How to Get Early Writing Experience

(Reed’s Playlist for the occasion: You’re Not Salinger, Get Over It by the Wonder Years; Sing It Again Rookie Biatch by Daggermouth; Summer Jam by Set Your Goals)

I was thinking this morning about how I kind of got into the game late.

If it wasn’t for my inexplicable good luck and a little bit of capitalization, I might have had no writing experience at this point besides my own side projects. I’m writing this in the hopes that some of you start looking now (I promise you’ll be better off than me).

Here are a few tips for how to get early writing experiences:

  1. Utilize clubs at your school/university. If you’re attending high school or college right now, there are bound to be writing-related clubs. Journalism, creative writing, poetry slams, writing contests… taking a shot at any of those things can provide you with some really good early insights into how to get better. (Side note: if you don’t have any of these clubs at your school, start them. It looks incredible on a  résumé and it can allow you to steer things in your direction, maximizing the learning you can achieve.)
  2. Find writing projects through work. You know, it’s the strangest thing, but it turns out businesses always need good writers for random odds and ends. I work for the library at UCLA, and I’m always finding opportunities to write a bit of copy for a tour pamphlet, a press release for a new service, or a conference paper about a program I’ve been involved in. I had no knowledge of any of these projects before I put my ear to the ground and started emailing people every week (“Hi, Dawn, this is just my weekly email. I’m sure you hate seeing my name in your inbox by this point, but do you think you have any comms projects to throw my way?”). So get out there and ask around! (Although if you work at Burger King you might just be out of luck.)
  3. Interwebs. What if you don’t have a job or if you’re not going to school? Well, for one thing, it explains why you have nothing better to do than read my blog, but for another, it gives you ample time to explore writing on the internet. Reddit (among a plethora of other sites) has writing prompts pretty much daily that you can practice with. Do them online and get feedback; if you’re timid, take them into your personal writing-cave and share them with no one. Whatever your preference, it’s a great way to practice.
  4. Form a writing group. God in heaven, please form a writing group. I’ve been in my share (they’ve mostly fallen apart with time), but from those groups I’ve been able to cling to a small but dedicated pool of beta readers and fellow writers who are willing to be as harsh or as kind as I need, given the circumstances. They are doubtless some of the best resources you will ever have. (And if you can’t find one, you know you can always email me. I’m told I’m a gentle but effective critic, like toilet paper.)
  5. Emulate the best. I wrote a post earlier about books I’d like to emulate; this is a great way to get started when you don’t even know where or how to begin. Pick up your favorite author and copy a passage you love. Try to figure out what makes it so good. If you can do that, you’re halfway to writing that well yourself. (S/o to Dylan for this tip.)

What’d I miss? How did you get started in writing? Let me know in the comments!

Yours forever,

-R.R. Buck

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9 thoughts on “How to Get Early Writing Experience

      1. I grew as a writer. The very first story I ever wrote was a Ninja Turtle story where each “chapter” was a notebook page, often being just a paragraph, and each “book” was the length of a one-subject notebook. There was sloppy dialogue, no plot, no description, grammar didn’t exist, and so much more. I definitely learned a lot through my mistakes back then as I got older and learned more about writing. With each story I improved and eventually I started coming up with new ideas and instead of thinking that would be great for the Ninja Turtles, I thought, “Why would happen if I created my own characters? How would they react?”

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      2. Hmm, so that’s one potential drawback. I think, though, that at the earliest stages you can kind of tell what’s good and what’s bad, so you don’t necessarily need feedback from others at that point.

        Liked by 1 person

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