… constantly learning and growing. There is no end to how much there is to learn.
Don’t ever stop.