Writing Tips: Getting Started

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Faith, 12, has asked me for writing tips, so here we go. The nooze can wait.

I was writing stories when I was 12. I was even writing “books,” longhand in one of those black-and-white composition notebooks. I was, of course, fully convinced that these efforts of mine were good enough to be published; but in the meantime, I read them to my friends.

Which is a way of getting started as a writer!

No one wants to hear this–I certainly didn’t–but it takes a certain amount of life experience to write about life. Maybe that’s why children experimenting with story-telling are so apt to venture into science fiction or fantasy: instead of knowing things, they’re free to make things up.

Ah! But your time isn’t wasted. I started telling stories when I was in third grade, nine years old. I had two friends who liked inventing stories, and we would sit together in their cellar and entertain each other with the stories we made up–mostly about monsters.

Writing itself can be tricky. Getting your point across the way you want it, saying what you really mean to say, so that someone else will understand it–these take years of practice. There’s no substitute for practice. In fact, let me emphasize it: THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR PRACTICE.

I couldn’t do at 15 or 16 the things I can do as a writer now. I couldn’t do at 12 what I could do at 16.

So don’t be discouraged if you can’t get stuff published when you’re 12 (although when I was 12, there was no such thing as self-publishing). The time is not being lost; it’s being invested. What you need to be doing is telling stories–whatever kind of stories you enjoy telling. Tell them to your friends. If your friends like your stories and want to hear more, you are very much on the right track.

And keep at it. Just keep at it. I didn’t get anything published professionally until I was almost 40 years old. You’re bound to do better than that.

3 comments on “Writing Tips: Getting Started

  1. That says it all. It takes practice to become proficient in any skill. I claim no status as a writer, but I know that I can express myself with the written word much more effective now than I could years ago. Even if it’s a mundane business memorandum, it takes skill to make it readable and effective.

  2. I couldn’t do what you did at 9. But at 12 years old, I wrote a piece about me and God. After my father left us when I was 11, I began telling God I didn’t believe in Him anymore. And I kept saying it, until at age 12, sitting outside on the steps watching people going to Church. I suddenly realized I was still talking to the God I said I didn’t believe in. When another child walked by on her way to church, I asked her if I could go with her, and did. It was several blocks away and she told me I had to memorize the Apostle’s Creed before we got there, for some reason I now forget. I memorized them, indeed, as a penance to God. And I prayed for His forgiveness. The piece I actually wrote was longer, had more details, and I used new words I had looked up in the dictionary. I handed it in to my public school teacher, Miss Huffnagle, as a “report” and received her praise and encouragement. As a young mother and college student, I wrote a piece for the Philadelphia Magazine. Later, I edited papers for a history professor who lived nearby. Throughout my life i’ve written many stories, all on pieces of paper, and still have so many ideas for more. My excuse is that I need a memory typewriter, preferably with discs, in order properly organize my papers into a short novel. I’ve always wanted to write – the big one – lol. But…

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