New Writers…Where to Start

Humans love stories. We hear them, share them, and make them up. And most of us, about 95%, want to write them down for others to read. Yes, 95% of us want to write a novel, but only 5% ever will. Why? Because it’s hard. Like any other skill, it takes time and practice. So why do we think that because we know how to write a sentence, we should easily know how to write a novel? Would you sit down at a piano and think you could play Mozart? How about even Mary Had a Little Lamb? Of course not!

If you’re interested in writing a novel, or anything creative, I first suggest you look for creative writing classes at your local community college. You can usually find evening classes filled with others like you. The class will teach you basics about story structure, pacing, themes, and plot development. It’s also a great way to start building you writing community and get feedback on your work. Having your work critiqued is typically one of the biggest fears for new writers. My advice… jump in and get it over with early. The water is cold but it warms up if you keep swimming.

Once you’ve taken a community level class, or two, look for college extended study classes. Many universities offer a wide variety of writing topics – short stories, novels, creative non-fiction, poetry, and more. Try some different styles to what you enjoy.

Next, look for a writer’s conference near you. There are a host of conferences across the country. Until you’re really ready to submit your work for review or agent representation, I recommend you look for conferences that focus on craft instruction. (For those in CA, the San Diego Writer’s Conference held each January is a good one.) Find a conference near me.

If you have the time and money, you might want to look into a standard or low-residency Masters of Fine Arts programs. Please note a MFA in Creative Writing can certainly help, but it’s not required nor is it guarantee you’ll get published. Check online for more information.

Whatever you do, you’ll need to practice. So write. Edit. Edit again. Then edit some more. Writing is editing. Of course, you’ll also want to love it. Writing is difficult, but it’s also fun. Why else would 95% of us want to do it! Good luck and Happy Writing!

Books on Writing I Love…

Anatomy of Story by John Truby  |  On Writing by Stephen King  |  The Hero’s Journey by Joseph Campbell  |  Save the Cat by Blake Snyder


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