I remember when I was just knee-high to a grasshopper…

Bloody hell, don’t start your writing like that! Begone cliché! You are not invited to this party. Don’t worry, we’ll talk about (aka vilify) clichés soon enough. Not to mention, it makes me sound like an 80-year-old with a tight-enough-to-pull-my-puckered-skin-smooth, librarian-grade hair bun.  In my future?  No way, not if Botox has anything to do with it, darlin’…

Ahem.  Where was I?  Writing.  Yes, I wanted to be a writer since I was a skinny kid with a Toni perm.  That damn perm led to my nickname in school–Mushroom.    

Ohhh, the damagTrump perme home perms could wreak on a young girl’s social life!

Specifically, I wanted to be a novel writer!  I devoured Nancy Drew, every bloody one.  Then I moved on to Sweet Valley High and the intrepid twins, Elizabeth and Jess (who painted her bedroom chocolate brown so it was dubbed the Hershey Bar—gah, I can’t believe I remember that).  Yes, I ate that crap up, every crumb.  But it also inspired me in my very first writing project. 

I was perhaps 10 years old, and I sat down in front of my manual typewriter, and faithfully click-clacked out a story of teen romance.  And I did this night after night, until it was finished, and the characters were (mostly) blissfully happy.  Oh, and it was bad.  I read it years later, and if cringing made a sound, you’d have heard it in Australia. 

But we all have to start somewhere don’t we?

Fast forward (many) years later, and here I am. I tried my adult hand at novel writing, started a blog, and became a copywriter. 

So how did I do it?

I just started writing.

lynn030When I started writing my adult-version novel, I remember researching endlessly (it had a historical component to it).  I spent MONTHS in the university library with dusty old tomes–photocopying, making notes, and amassing information.  I was doing everything but writing. 

So finally, I just started.  I wrote and wrote.  Some days it was really hard.  I would stare at the screen.  I would type out a sentence, and then erase it.   I would sometimes spend two hours, and only have a small, mediocre paragraph for my efforts. 

But there would be those other times, when I would sit in front of my computer, and the words would pour out, ideas would mesh seamlessly, and the story would unfold in a most pleasing way.  Oh, those days were quite glorious. 

A few years ago, a wedding photographer friend of mine, Lara Eichhorn, mentioned a course she had discovered online.  She was taking it herself, and (knowing that I loved writing) suggested that I have a look.  I looked.  I loved.  I purchased and dove in. 

I then created my blog.  And I wrote.  I wrote about things that mattered to me.  I wrote about my travels, about my passion for Europe, about wine nights with my wine girls, or about anything that had me puzzling until my puzzler was sore (extra points if you know where that comes from!). 

Have I published my book?  No, I haven’t.  I may never.  But in my life-long search for what am I meant to do?  I think I have found it, because writing creates a fire in me like nothing else ever computer and coffeehas.  When I write copy for a client, I get butterflies in my belly.  When I send it off to them, I am on pins and needles, hoping they will love it as much as I do.  And when they do?  Well, I just might clap my hands in a most delighted fashion and then perhaps do a little jig around my office (aka sunroom/TV room).  And if it`s night, I make sure the curtains are closed (you know, weird guy at the end of my street with too much time on his hands.  Don`t worry, the po-po had a little chat with him, and it keeps him at a safe distance). 

So you’re saying to yourself, well that’s all find and dandy for you missy, but how do I get started?!

Don’t over-think it.  Don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be.  Just write.  But to get you started, here are a few things to try:

1.       Start a blog

Why not?  You’ve got things to say.  Say them.  It’s really easy these days to start a blog FREE through WordPress.  And they make it quite easy for a person who doesn’t know the first thing about computer coding (like me).  Choose a theme, upload some pictures, and start writing!  If you run into trouble, enlist the help of that one techie friend (we all have one!) to get you rolling.  You can get fancier with it later.  For now, just write. 

2.       Be honest in your writing

Let your writing reflect you.  Your hopes, your fears, your dreams.  People relate to that.  When they read about personal struggles, how you were bullied in school, your fear of being alone, how magazine ads make you want to run to the gym and do a thousand sit ups just to feel adequate, or how you can never quite forget how scary it was being a kid and seeing your mom crying at the kitchen table because there wasn’t enough money—those things are real and relatable.  And when people can see themselves in your writing, they will be hooked.  That feeling of “she/he really gets me!” is priceless. 

3.      Write what you know 

When you’re starting to write, don’t tackle the issues with the health care system, why the ecosystem in the Amazon is dying, or some other complex subject that you essentially know nothing about.Write what you know.Are you a mom?  Write about being a mom!  Are you a travel junkie?Write about travel.  Love to cook? Write about that! Love wine (who doesn`t)?  Write about it–and sample what you’re blogging about, for the love of God! Wine night with your pals!  It’s the only way, really, isn’t it?Sip, write, sip, write, sip, write…. oh hell, maybe just ask your friends in the morning once the wine headache has worn off.

