I love to hear that someone wants to write. I encourage them, because writing can be very rewarding and fun. I meet new writers in writing groups near where I live, and one thing I notice is that many beginning writers are plagued with worry. What if I can’t do it? What if I suck at writing? What if my grammar isn’t good enough?

Here are some things to keep in mind:

1) You don’t have to be a born writer. Writing can be learned. It can even be self-taught, if you are willing to study on your own by reading books about writing.

2) You don’t have to be great at grammar and punctuation to start out, but somewhere along the way, if you want to get published, you’ll need to study grammar and punctuation. There are great books on the subject, and they are fun to read.

3) First drafts are always crappy. That’s the way it is, unless you’ve written half a dozen books and have put in the hours of study. Even then, though, your first draft won’t be perfect. Most authors have to rewrite and edit, and then get someone else to also edit. Every writer needs an independent editor (someone other than themselves).

4) You don’t have to make an outline before you start writing your book. It helps, but isn’t required. Many writers start with a vague idea or they start by writing out some ‘what if’ questions to get their imagination working. At some point during the writing of the book, once you know the characters, setting, and basic plot, you can then create a rough outline to keep you on track. But, again, you don’t have to make an outline. It’s up to you.

5) There is no magic formula for writing a novel. There is no right way or wrong way. It’s a creative process and you can do what you want. There are, however, some basic rules or guidelines and it will help you to learn those and follow them, at least in the beginning of your writing career.

6) You don’t have to ‘write what you know’, but if you don’t know your subject or your setting, you’ll need to research it.

7) Keep writing. Don’t give up. Determination is important. Practice is important.

8) Join a writers group or two, if you can. It can be scary to let other people read some of your work, but it helps make you a better writer. It helps you develop a thicker skin, too. We all have to learn to take advice and criticism about our writing. Consider it practice for when you eventually turn your book over to an editor.

9) Don’t be afraid to put your own emotions into your book. Writing can be therapeutic.