If I could offer one piece of advice to beginning writers, it is this: write first, learn later. Because if you try to learn the craft of writing before you actually write, it will only discourage you.
When I was in high school, people asked me what I wanted to do with my life. I told them I wanted to be an author. My poor practical mom didn’t like this answer, so she pushed me toward nursing or some other money-making do-good professions. She only wanted her daughter to succeed. Unfortunately, I ended up wasting five years of my life at two different colleges with no degree to show for it.
But I digress. Back to high school. People told me that if I wanted to write, then I should learn the craft, read books on writing. So I did. But I read so much information that the rules ended up becoming roadblocks. I would toss the “how-to” books across the room in despair with the realization that I could never learn all those rules, ergo, I could never be a writer.
So let’s fast forward to after my five grueling years of college when I finally started writing. I mean, seriously writing. I didn’t read books on writing. I didn’t study the craft. What I did do was read/listen to interviews of my favorite authors, cling to their advice to “keep writing”, and did just that. You can read my journey about writing my first draft here.
All I wanted at this point was to see if I had it in me to finish a novel. Because if I didn’t, what was the point of learning the rules at all? So I finished that baby and sent the first ten pages to freelance editor to see what I needed to work on… which was a lot. (I definitely advise this to first time authors. It’s usually around $30 for the first 10 pages, depending on the editor, but totally worth it.) The editor told me my strengths and weaknesses and gave me a list of books to read. Now that I’d finished writing a manuscript, learning the craft didn’t seem so daunting. Sure, I pretty much had to rewrite that draft, but at least I had something to work with. I suppose I’m more of a “trial and error” student than a “do-it-right-the-first-time” type.
So, my advice to newbies is this: write first, learn later. And when you do get to that learning stage, learn everything you can. Of course, this advice doesn’t go for everybody. But it worked for me. If you’re a beginner and you feel “stuck” behind the rules of writing, toss the books aside and just write.