Tips for Budding Writers from a College Creative Writing Student

August 26, 2019

writer mugIt’s no question to anybody that knows me well that I am a writer. I’m the kind of person who communicates best via the written word – sometimes sending lengthy emails and being overly grammatically correct over text. Not to mention 90% of the time I’m deep in thought building up my own fictional worlds and characters and then blabbering over it excitedly whenever the brilliant idea strikes and it’s all I can think about.

As a child, I would fill notebook upon notebook with all of my stories. When I gained access to a computer, I flooded it with numerous Word documents. On my very first blog I shared chapter-by-chapter a book about a girl named Olivia Skye. She found herself on a grand adventure through Greek mythology with Jason seeking the golden fleece. I’m… kind of glad that blog isn’t up anymore because I’m terrified of how cringey it likely was.

Maybe you are the same way?

There’s no step-by-step guide to becoming a writer. People can write books on it, sure, but every writer’s process and journey is theirs and theirs alone. All I can share are my own personal experiences!

One of my favorite experiences was taking an online class through a homeschooling website dedicated to writing a novel to completion. It was a combination of story building essays and writing the actual book, and it was honestly a lot of fun. I got to interact with other young writers my age and we all got to work together and communicate throughout the whole process. My book was about a princess who had to save her kingdom from an evil dragon named Deathflame… not perhaps the most original plot, but I enjoyed writing it and that’s all that matters.

If you’re feeling super ambitious, I definitely recommend checking out National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo). Every November writers from all over the world participate in a write-a-thon in which they all try to write a 50,000 page novel manuscript in just one month. It’s super difficult and in all my years of participating I’ve never succeeded, but it’s still a lot of fun. And who knows? Erin Morgenstern wrote her debut novel The Night Circus during NaNoWriMo and became wildly successful!

There’s also Camp NaNoWriMo that happens a few times during the spring and summer months that is like a mini-version of the main event that is also pretty cool. There’s a cabin feature on the website where you can basically form a mini writing club and chat with your cabinmates while you write.

If there are any local or online writing contests happening, I definitely recommend jumping on the opportunity! One of my proudest childhood moments was winning the writing contest hosted by my library’s summer reading program. It was about a sea-monster helping a poor fishing village catch more fish… truly a modern literary classic in the making.

One of the best way to become a great writer is to also be a great reader! Reading lots of books in a variety of genres and writing styles is great for helping you expand your horizons and in turn makes you a better writer. Even if you aren’t a romance writer, read a romance novel! What makes that particular narrative style different from say… a fantasy novel? Maybe you won’t be a horror writer, but reading a horror novel or two might help you become better at writing suspenseful, intense scenes!

Sometimes when reading a good book, you’ll find yourself gleaning ideas from it to use in your own writing. That’s not copying or plagiarizing! In this world, there are no purely original ideas – everyone’s been influence or inspired by someone or something. Don’t be afraid to take a concept or theme from your favorite book and try reworking it into your own writing. Who knows, you might create something amazing!

For practice, you could try your hand at some fan-fiction and rewrite a scene or ending of one of your favorite stories. What would have happened if Max decided to not give up being the king of the wild things? Or you could dream up a sequel! After Max came home and ate his dinner (that was still hot), he must have gone to bed. What adventure did he have the next day?

Try not to be discouraged if your writing isn’t up to the same standards of your favorite published book. You’re still practicing, its okay to be a beginner! All great writers have to start somewhere. Besides, nobody likes their first draft. The first draft will always be a horrific mess, but if you keep working at it one day you too will have come to write something you can take pride in.

If possible, something I highly recommend is especially if you’re a bit shy like I am, practice reading your work out loud in front of an audience. Small audiences made up of friends or family members is fine. I end up reading my writing out loud in front of my college creative writing classes all the time, and it can be a bit nerve wracking at first. But trust me, the more you do it the easier and more fun it is! 

Because who knows? Maybe one day you’ll be a famous best-selling author and get to read your work in front of huge audiences! Better start practicing now. 😉

While it can be pretty hard at first, learn to take constructive criticism. Whether it is from a teacher or a beta-reader friend, sometimes its important and useful to get a second opinion on your work. There may be flaws that you didn’t catch during your own read-throughs! You can either accept it all, or take it with a grain of salt. Nobody will expect you to just go along with everything that is said, take a stand for your writing if you feel you must! College writing critiques can be scary and intimidating at first, but I’ve gotten some valuable advice just from taking my first intro to fiction class. Don’t underestimate the value of a good critique session.

Gather inspiration from everywhere. Charles Dickens used to takes notes on people he came across in his normal day to day encounters. He would write down interesting names, character traits and descriptions, or conversation snippets to possibly use later. Write down what you remember from dreams, you might jot something down that you could turn into a pretty wild adventure with some additional thought.

My final piece of advice, for every young writer who dreams of being published one day: write the story that you want to see in the world. We already have J K Rowling, and Holly Black, and Rick Riordan. Write the story you need first, and don’t worry about what’s popular or has already been written. What’s that book that you wish you had read but haven’t yet found? Write that.

Happy writing!

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Sarah Cook, Author of Build Your LibrarySarah Cook has been writing since she was old enough to hold a pencil. She loves to read, daydream, and fangirl over her favorite anime and manga. As a K – 12 homeschool survivor and graduate, she is currently a creative writing major in college. She hopes to someday travel the world, write bestselling novels, and own 152 cats. You can follow her on YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.

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Have you been looking for a literature based homeschool curriculum that is secular? How about a way to incorporate narration, copywork, dictation and memory work into your child’s education? Or art study that ties into history?

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