Noob, as in new to writing. See, I’m not totally unaware.

A friend from this one gaming forum I frequent wants to start writing fiction. How do I start? he asks.

So I thought I might do a little series on writing for the complete noob. I’m going to assume your last writing was something you were forced to do back in school, but now you want to start writing and you don’t know where to start.

Pen to paper, fingers to keyboard. Go.

But I don’t know what to write! I hear the wailing all the way over here. It’s okay. We’ll back up a bit.

Let’s talk about what’s out there to write.

There’s several kinds of writing:

  1. what I call functional writing. This you just have to do. Grocery lists, documentation, filling out forms. Boring stuff.
  2. personal writing, aka private journals. Some people use poetry and fiction writing in this way. Hobby stuff you never show anyone. If you show it, then you’re in one of the next categories.
  3. public non-fiction. Blogs, essays, journalism, non-fiction books, editorial columns. Writing that deals with facts and opinion.
  4. public fiction. Stories. Fiction can be any length, and there are words to describe the story by how long it is (these are approximate): flash fiction (less than 2000 words), short stories (less than 15,000 words), novella (15,000 to 40,000), novel (technically over 50,000 words but the typical novel in a bookstore is around 60,000 to 120,000 words). Multi-novel series, screenplays, and the like.

There’s also poetry and other written art, but most of the time when people say they want to write, they mean getting paid to write in categories #3 or #4. Because you do write in everyday life. And if you really like writing, you probably already do a lot of category #2, 3, and 4 writing, you just aren’t getting paid for it.

Let me just stop here for a minute.

BIG RED FLAG if you don’t do any category 2-4 writing at all, ever, and never have. You really have to look at why you don’t write if you really like to. If your answer is, “well, I don’t like to write, I just want to make money–”

Stop. Do not pass go. Seriously. Writing for publication is a difficult road, and in fiction, even if you do publish, the average advance pays very little for the time you put in, real close to pennies per hour. Anything makes better money, in the long run, for the average writer, than writing fiction. If you don’t LOVE writing, like it hasn’t been one of your life goals to write a novel, or something involving deep down passion (yes, I said passion), please, just don’t. Because it will make you unhappy.

The door is that way.

Now we got that out of the way, for the rest of you. We’ve established that a) you like to write, b) you want to write and c) you want to be paid to do so. What now?

Then you need to figure out what you want to write about. The only one who can do that is you.

I’ll tell you right off that non-fiction pays better than fiction. You can go with traditional publishing (the non-fiction book), you can write for magazines or newspapers, or you can work online.

There’s at least a million articles and sites out there on how to be a freelance non-fiction writer. Google is your friend.

Basically, you have to have real expertise in some area. It doesn’t matter what, as long as it’s something others care about. Then you write about it and get people to pay you for what you write.

Producing a website about your area of expertise helps a lot, even if you write offline, and is essential if you want to establish yourself as an online authority. Many content websites are made by people just like you.

I did freelance non-fiction writing for four years (and got paid for it after a year or so of establishing myself online). I might do it again, but I like writing fiction more. If this road really speaks to you, good luck, and have fun.

Anyone still left? Great! Now we can talk about fiction writing. We will do that tomorrow.

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10