For the vast majority of writers, the need to write about a particular topic is what propels them to start writing, not a deep call to authorship for authorship’s sake. Some writers don’t even enjoy the process of writing but feel the push to share their message.
So how do you get started and become a writer if you’re not used to writing or don’t think you can write? As I often say, the key is to just plunge into it—but there are some techniques you can use to help you bridge the gap between wanting to write and writing with confidence and success.
#1: Acknowledge that writing isn’t your primary strength.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but acknowledging that you have to improve your writing technique is the best first step to take toward becoming a good writer. As an editor, I find it much easier to work with someone who already knows they need to improve rather than with someone who has issues with their writing but refuses to see them.
Set your ego aside, and think about the critiques you have heard in the past about your writing, or things that you think you need to do better. Maybe your English teacher in high school said you tend to compose overly long sentences. Perhaps you’re a non-native English speaker writing in English, and you know there are parts of the language you don’t understand. Possibly you are a doctor used to writing straightforward technical papers with a lot of jargon, and you know people outside your field are not going to understand your words if you write in your typical manner.
All writers should know their weaknesses; no one is above improvement. But, as you prepare to approach your first book (or article or blog), it’s especially important to understand and accept that you may need help or improvement with your technique.
#2: Know your genre.
Every type of writing has its conventions. Nonfiction books have their best practices, including structure and voice. Subgenres of nonfiction, from biography to memoir to self-help, have their own as well.
Once you know what you’re going to write about, decide what genre best suits our subject matter. Then read a few books in the genre, if you haven’t already. These will be good models for you as you develop your book.
The adage is true—practice makes perfect. In the case of writing a nonfiction book, “practice” means “keep writing.”
It’s easy to let nervousness or perfectionism keep you in the preparation stage of writing, outlining the book over and over again. Instead, just start writing, and prepare yourself for multiple drafts and revisions.
Writing and rewriting provide practice and the step of the writing process that give you the opportunity to keep improving.
#4: Get feedback.
You may have accepted that your manuscript will need work—revision and editing. But how will you know if you are making progress as you try to improve your craft? Once you have a few chapters or even a full draft, seek out a second opinion.
Some people ask close relatives, significant others, or friends for their thoughts, and this might work for you. However, you will get more-objective and, therefore, better feedback from people who are not personally close to you.
I know a lot of writers who join or form writing groups with people who write in similar genres. Doing so gives them a safe space for professional feedback. Additionally, an editor (if you have hired one) also can be a feedback resource for you.
In any case, if you are taking the step to write a book when it isn’t your usual gig, some objective feedback of any kind will give you a leg up.
Learning to relax into writing is perhaps the most critical step of all, so I’ve saved it for last. You need to acknowledge you need writing help but look at the bigger picture. Non-experienced writers are never as bad as they think they are.
Plus, the more stress and anxiety you feel when you write, the more difficult the writing process becomes. So take some deep breaths, meditate, or find your own strategy for relaxing before writing.
Your English or narrative style is not beyond a saving point. Anyone can learn to write. In the end, the best books are those that get written—period. If you don’t write the book, it will never end up being a book at all.
So take a breather and remind yourself that you will write, and you can write. Then, write.
Are you a non-writer trying to write? What are you biggest writing struggles? Tell me in a comment below.
About the Author
C.K. Bush is a nonfiction editor and writer. She lives in New York City.
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