OT: Writers - Non Sports

Submitted by MichiganFan1984 on July 30th, 2018 at 8:07 AM

I’ve been wanting to get into writing and I bought a computer for typing, but I’m not sure where to start? I’m curious, who writes and what are your recommendations? I want to write a biography on myself because I’ve had a crazy interesting life and my kid would like to read it once they’re an adult and I also want to write a fiction novel of some kind. Should I just start writing? Is an outline necessary? How do I actually get it published if I come up with something good? Thanks for any advice that an aspiring writer could use. 



July 30th, 2018 at 8:42 AM ^

I'd edit my previous post of I could.  I misread your post.

I dabble in writing (did a series on MGB on players from back in the 80s).  The poster below is correct: write, write, write.  Put thoughts on paper when they pop in your head.  Use your phones voice notes app so when you think of something, you don't forget it later.  And finally, write about stuff you're passionate about.  Your attitude comes through your written word.  Readers can sense of you've mailed it in.


July 30th, 2018 at 8:25 AM ^

It sounds like a cop out, but the best advice I can offer is that you get better at writing by writing. 

Also, find someone (or, ideally, multiple someones) who read a lot and ask them if they'll give you honest feedback during your writing process. 

L'Carpetron Do…

July 30th, 2018 at 10:57 AM ^

Well put. Read a lot. And write a lot. Re-read and edit your stuff a lot. 

I joined a writer's group in my neighborhood for a while. I found that pretty helpful because it gave me decent feedback and more importantly it made me keep up. I had to work on my stuff a lot so I could submit to the group.

There's a lot of advice out there for budding writers and if you're going to submit to journals or publishers just make sure you follow their guidelines and submit in the proper format.

It's hard. But the simplest advice is: just write.

Mike Damone

July 30th, 2018 at 10:17 AM ^

I second this recommendation in a big way.  Have been trying my hand at writing a story or two, and Stephen King's "On Writing" is my bible. 

No writer captures character, settings and time periods like Stephen King, and his relatively simple but incredibly enlightening words of wisdom to fledgling writers is pure gold.

Perkis-Size Me

July 30th, 2018 at 8:59 AM ^

I myself don't know much about writing, but there's a quote from a movie called Finding Forrester (one of Sean Connery's last movies) where he tells the kid he's mentoring "You write your first draft with your heart. Then, you write your second draft with your head."

In other words, when you sit down and write your first draft, just start writing. Write whatever comes to mind, whatever just flows and feels right. Don't overthink it too much, as there is plenty of time to go back and edit later. 

No idea if that helps or not, and it's certainly not the only way to do it. But its a good mindset to have. 


July 30th, 2018 at 9:11 AM ^

1. Read. All the time. Read, Read, Read. Read the newspaper, read short stories, and read the classics. I'd start with Tristram Shandy, because it's brilliant and it's one of the original novels (at least for the western reader). Find a list of the top 100 books of all time and start reading them-- even those you have read before.  If you want to write an autobiography, read them too.

I'd suggest not writing after reading any David Foster Wallace, Kurt Vonnegut, or CS Lewis because (at least in my experience) I tend to mimic their style. You may find your own personal version of this, but those writers are often imitated to, uh, pretty bad results.

2. Learn grammar. Find some grammar workbooks on Amazon and work through them. You need to learn your medium as well as the tradition before you can really work within either.

3. When you aren't reading: write. Keep a journal, and use this to play with perspective and narrative.  Write your day from the perspective of your dog, for instance. Try writing some short stories-- starting with an outline, and some character profiles. As you progress, make sure your characters stick to their profiles. For example,  don't make a priest an atheist unless that is the character was always an atheist or unless he becomes one as part of the story. 

4. Self edit. Anything you write will need to be reworked multiple times. If you find you can't do it, put it away for a month and come back to it. More than likely you will hate it enough by then to rework it.

5. Find someone who owes you something major or that loves you unconditionally and have them read your stuff. Take their criticism to heart, but don't take it personally.

The most important thing to remember here is this: your early stuff is going to suck, and you are responsible for how much it sucks.  If your reader gets confused and lost, it's because you wrote something confusing and meandering-- not because they are too stupid to understand it.


Hotel Putingrad

July 30th, 2018 at 9:27 AM ^

I generally agree with Scruffy, especially point #1 though not completely with point #5. The most direct connection to writing well is reading good writing, no matter the content type. But I don't tecommend having a loved one edit your work. Writing is a very intimate process, and all criticism stings. So have a professional third party review your drafts. 

As k.o.k. mentioned, Stephen King's book on writing is very helpful for beginners, from a mechanics of writing perspective. Eventually though you'll find your own voice. Good luck.


July 30th, 2018 at 9:23 AM ^

Start by looking up these terms:

Show don't tell, point of view character, active vs passive voice, character arc.

Use descriptive verbs instead of adverbs whenever possible. Don't bog down the narrative with descriptions. It's probably a good idea to outline or have some kind of blueprint to work with if you're writing a novel, but some people do it without that. Also, don't have ANYONE read a first draft, not even mom. You're wasting their time and yours. Also spend some time reading books like On Writing, as well as others to start learning about the trade. There are also some good videos on YouTube (see Scott Sigler).

Once you've got these principles down, decide what route you want to go in terms of publishing. Your options are self publish, query an agent, or find a publisher that doesn't require agent representation. It's also a good idea to start building a resume by submitting short stories to various publications. Either way, make sure you are extremely careful that you follow submission guidelines exactly as they are.

