For years I dreamed of writing fiction. I was always penning something–mostly academic papers and newsletters for organisations–but it took me years to push the dream of writing into the realm of reality.
How about you? Is your writing dream idling in neutral? Here are three things you can do to shift into gear and take off Thelma & Louise style on the writing adventure you’ve imagined.
1. Enter competitions
It sounds scary if you’ve never done it before, but entering competitions has some great benefits:
- It focuses your writing (It may give you a theme/genre and of course, the all-important word count)
- It puts you on a timetable (Nothing like a deadline to get you moving…)
- It teaches the all important art of following submission guidelines (Welcome to the Wonderful World of Writing where using a 10-point font instead of a 12-point font could get you disqualified!)
- Winning or even being short-listed builds your street cred (and confidence) as a writer
Comps don’t cost a lot (if they do, avoid them!). The best ones give feedback to all entrants. This stuff is pure gold. As much as we crave affirmation and compliments about our stories, it’s the negative feedback that actually helps. You can do something with it–alter POV, stop abusing adverbs, avoid over-explaining, etc. Like fertiliser, receiving critical comments “stinks,” but if applied properly it results in growth. Think of negative feedback as Dynamic Lifter™ to improve your writing. And there’s always room for that!
Two comps that provide feedback are the CYA Conference Competition and Kids’ Book Review. Leave a comment if you know of other good ones! The Australian Writer’s Marketplace provides up-to-date lists of competitions and info about entering. A good strategy can be to start small with little local events and work your way to the international big boys (like Writers’ Digest competitions).
2. Join a Critique Group
Welcoming critiques might be pushing you out of your comfort zone, but it’s a boon to better writing. Joining Brisbane Write Links, a group for writers and illustrators of children’s books, is hands-down the best thing I’ve done in my writing career. I only wish they’d been around at the beginning of this journey.
Aside from the professional development and sharing of critiques, the camaraderie is precious. A bunch of like-minded literary types in a room for four hours? How could that not be fun? Check out your local Writing Centre for tips on finding the right group for you.
3. Attend Writing and Literature Events
Writing conferences allow you rub shoulders with writers who’ve made it. Some of the best writing courses I’ve done have been master-classes at literary events. Good conferences offer a wide variety of presentations so you can hone your craft, find out what’s new in publishing, and skill up on the business side of writing.
Conferences aren’t cheap, but see them as an investment in your dream. Talk to writer-friends to find out what’s worth the money and start squirrelling away your pennies now. Save on travel and accommodation costs by attending local events. Your library may have a list of small-scale, free events for writers, like the one my local library offers.
It doesn’t have to be expensive…
Blogging, reading books about the craft of writing, listening to literary podcasts, and following authors on social media are a few free ways to kickstart your confidence and build your skills.
So there you have it: Three tips to rev up your writing career. Off you go! Toodles!