Q: How do I write a great novel/novella/essay/article?
This is a big question, but I’ve broken it down into 4 easy steps:
- Read lots of books! You can’t be a great writer unless you’re a great reader first. find a few authors who you really enjoy reading and hone in on why you enjoy their work.
- Create an outline. Writing is hard when you don’t know what you want to say! Outlines make the writing process more efficient and help keep you organized.
- Sit down and write. Start at the beginning. Realize you hate your first sentence and delete it. Start again, but this time think for a few minutes before you start. Type a new sentence. You hate this sentence too, so you delete it. Repeat this cycle a couple more times, thinking, typing, deleting. Declare yourself sick with writer’s block and watch an episode of Mad Men instead. You were too slow to stop Netlfix’s autoplay so you watch a second episode of Mad Men as well. Justify it by telling yourself that you’ll start writing again after this episode. You don’t. It’s midnight by the time the credits roll, and you’re too tired at this point. Sleep on it and hope for for inspiration in the morning. You wake up with no inspiration. Go to school, then work,, and forget completely that you were going to write about that pressing subject you wanted to so badly last night. Get home, eat dinner, finally find that little post-it note you stuck to your monitor reminding you that you were going to write and boot up your word processor. Encounter the same problem you did last night, give up, watch more Mad Men, and then go to bed. You have created about 20 different introductions at this point, all of which are shitty. Repeat, trying different inspirational tips you find online in order to overcome this block. You take long showers now, because you read somewhere that Judy Blume does that for ideas. You try retyping the Great Gatsby to get a feel for great writing, but give up after page 17. Repeat, with various ideas. One night, a few weeks later, you’re taking out the recycling and a piece of paper falls out of your bin. It’s a scrapped first sentence from your (unsuccessful) “pen and paper” phase. Reading it now, though, it’s actually pretty good. You start writing the rest of your magnum opus off this sentence, and by midnight, you have not seen a single minute of Breaking Bad (you finished Mad Men a few days ago) and now have a first draft. Fall asleep with a sense accomplishment for the first time in months. You keep working on your writing every night. A few weeks later, you find an old second draft. You haven’t realized it, but the final version is totally different from this draft: the sentences are crisper, the themes are clearer, and the introduction is totally different. You read this draft again and remember how hard it was for you to write that introduction, how much time you spent laboring meticulously over every single word, only to change in in a future revision. And then you realize that it doesn’t matter what you start out writing, that it would be edited later anyways. You just needed to start.
- Check for typos! Everyone makes little mistakes in their writing. Be sure to triple proofread before you publish!