We frequently go to the same establishment and have more or less become part of the furniture, so to speak. Some of the staff, I now see as friends, and I love taking my tablet with me and sit there writing, with the buzz of other people and the surrounding music.
We also see young people working there for a couple of months, then moving on, either due to school engagements or because they found another job.
Currently, there’s a young lady working there, and one day I learned she’s into writing when we asked her what she does outside of her work. I told her I write too, and ever since, whenever she sees us, she has a standard question: how’s the writing going?
And she asks me for advice.
She’s a starting writer and is working on a book. It’s an ambitious project, but she frequently runs into problems, and then she has a million questions for me.
One of our evenings there, I gave her the following advice:
1. Exactly 100 words
Write a complete story in exactly 100 words. You can also make it exactly 200 or 250, but no more. Also, it shouldn’t be between 200 and 250, but exactly the number you decide on.
When you write your story, it will always be more than the number of words you have decided on. The object of this exercise is to learn you how to write to the point. By editing your story down to the desired number of words, you learn to leave only those words in your story that really add to it. During the editing process, you will delete all unnecessary words, leaving only those that really tell the story.
2. An inanimate object
Write from the point of view of an inanimate object, such as a chair, a glass, a tree, or any object you see around you.
The object can only observe, not take part in the story. This forces you to use some senses. The object can hear and see, and it has feelings about what they observe. Writing from the perspective of an inanimate object forces you to see the world from a different angle.
3. First write, then edit
One thing this young writer does is to read what she has written the previous time, and then edit it before she continues writing. I told her to first write, and forget about editing. Editing is something you do when you have finished your story, and not while you are still writing it.
A pitfall of editing while you write is constantly changing what you have already written. That way you never get on with your story, and lose your momentum, which can also cause you to stop writing altogether.
4. Write every day
If you want to be a writer, write every day. You don’t have to sit down and write for hours. No, just make sure you carve out a block of time from your day to write. Fifteen minutes before you go to bed. An hour in the morning before you go to school or work. Half an hour before you prepare dinner. Grab a cup of coffee at your favorite coffee shop on your way home, take out your tablet or laptop, and write.
Just make sure you write every day.
5. A writing group
I advised the young writer to search for and join a writing group. A place where you have to follow a theme, have a maximum number of words for your story, and where you know you will get feedback from other writers.
I ran a Dutch writing group from December 2012 until December 2017, and we assembled every two months, writing to a theme, and giving each other feedback. During those five years, even though barely ever writing in Dutch, I learned a lot about writing.
This was all because of the feedback I prepared for all submitted stories, and listening to the feedback of others. Much of it I could apply — and still do — to what and how I write.
I definitely don’t see myself as an expert on writing, but over the years, I have learned enough to at least give others a bit of advice!
You can find more writing tips here.