Six Things the Amateur Writer Should be Doing

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Have you ever heard a professional writer moan about work? Do they ever tweet angry pictures on Sunday evenings complaining on how it’s another week doing this boring job that they hate? Do they spend their free time scouring the job listings in the hope of finding something out there that’s a little more ‘right’ for them?

Nah, didn’t think so. At least none of the ones I follow seem to.

Compare that to the indie/amateur author. I, like most (all?) of these fellows, spend most of my working day thinking about firing up that laptop and getting down and dirty with a story or blog post (in fact, today I was thinking about writing this one). Not that I get all maudlin on a Sunday evening, but I’m definitely not losing sleep with excitement for the coming week.

Imagine if, instead of the arduous task of getting the uniform out, making the sandwiches, having a shower, Monday mornings were about chilling with a coffee, planning out the day’s writing activities. Four thousand words before dinner on the new opus, then a few hours in the afternoon editing the almost-finished one.

That would be great. At least, that’s what I imagine it would be like. I’m sure the reality is very different and nowhere near as glamorous as that.

So I’ll leave professional writers’ average days out of this.

So how about indie or amateur writers? I consider myself in the latter right now, I don’t know if that’s accurate or whether I’m being modest. But I’m yet to receive any payment for a story, so I’m still just someone with a hobby. Hopefully this will change. One day.

I do most of my writing at night. It’s when the monsters come out, so it’s perfect. On days where I’m not at work I often plan ahead to have a ‘writing day’ but then stupid boring house jobs come up instead, which invariably lick the proverbial balls.

So I’m finally getting to the crux of this post, things that indies/amateurs (I need a better term here- amaties maybe- no, that’s just shit) do, or should do, to suffer for their art. This list, obviously, is based on my personal experiences, but I’d bet that I’m not alone in how I spend my days in the quest for writing glory.

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1. Working on a story. Is it a bold statement to say that all writers have a work in progress? No, I don’t think so, that’s why they’re called writers. How many projects are you supposed to have going at one time, though? Obviously that answer would vary greatly. Do you count ones that you started months ago and haven’t been brave enough to look at since? Do you spend a week on one then the next week on another? There are countless scenarios. I try to concentrate on one at a time but when I hit some kind of writing wall (I imagine a large brick wall with graffiti on it), I tend to wuss out and pick up another. It’s all practice ain’t it?

2. Working on a blog post. Having an up-to-date blog is essential for the indie/amtee writer, so I’m told, and I would certainly agree. Not only does it allow you to have something you’ve worked on infecting the internet for eternity, it’s all more writing practice! Not only that, the feeling you get from someone doing a tiny thing like clicking/tapping on a small button that says ‘Like’ is very rewarding (there’s one of those buttons down at the bottom of this – just saying).

Since I started my blogging journey 18 months or so ago, I’ve interacted with some really cool people who also use their own websites to reach out to the world in the very same way I do. WordPress is great, isn’t it? (I wonder whether the site searches posts for ones that big them up???). They say that you need to keep at it; liking, commenting, following other blogs, as well as regularly updating your content, and you’ll see the page hits increase. It’s great advice and is so, so true. Best make time for it then!

3. Using Twitter. The procrastinator’s enemy (or is that friend?). Many blog posts on writing distractions point out the evil that can be any social media outlet. I’m a Twitterer and not really a Bookfacer, so I’ll stick with that one here. It’s true that you can spend hours scrolling down the news feed, reading articles, clicking on peoples’ profiles, looking for people to follow. But for the indie/ammy writer this tool can be used to great effect. Twitter can show you many links to articles and blog posts that are very useful; ones about editing, or selling your book, or even making more and productive use of social media. So it’s not all bad. Spending time using Twitter to ‘learn’ and ‘network’ from and with similar people (writers, reviewers, publishers) is time well spent.

