1) Creativity is your key to success. You need a vivid and active mind full of imagination to think of an idea and to develop it. Sometimes, it is not about how well you write a story: it is not about high vocabulary and perfect sentences. Sometimes it is about an attention grabbing plot that leaves readers captivated. Try to avoid clichés, unless you know how to play around with them, such as doing plot twists. And be original. Even if you write a fan fiction or a story based on a real event, you will need to be ingenious, in order to give your writing a personal touch. Avoid copying other authors’ wording and structures. Work on your descriptions and dialogues, try to stand out and be different. The best compliment I receive on my public story is how unique is my writing style! Borrowing elements from other genres, such as poetry, can be helpful too. Don’t be afraid to be innovative. Just because something hasn’t been done before it doesn’t mean it is wrong. You would be surprised to know that authors such as Emily Bronte used to be heavily criticised and condemned due to their works back when they published them, because they went against all conventions. But look at them now!
2) Search for inspiration, but don’t waste your time. Books from other authors are the biggest sources of inspiration, so read and read. Newspapers can help too, as well as watching the news or listening to the radio. It is not about sitting down and thinking “okay, I’m going to write and story, let me think of a plot”. It rarely works like that. Inspiration comes and go. One day you can be sitting down waiting for the bus and suddenly you have an idea. For instance, JK Rowling got the idea for the Harry Potter collection after seeing a little boy with circle shaped glasses. That’s it. Nothing really special. Look for inspiration, but live too: the biggest ideas come unexpectedly.
3) Grammar, spelling and punctuation matter. A lot. Maybe in your first draft not so much, but when you finalise your work, it will. And it is better if try to keep it good from the beginning, instead of having to go through the whole thing at the end. What I do normally is write a section/chapter without thinking much, just writing what flows out of my brain. Then I do extensive revision to improve the descriptions and dialogues. Afterwards, I do another revision to check for inconsistencies, contradictions or plot holes. And lastly I re-check the work again, but this time for language errors (grammar, spelling and punctuation). If you are not writing in your first language, I recommend you to look for websites that will help you to proofread and spot mistakes. I personally use http://prowritingaid.com/. You can also ask for help to someone in your family or social circles. And if you want to publish your work, paying a copy-editor (they mainly correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling) may be worth it.
4) Embrace you writing, yet be open to reviews from others. Ask friends or your family for their opinion. Use online platforms such as Wattpad to receive constructive criticism. Prepare yourself to have your work judged negatively. I know that being criticised is not anyone’s cup of tea, but opinions from others can help to spot errors and mistakes. Mainly plot holes and poor characterisation. However, you don’t have to change something about your story just because a critique said so. It doesn’t works like that. At the end of the day, most of the times it is opinion rather than facts. Even if you self-publish a book and it is a successful, or you get a publishing deal and you sell millions, there is always going to be someone saying something negative. When comes to writing, you will need to have a solid way of judging what to accept and what not to accept when comes to constructive criticism: you need to be strong minded. Just remember that opinion is opinion, but four eyes see better than two.
5) Wherever you go, make sure you have something you can write on. Always. As I said, inspiration can come from everywhere, even if it is just an idea or a full chapter. The old fashioned way, paper and pen, works the best for me personally. In fact, I write some of my stories on notebooks first, and then I write them on the computer, once I finished. My first stories were all on paper. However, the digital way can work too. You can use memo-pad applications in your phone or tablet. Don’t rely on your memory too much, even if it is superb. It is not just about the idea. It is also about the way in which you want to express it. For example: if you are feeling angry and one of your characters is going through anger too, write whilst you feel like that. Your words will connect better with what you want to express, it doesn’t matter if it is a description, a narration or a dialogue. That’s why it is good having 24/7 something you can write on.
And 6) Write for yourself. Write for your pleasure. Forget about what readers want. Forget about what the market wants. The best aspect of writing prose is being able to create your own story and/or letting out your thoughts and feelings. It is about you and just you. Of course you need to care about your readers, but they are your readers for a reason, you don’t need to change to suit more their likes. Don’t allow your writing to be manipulated for the sake of fame and money. Writing prose, mainly fiction, isn’t about business. Only 20% of published writers in the world are able to live just from their books. I suggest you keep writing as a hobby and leisure activity. Don’t turn it into a full-time career, because it will get dull and you won’t find inspiration from your daily life. And don’t feel miserable if you publish your work and it doesn’t get a lot of readers/buyers (either in Wattpad, in Amazon or through a publishing house). Some gems remain undiscovered for years and years. Some gems are never discovered. And it is fine. Completely fine.