Often new writers are confused about how to turn their passion for writing into a career. Here’s an eight point action plan.
8 Point Action Plan for New Writers…
1) It’s NEVER too late to start writing with intent. There isn’t an age which is optimum to start a career in writing. I have worked with many writers who have had other careers before they turned to writing full time - teachers, social workers, housewives, even a judge - you name it, I’ve seen it. These talented writers either started late or were only able to make a living out of writing after many years of plugging away. Don’t beat yourself up if life has got in the way for a while, because everything you have lived and experienced before this point means you bring an incredible richness to your work. As I once heard “it’s all good copy”.
2) Repeat after me, “I am a writer”… Don’t trash talk yourself. There’s no thing as an ‘amateur creative writer’ - you’re a writer, simple as - you write ergo you’re a writer. You may be a writer who isn’t being paid for it yet, but so what? Every writer starts the same way. And if you write regularly, you will learn and develop, and your craft will improve. There’s no reason why you can’t make a living from it one day. You don’t turn into a better writer the moment you get paid for your work – the idea of a move from ‘amateur’ to ‘professional’ inherently implies a sense of qualification that doesn’t exist. And - if you’re good - you never stop learning even when you are getting paid!
3) If you write it, they will come. The wonderful thing about the Digital Age is how it has opened up your writing to a potential audience of over 2 billion people online. It’s hard to imagine that many people isn’t it? But what isn’t so hard to imagine, is that amongst those 2 billion there is a group of people who will like your work. So seek out ways to get your writing out there – be it Wattpadd, Kindle, Blogging, Youtube, Twitter, Instagram, Vine – to name just a few.
4) “I want to be a script writer but I never read scripts” Sounds crazy doesn’t it? But I’ve heard it a lot. Thankfully there are hundreds of scripts available freely online - from successful TV shows to Films. Some links can be found here on my website. Don’t read with a view to ape someone else’s style, but use it to inspire your own. You will learn so much this way – far more than books that fill your head full of storytelling rules.
5) Rules are for editing, not writing. In the industry that surrounds creative writing, rules are pushed to writers with the false promise that simply adhering to them will make their work ‘right’ or ‘better’. But there is no right or wrong, and ‘better’ is subjective. And, most importantly, scripts or stories that slavishly follow ‘rules’ have no heart and therefore, no identity. What sells writing is passion, authenticity and authorship – that is to say your unique voice. What it is that you have to say about the world. Good writing inherently has good storytelling and good storytelling inherently fits within these rules because they are the essence of what makes a story structure work. What these rules are useful for is editing. It’s very difficult to be objective about your own work, and these rules as diagnostic tools help flip your brain from creative to analytical. So get them out if something feels woolly and you can’t work out what it is. Or to health check a script when you finish. But don’t ever start with them, because you’ll end up with a dry, identikit script by numbers that will not sell your writing.
6) “I just can’t think of that amazingly original, never been done before idea”. Stop worrying, because you don’t have to. All you have to do is write from the heart, to show what you - uniquely you - have to offer. Every idea has been done before in some way shape or form, but no idea has been turned into that exact story you want to tell, with the characters that no one but you could create, written in the way that only you can. Saying something new within a well worn idea or genre says far more about your writing ability than the elusive ‘out there, never been done before’ idea…
7) “I don’t have an agent. And I don’t know how to get one.” Having an agent is undeniably a good thing, especially when it comes to contracts and deals, but you can make much headway at the beginning without one. It’s producers and editors who will employ you on television shows, so find ways to get them to see your work. Look into local theatres for any new writing schemes or writing competitions. Even a simple ‘reading’ of your work will be great on your writers c.v. and be something you could invite a prospective agent or producer/script editor to. There may be amateur theatres around you that might be looking for a writer prepared to work on spec. Or hold your own reading - there’s many pubs that have rooms they let out for parties and gigs, and they often have a stage. Tell the publican that for free use of an hour of the room when it’s likely to be empty - you will guarantee X number of guests and they will all buy a drink. Get some up and coming actors to do a reading of your work - and again invite agents/producers/editors - you never know, they just may be able to come. And if not, it shows you have a true commitment to your work and you’ll register that bit stronger an impression. Plus there’s nothing like hearing your work performed and then getting feedback from an audience to grow your talent.
8). All of the above are just reasons to avoid writing… It’s a curious thing nearly all writers I know suffer from, myself included. Much as we love it, much as we have so much to say, we act like committing to writing and finishing a script is the last thing we want to do. Our homes are never as clean as when there’s a script that needs to be written. Procrastination has halted many a good story being told. And what is the root of procrastination? Fear. What if it’s just not as good as it sounds in your head? What if someone reads it and hates it? If it is never written, you’ll never need to know. But this is a false fear. Every first draft needs some work, hence the name, or everything we wrote first time would be our ‘final draft’. You need to allow it to be okay first time for it to be great by the time you’ve finished it. And maybe it won’t be half as bad as you fear in a first draft anyway. Until you get writing you’ll never know. So. Get on with it. GO WRITE.