Writing is a kind of art which cannot be bound by rules or laws. It is a way of breaking free of the shackles and expressing oneself to the greatest extent possible. Writing is freedom. And we can’t limit this freedom by framing a set of instructions and advising people to manage their writing within that framework. We can’ just advise people to write like this or that.
Every writer, or every human being for that matter, has his/her own style of writing. Just like fingerprints and tonueprints, the writing style each person possesses is unique, which no one else on this planet can own or imbibe.
However, like any other endeavour which has a few basic rules to help get started, we have a few such rules in writing too. These are a few of those which I feel are the most important.
‘Read a thousand books and watch your words flow like a river’.
I don’t exactly remember who said the above line. But whoever had said it, had said it right. Whatever you put on paper depends on whatever you have in your mind. And whatever you have in your mind depends on whatever you feed it with.
Choose to read widely; across authors of different countries, and of different ages. Fall in love with books. Have long lasting relationships with them. Make it a point to read daily.
One more good thing about reading is it nurtures your mind and allows it to grow (unlike TV, which kills it). Read lots. And while reading, try to observe the kind of language the author uses. Observe the author’s writing style, his choice of words and the usage of metaphors or similes (or other figures of speech). Observe. And gather inspiration.
Don’t take long gaps in-between reading a book. That habit sucks the interest you have in the story, and when you return to the book, there might be chances you won’t find it interesting anymore. Try to finish off with one book before you move on to the next one.
And don’t even think of reading while you are in front of the TV. That would be like keeping a glass of nectar in one hand and consuming poison with the other, and thinking you are drinking nectar.
The best practice of reading is doing it alone. One wonderful thing about books is you won’t feel lonely when you are amongst them. And books can be amazing friends. Enjoy them. Live with them.
I have realized all of this only after I had published my first book. I was a very poor reader back then. But once I understood the power and influence books can have on you, things have changed. I am able to see the results in my current venture.
A book is a single entity which can take you through multiple worlds.
Write. And write everyday. This is a must. Keep writing at the top in your daily to-do list. Do it the first thing every morning. Make it a habit.
Write with the flow. And write more and more. Write as much as possible. Many people want to become writers. But only very few jump into the act. Make sure you find your place in the minority, always. It helps enormously.
It’s not necessary to have a perfectly lined up story in order to start writing. You can begin by penning random pieces about random things. Write about the city you live in, the people residing or the way the marketplace looks and sounds during Sundays. Write about your house and your family. Or write about how the juice vendor at the end of your street does his job everyday.
Like reading, writing too works best when done in solidarity. The beautiful fact about this art is though the act appears to be lonely, the experience doesn’t.
Avoid listening to your inner critic at first. Doing that will only discourage you or heavily dampen or slow your writing process. You need words on the paper (or your computer screen) first. Blank pages can do nothing but suck your inspiration or the will to write. Whereas, a casual glance at the words you have just penned down can serve as a motivation-tonic.
This is the part where you need to look at your story with an objective eye. And this is the part where you will encounter loads of garbage (which you will initially seem to love), and which you need to clean up to make your work a majestic art-piece for the world to see, and read.
You got to see your story the way a reader does. That will help you to discover things which you yourself might not have known to exist. Things like plot-holes, character inconsistencies or pitfalls in the story, etc.
Check things like grammar, spelling mistakes and punctuation marks. Things like these, I would say, are pretentious. They might appear petty but are very damaging (if not set right) in the real sense. Your story loses its sheen if you fail to take care of the glitches present in any of these.
Writing and keeping your works to yourself is as good as not writing at all. Maybe, you might get some personal satisfaction with the way you have put down the words; that is okay. But the very purpose of writing is to communicate. You got to let people know your stories. There are a hell lot of readers out there, yearning for beautiful pieces of prose. Give them an opportunity to read them by sharing your works with them.
Show pieces of your writings to your friends and request honest opinions. If your friends or family members are too sweet to give honest opinions, join online writing groups or communities (You can find a ton of them on Facebook), and share your pieces of writing with other members.
Don’t be scared of criticism. Don’t let your literary panache go weak by the unfavourable opinions or reviews you get. Sweet opinions never made great writers.
Don’t hate criticism. Rather embrace it.
Criticism is like fire. Either you use it to find a path through the darkness, or allow it to burn you to ashes.
As I had already said, the very purpose of writing is to communicate. But there would be cases when you may not be able to communicate in the widest possible extent, in the best possible way. Honest feedback helps you to refine the way you communicate, which ultimately serves the prime purpose of writing.
Of course, what’s the purpose of communicating if the readers don’t understand the language itself!
DO IT ALL, ALL OVER AGAIN
Consistency is the key. There is a lot of difference between writing once in a while and writing daily. Let me explain this with an example.
You wake up everyday and walk into the bathroom to brush your teeth. And you do that without any hassles. You do it so comfortably that you don’t have the need to think of it. It comes naturally. Second nature. The reason is obvious. You have been doing this for ages now.
The same applies to writing.
Make writing your second nature. Let the words flow. This doesn’t mean that you write everyday for ten years and then stop writing altogether, expecting the skill to stay. That’s like brushing your teeth for ten years and then stopping it all, expecting a lifetime dosage of fresh breath.
You got to write daily. Come what may. Oh yes, you fanatically love writing, don’t you!