How To Help And Advice Starting Writers: Be Honest and Look At Yourself
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How To Help And Advice Starting Writers: Be Honest and Look At Yourself

How to handle new writers and help them on their way to improve.

The first thing all writers should do, is be honest with themselves. It is not because you had a great idea, that you also produced brilliant work. Remember how you started? Do you really love to look back at your old, first drafts?

When you start writing, you are always so focused on the story you like to tell, that you often forget how you are really telling it. Most first manuscripts end up as a rough draft of good ideas, but are really not polished and edited enough to be published.

New writers often make the same mistakes. They forget grammar rules, since what is clear to them, might appear clear in general, also to others to them. Especially writers who are not academic educated or are extremely young and do not have all the language skills, might face some trouble.

Also, some writers might not write in their native language. For example: I am a native Dutch speaker, but I write my articles in English, since in my language, online writing is not that known. But other reasons people might write in a foreign language are, because they are immigrants that want to tell their story and are not properly educated in their own language, or people who might see a challenge or make a statement. In this last category, I would refer to Henry Conscience, a man that was raised in French in the days the Flemish, or native Dutch speakers in Belgium were highly discriminated. He wrote a great novel in Flemish, to proof that the Flemish people could read and it is still a best selling novel in my area today.

But even if you write in your native language, you do not have all the skills, with just some great ideas. Personally, I was good at Dutch, but years after high school, I started writing again.

To be honest: I wrote some things, I would not let any living soul read today.

When I had my first manuscript ready, or what I considered ready, I never realized I penned down a story, but had a text filled with so much errors, that for outsiders, it barely made any sense. Little did I know about editing.

Now here is the funny thing: I learned editing, using English software, I bought to improve my English for web article writing. It made me think of the times I handed my work in Dutch to a friend and got it back all red with a lot of comments on the errors in it.

It kind of disappointed me and for a while, I barely thought of writing. Rough manuscripts remained unfinished for years. But later I realized that getting my work back all red with all errors pointed out, might have made me blind for what writing was really about; editing.

Now editing is what all beginning writers are so afraid for. It is the most confronting thing: facing your own downsides. Text you have read several times and considered to be alright, is nothing but a heap of errors.

This is what many starting writers have to face. Yes, you can spend money on hiring professional editors and they can help you and to be honest: no writer will make a text that might not need any editing before publishing, but when you know what to mind, you might try to polish up some of your work yourself and learn from your mistakes.

If you read the work of a starting writer, be honest. Tell what is wrong. Point out the sentences that do not make sense to you. But also keep in mind that you also produced things like that yourself and might still do on occasions.

Many young writers are still looking for their style. They might use overly wordy phrases, with a will to be too exact and to be too explaining, hoping to make things clear.

Be honest: you might also find plenty of style errors in published work. Poor use of language like "there was ..." is even in awarded books, so do not try to be too perfect.

But you will not help somebody by not daring to point out the mistakes. Do not deny this person's talent. If you feel you are dealing with a person that has talent, do say so to this new writer. If you are only willing to bash him or her down for the errors in the work, hoping you will avoid competition, this may say a lot about your personality and the way you see your talent.

Better would be that when a young writer trusts you this far with his or her work, to cherish this trust and return the favor by having this person sniffing through your rough writings to look for the errors, you might have overlooked. In that case, you might boost this person's self-esteem and also, notice he or she might be helping you as well.

Keep in mind that we all look over our own mistakes easier than over those of another. We know our content and others don't. What is clear to us, also have to be for others and others are the best judge of that.

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Comments (5)

Writing is like wine, it gets better as it gets older. I didn't regret the fact that I kept journals as early as when I'm on my first year in college, what my friends thought like some nutty ideas. Reading is also a big plus, I have hundreds of pocketbooks which eventually helped me a lot. Nice points, Martine.

Editing is sometimes a nightmare but it is a necessary process. And it feels so weird sometimes-looking at old drafts. You often think "Really? Did I write this?"

good article. I agree it is strange looking over old first drafts of my writing.

Ranked #30 in Writing & Poetry

Sometimes we could give the worst critiques of our own work. Funny though, old drafts seem a bit ridiculous. Especially works that you have written a few years back. I agree with deep blue, it gets better as it gets older.

thanks for the tips.