Oh, and include pictures if you please, so I can recognize labels when I go wine shopping. Thanks!That would be just supa! 

4.     Know your grammar 

Nothing is worse than reading a post, article, or whatever, and the writer doesn’t know the difference between affect and effect.  Perhaps “than” is used instead of “then” (i.e. than I went to the beach).Or maybe something peeked your interest (Nooooo!  It’s piqued!).  Nothing will make your writing lose credibility faster than mistakes such as these (and yes, I see it all the time). This of course doesn’t mean you always have to write in complete, proper sentences.Break the rules if it makes your statement more powerful.Start sentences with “and” (go on, I dare you!).Write in the first person if that flows better. Interesting is always better than correct. 

5.       Don’t write in clichés

Or, as my friend’s husband calls it: “bumper sticker speak”.Some examples of clichés?Heart and soul.Time heals all wounds.Cut to the chase.Flying by the seat of your pants. March to your own drummer.  All good things come to those who wait (no they don’t, by the way.I call BS).Any phrase that is overused and has lost its impact is on the no write list.So typically, the first thing that comes to mind?Not what you want in your writing.It’s probably jumped into your head precisely because it’s used so much.  Put it down as a place filler if you must, but highlight it, and change it to something more interesting when you edit.  

So, instead of I knew then, that I loved him with my entire heart and soul, you could say:

In that moment, when he could have tossed out a trivial banality to diminish the intensity of the emotions churning around us, he simply held me, his warm breath slowly drying the tears on my cheek.  And in that moment, I knew a love that filled every crevice of my battle-weary heart.   

I lived my life flying by the seat of my pants.

Instead: I lived my life as though tomorrow would deliver the zombie apocalypse, because the future is one unpredictable bitch, but I’m a bigger one.    

My heart may be broken now, but time heals all wounds.

Instead:  My heart is trampled, torn, and ravaged beyond recognition, but if I keep waking up, day after day, the fractured fragments will find each other again.  (more interesting, right?)

 6.      Don’t wait for inspiration:  

Because honey, you’ll be waiting a long, long time.  Sometimes, you just have to plop your butt in a chair and get started.  Sure, some of it may suck, but some may not.  And when you read Computer and catit later, you may spy some gems hidden in the rubble. 

 You can’t wait for inspiration.  You have to go after it with a club   ~ Jack London

7.      The real magic happens in the editing  

After you’ve gotten your writing down, then go back and edit.  And edit mercilessly.  Because often, this is where the real magic materializes.  You take that rough and awkward sentence, and polish and prime it into a powerful piece of prose.  Or what you’ve written may suddenly inspire you on to a completely different path.  Follow that path, and discover the adventure of where it may lead you. 

Look at the words and phrasing you’ve used.  Could it be better?  More impactful? Could you use a more interesting word?  For help with this, check out http://thesaurus.com/. I love this site for providing inspiration for creating more interesting phrasing with words that suddenly infuse your writing with that something you didn’t know you were looking for.   

8.      Find a writing buddy  

My writing buddy is Gwen.  We would make dates to get together and share our writing attempts, and critique each other’s work.  The most valuable part of this practice?  It slapped us both (Moonstruck style) with a deadline to get our writing out of our heads.  We were both working on novels at the time, but it doesn’t have to be a novel.  It could easily be short stories, recounting a childhood adventure, or a travel story.

9.     Take an online course
There are countless courses available to help you enhance and enrich your writing skills—some interactive, others self-taught.  Or check out your local community college.  Arm your writing tool belt, but in the end, ferret out your own voice and style, and nurture and cultivate those seeds that spring from within you.   Always continue to learn, and ceaselessly challenge yourself to spawn more interesting and exceptional writing. 

10.  Don’t be afraid to offend
You want your writing to evoke emotion, feeling.  That feeling could be happy, sad, excited, or pissed off.  When do you really worry?  When your writing doesn’t evoke anything in anyone.  So be real, raw, and honest.  Shock your parents.  Make eyes well up.  Make stomachs clench.  Make people laugh out loud.    

Write with feeling.  Don’t just describe, but paint with your words.  Discard the ordinary verbs or extraordinary ones to turn up arouse the wow factor in your writing (here is anColoured pencilsother place that http://thesaurus.com/ can be particularly instrumental in increasing jacking up the intensity and impact of your writing).   

Use your computer, pen and paper, or even coloured pencils if it makes your writing experience more fun!

In the words of Star Trek engineering officer, Anton Chekhov, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass”.

What got you writing?  What made your writing sing?  Are you a trekkie?  Patrick Stewart (aka Jean Luc Picard) is da bomb after all–love that man!  Whatever your thoughts, I want to hear (no lying on a leather couch, therapy-style, required).