Whether you want to write fanfiction, original fiction, nonfiction, or just really kick-ass tumblr posts, my advice is all the same–write. The more you write, the better you will get.
Write for an audience. Notice what people respond to. Notice what gets left behind.
Write tumblr posts. Write drabbles. Write one-shots. Just write.
Make friends who write. Friends who don’t say, “you’re doing what right now?” Friends who you can play writing games with. Friends who will beg you for your next chapter. Friends who will tell you that that one rude comment on AO3 is uncalled for and tell you to keep going because look at all the people who are reading it. Make ride-or-die friends and pass stuff back and forth.
Read. Read lots of everything. Read things that are popular. Read things that nobody else is seeing. Read beautiful things fifty times–once to appreciate it, twice to love it, times three through seventeen to take it apart and see what ticks. Read it the eighteenth time for the joy of reading it again. On reads nineteen through thirty-two pay attention to a different aspect every time–a character, a subplot, a repeated motif. Read it the thirty-third time to find the thing you hadn’t noticed on your prior thirty-two reads. Then read it over. Come back to the beautiful things; memorize the sentence structure, the way that plots build or that arguments are structured, and work up from there until you understand how to make that beauty yours.
Read things that are terrible and mock them with your friends. Tear them to pieces so that you’ll never make the same mistakes. Ask yourself how you’d fix them, if you had to, because someday you will write something terrible and you’ll have to fix it.
Live. Writing is about communicating truth, and so try to experience as much truth as possible. When you experience a perfect moment, take time to stop and really let yourself experience it. What are the physical sensations you experience when you go to a concert and hear a song you love played live for the first time, surrounded by hundreds of others who feel it? Experience the imperfect, too. Where in your body do you store shock? Hatred? Sadness? Pain? Why did you get mad at that person the other day? What would you do differently?
Learn. Even if you’re not writing fantasy, your job is to make your reader believe your world exists. The more you know about how the world works, the better a job you will do at this. If you want to write a world that feels like it’s bigger than just what you see on the page, take the time to understand this world and how it ticks.
Part of being a writer is to learn to be hard and cruel. To say, “this is good, but it is not good enough, and I am going to have to burn it to the ground and redo it.” You have to tell yourself that this thing here doesn’t stand out, this part here is too slow, these motivations don’t make sense, why didn’t he just call, what am I doing, everyone knows you don’t go down into the basement, why is she going in the basement? Can I make this story work if she doesn’t go in the basement?
But be gentle with yourself, too. Learn to step back. Learn when it’s time to be hard and learn when it’s time to be soft. On the days that are hard (and there will be hard days), remind yourself that you got out of bed and you took a shower and you took your meds and you put on pants and yeah you stared at your screen for hours, but look at you, you irrepressible thing-doer, you.
On the days when you don’t get out of bed? Be even more gentle. Here you are, still existing in this world, and anyone who has been here long enough knows that continuing to exist is the greatest achievement of them all. Most of the planets in this solar system don’t even have intelligent life, so look at you, you giant masterpiece of physics and biology, neurons firing, lungs working. You’re here. You’re existing. You’re doing great.
My last piece of advice is this–if anything on here sounds fishy to you, say, “fuck this shit” and do it your own way. Since the invention of writing, millions of people have become writers in some sense of the word. Every single one of them had their own path towards becoming a writer. There is no right way to do this, and there is no wrong way. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying or unable to see the truth.
Whatever anyone else says, you’re going to get your own path. Good luck.
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