Topic: Begin by knowing why you write

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A short article advising on how to be a writer, by Jenny Argante.

What do you mean when you say ‘I want to become a writer’? Answer five questions and you’ll know.

The first question is, ‘Why am I writing?’

If it’s for fame and fortune, that’s a different reason than simply to record what you think and feel about things. Knowing why you’re writing helps you to determine what you want to get from writing. Be honest with yourself, and answer this question as fully as you can.

The second question is, ‘How will I organize a place to write and time to write?’

Treat your writing as work; take it seriously. If you don’t, no one else will. You must be able to meet the challenges that writing will bring, because you have a place and time that says you’re a writer, whatever else you may be when you’re not sitting down at your desk.

The third question is, ‘For whom am I writing?’

Think about readership and audience, and where you want to be published, and how. Are you writing a family history for the grandchildren, or a family saga for Random House? Is it writing as personal therapy or a self-help book for the world? Knowing for whom you’re writing helps you decide on style and content, to write appropriately for your chosen readership.

The fourth question is, ‘How will I keep my writing on track?’

This is especially important if you’re writing as a paid professional, but it also matters when you’re writing for family, friends, or your own pleasure. Writing always goes better if you know what it’s about, whether story or poem, how long, funny or sad … It helps to have a deadline, too. A date to start and a date to finish concentrates the mind.

The fifth and final question is, ‘What are my goals?’

Goals can be short-term or long-term. Ideally, the fulfilment of each short-term goal brings you closer to your long-term purpose. For example, you might feel you need to brush up your GSP (Grammar, Spelling & Punctuation). So a short-term goal could be to enrol for an English language course at the local college. That gives you the confidence to tackle a novel.

Write down the answers to these questions, and you’ll understand yourself better. You’re on the way to becoming a writer – the kind you always wanted to be.


This was first published as a Tauranga Writers’ ‘Write Place’ column in The Bay of Plenty Times for Saturday 3rd December 2005



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