This is easy to fit into your day. Ten minutes here and there while you’re waiting for the microwave to do its thing with last night’s leftovers, or watching the excruciatingly slow work computer power up, can now be made very productive. Just don’t spend all that time watching GIFs of cats doing ‘cute’ stuff.

4. Searching for places to send your completed stories. Picture this scenario. You have a banging idea for a short story whilst stuck in traffic. You spend all day trying to plan it. That night you get home and begin typing away. For the following days and maybe weeks, you spend more time in the traffic with ideas, and more hours at home writing the thing. After reading it back to yourself, editing, reading, editing (you get the picture) and then having a few friends read it, it’s finally ready to be sent out.

But what if you can’t find a suitable place for it? Now I don’t mean that your story is like a puppy that’s looking for a home; you need to know whether the potential owners are likely to show this puppy all the love and attention it needs and not be skanky, dog-hating shits. No, I mean that none of the sites/magazines seem to be what you’re looking for or, as is mostly the case, you’re not what they’re looking for. I write horror, but there are so many horror zines out there all specialising in something different it’s sometimes difficult to know which will be the right one. Plus there’s the sites and mags that seem ‘out of your league’ in terms of quality. This whole process can be frustrating. And time consuming, oh yes.

Another possibility is when you see a call for submissions for a particular type of tale. You do all of the above in planning and writing, then send it somewhere you know it will be a perfect fit. And then, of course, it gets rejected. This has happened to me twice in the last six months. All of a sudden you’re left with a story that is so specialised it won’t fit right in any other place. Well, that’s what re-writes are for, I suppose.

But like I’ve said before, just put this all down to practice. At least you spent this time writing and not just sitting on your arse dreaming of being a famous writer!

5. Reading blogs, all of the blogs! Well, OK, not quite all of them. Or a vast majority really. But when you’re reading blogs by other writers with tips on the craft, you’re learning. The advice, albeit generic and vast, is forcing itself into your mind, spreading through your idea-centres, ready to unleash themselves when you come to write/market/blog, or whatever. There are so many out there that you should easily find one a whichever topic you need help with.

Reading reviews of books and even movies in your chosen genre (and others), can also inspire. Seeing what elements of a story made these reviewers love them (or hate them) can be in the back of your mind when you’re planning and developing your own masterpiece.

6. Reading books. This last one is quite self-explanatory. Do you really need me to go in depth for this one? Read books written by better writers than you. That’s it!

 

So how about you? What do you do to help inspire those ideas, lay those foundations and paths towards the future? Am I even doing any of this right? Am I missing out on something I should be doing daily to become a better writer?

Thanks for reading, but before I go, a blatant plug. If you’ve made it this far then there’s only a little bit left to read!

One point I didn’t mention is setting up a mailing list. I’ve read a lot about the importance of doing this, so recently I took the plunge, with MailChimp as my guide, holding my shaking, nervous hand. I’ve managed to set up a link to the signup page (check me out!) where I’ve even produced a lovely welcome email (woo!) which even has a little flash fiction piece for your enjoyment! If this sounds like your thing, or even if you just fancy pushing my subscriber numbers up (there aren’t many) for whatever reason you may have, you can do that by clicking… yeah, here!

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Thanks in advance, and you don’t have to, honestly, I know it’s a cheeky plug. But at least I haven’t invaded your screen with a ‘look at me, click here’ box after you started reading. (NB this is only because I haven’t worked out how to do this yet!!)

Big thanks, homies!!!

 

Photo credit: Andrew Mason on Visual Hunt/ CC BY

Photo on Visualhunt

Photo credit: Paolo Camera on Visual Hunt/ CC BY

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Categories: writing

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5 replies

  1. Great post, Morgan. Flip #6 to #1 and I think you got it. Keep at it–stay brutal.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Plaisted Publishing and commented:
    A good article to read.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I mainly eat muffins but I’ve been thinking about changing my strategy lately. Good tips.

    Liked by 1 person

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