At times I become frustrated with aspiring young authors. They may ask questions such as ”I have this cool idea about a boy that can fly; how do I write the story?” Or they beg for even more help. “I want to be a writer; do you have any good ideas for books?” My immediate response is, “If you want to write, you have to be driven to do it.” Still, every author has to start at a less than proficient level. Just as athletes don’t walk onto the field knowing how to play their sport without years of practice, writers have to train.
Most athletes begin their career as children getting instruction from parents and school coaches. Even when the young person has lost a competition, this aspiring athlete receives feedback as a basis for their improvement. Does watching baseball a lot make you better at baseball? It does a little bit. Baseball players can mimic move by move what a professional athlete does. However, they must get onto the field and practice these moves in realistic situations to improve their game.
As a writer you are not allowed to copy exactly what somebody else does because that is known as plagiarism. So, the first step in writing is often to produce work that may follow a prompt but is based on your own idea. These early steps tend to be harder than many ever suspected. But take heart, over ninety percent of authors felt the same struggle when they first started. Even if you cannot copy another author’s work verbatim, reading it will help you learn how to write. The gist of how to write, taking the ideas in your head and reproducing them as words on a page, is learned by the act of writing. You can read a lot, but it will not help nearly as much as writing a lot.
Any creative skill does not spring completely from your imagination. It needs to be developed. Each author has their ideas on how to create a character, setting, and plot. You do not want to duplicate what they have done, but you can use their work as a springboard for coming up with your own ideas. It doesn’t really help much if you ask other authors for assistance until you have something written for them to review. Every writer must also develop techniques to maintain the discipline to keep going.
So where does a person, who really wants to write a book but doesn’t know how, go for help? The first obvious place is an institution that offers classes on writing. The instructions received there can often be deduced from books on writing. However, classes offer structure and deadlines. This second part is important for those that rely on external motivation. Also, visit the local homes of books–libraries and bookstores. They may provide books and magazines on writing with varying usefulness. These are also good places to find out about community writer’s groups. Being around other writers may help you learn the ropes about publishing (which is constantly changing) and find a place to receive feedback on your work before you decide it is ready for publication.
All of this advice doesn’t negate the fact that writing a book still requires being driven to do so. It simply makes the first steps of an endless journey easier.