If you're going to self publish, make sure you save up to hire a copy editor. They charge anywhere from $.01 per word and up.

Oh and also don't make an ass of yourself on social media.

His Dudeness

July 30th, 2018 at 9:24 AM ^

1) If you don't keep a journal then you don't "want to write." If you wanted to write you would be writing.

2) Write often. Write always.

3) You don't have to think "I'm going to sit down and write a book." That's daunting and that's what editors are for. 


July 30th, 2018 at 10:20 AM ^

If you are interested in writing long-form narratives, either fiction or non-fiction, you should create an outline for your subject aims. Can be detailed or not depending on your own organizational needs. Writing for yourself is much different than writing for an audience, because there are greater responsibilities in what you are communicating, in tone, purpose and language.

I think if you've been trained in expository writing (and most of us have been ingrained in this from grade school on) the narrative methodology almost flows without thinking about it. Premise, predicate, detail, conclusion. That ought to make outlining pretty simple. But in the end, your subject matter --in your case, your own life experience and interior thoughts about it as your prism of experience-- gives you both license and freedom to go in any direction.

My father who is nearing his 95th birthday in September wrote his own life story for his great grandchildren and future generations in his mid-80's. He self published and had it edited and then printed.  For our family, it's a great resource. And he based his writing in part, on a cross country trip diary he kept while traveling with fraternity brother classmates after college graduation and serving in the Marine Corps and participating in the occupation of Nagasaki after the second atomic bomb was dropped on Japan. His story clearly describes a more simple and vanished American experience than what we are familiar with today.

My dad has led a great life. And those who have read his account of it, have found it a good read. I am sure if you go forward with your writing project, you will find it rewarding for both yourself and the rest of your family. I wish you all the best in your effort.

L'Carpetron Do…

July 30th, 2018 at 11:34 AM ^

Additionally I would say 1) write what you know and 2) write what you want to read.

I initially got into it because I wanted to write stories that I find entertaining and interesting. Especially after I went to a bunch of movies that seemed terribly-written. I said to myself - I can do better than that!


July 30th, 2018 at 11:39 AM ^

Given the bibulous nature of the MGoBloggerati, I'm surprised I'm the first to suggest this time-worn advice:

Write drunk. Edit sober.


July 30th, 2018 at 12:20 PM ^

Obviously OP a troll post (sadly not obvious to most on MGBlog) but here is advice to you if you want to be a writer:

1) Stop wasting time creating multiple accounts on a rival sports message board

2) Ass to chair and write


July 30th, 2018 at 12:33 PM ^

I was a big fan of the "Thrilling Adventure Hour" Podcast.  One of the guys, Ben Acker I think, has a podcast called "The Writers Panel" where they interview writers for different shows, books and movies.  I have listened to only a few but on a few of them they discussed what you were talking about, with getting a start, and advice for people who are new to this.  Might be worth a listen.


July 30th, 2018 at 12:52 PM ^

1. For narrative non-fiction, have an outline. However, don't be married to it. You will find that in the process of writing, new unexplored veins will come up. Follow those veins if only to see where they lead. You can always cut it out later.

2. The narrative voice is important and lots of writers spend several drafts getting that right. If you are new to writing, however, I would recommend you just focus on getting the story out first. You can tighten up the voice as you grow in experience.

2b. Real editing is more than just reading and adjusting. There is lots and lots of writing from scratch in the editing process.

3. Grammar matters.

4. Never say "I pontificated" when "I said" will suffice. 

5. Echo the Stephen King "On Writing" recommendation.

6. As best as you can, try to have a thick skin. Writing is a TON of self-inspection and rejection. If you intend to try and publish the old-fashioned way, prepare thyself for lots of people telling you No.

7. Worry about publishing, agents, submissions later. Write first.

8. Enjoy the process. The elements of craft and style are a rewarding journey unto themselves.

9. Don't take yourself too seriously.



July 30th, 2018 at 1:10 PM ^

Looks like I am late to the party on this one. But, I will throw in my $0.02. As others have said read and write as much as you can.

I have found Chuck Wendig at terribleminds.com to be a great resource for people who are new to writing.  You may have to go back quite far, but he has many blog posts that are directly about writing advice. If you become more advanced, you will outgrow his insights.

Also, it is rare to pen an autobiography and it get picked up unless you are either famous or have some serious hook in your personal story.  Jack Kerouac is a great example of someone who wrote their story and turned it into a first-person narrative.  So, autobiography as narrative is a good direction to go.

Enjoy being a pen-monkey! 


July 30th, 2018 at 3:37 PM ^

My big piece of advice is to not worry about quality of your first drafts.

All of your first drafts will be crap, and that's fine. Everyone's first draft is crap. When you have a completed first draft, however, you have something you can edit. Editing and revision of that first draft is where you start to make it not be crap.

You may want to find a writer's group with people who are writing something similar to what you're writing. They can beta read what you're writing, and you can beta read what they're writing. The suggestions people make will help you get better.



July 30th, 2018 at 10:53 PM ^

I grew up in a house of writers, and the number one piece of advice was, write everyday for two hours. Just sit down and do it. Don't evaluate or edit unless that is the goal that day. But you have to develop the discipline to write. So do it every day. 

My own advice would be to read, and then read some more. Many have already said this here, and from my own experience, reading has helped my writing more than classes or writing groups. A great resource is "The New Yorker." Just really solid writing.