Updated: Mar 31
As many of you know, I like to start my posts by telling you something about my experience. This time is no exception. I already mentioned in my post An Honest Talk On Mental Health that I use writing as a coping mechanism. To me, it’s therapeutic, no matter what I’m writing about. I think many people can benefit from this strategy, considering how the world has been doing in the past few months. Today, I want to give you a quick background on how I started writing, tell you about my journey from storytelling to blogging, and some tips on how to write if you have never approached this art.
If I am doing this, I need to thank my elementary school teacher, Mrs Margherita. She was the first one to encourage me to write. I remember the first time I approached it. We started writing short stories as a school assignment, like fables and fantasies. To decide the topic, we picked up a card with the protagonist – a princess, a knight, a mage – and everything else we needed to write our story: an antagonist, a magical object, a location, a time and a sidekick. I loved it. I was quicker than the other pupils, and I would finish two stories. It seemed like words were falling out of my pen and onto paper. I had a fervid imagination, so I never struggled with inventing magical tales and heroic stories. One of my stories became the inspiration for the end-of-school year play, put up with marionettes and home-made backgrounds. You can imagine how proud I was to see my fantasies coming true.
Growing up, I approached fanfiction. It was an enjoyable way to be creative, starting from the work of others. Do you know that feeling, when you have just finished an excellent book, a film or a tv series and you wish there was more to them? When your favourite character took a decision you didn’t like, and you would have loved to see their stories taking a different direction? This is fanfiction in a nutshell. You write about other people’s stories, and you embellish them with your own thoughts. In my teen years, this was my favourite thing to do. I wrote some Hunger Games one-shots – stories that begin and end in what we can consider a chapter – and I was planning to create a longer story. I never did, and I must have the word file somewhere in my computer.
I transitioned to original short stories. I created my own characters, taking inspiration from people I knew or celebrities. I would study their behaviour and actions, and I would create a fictional universe for them. If I read these stories now – which I don’t do, as it’s too embarrassing – I can see how my characters were reflecting my young age. I wrote about love and romance, even though I have never experienced them. I was a 15-year-old girl who was fantasising about those things, and it shows.
After my third year of high school, I stopped. The last stories date back to the summer of 2014. I went dry. I was deep in my worst moment, and it seemed I couldn’t put words together anymore. I tried being a translator for a while, from English to Italian, and then what’s called a beta-reader – an editor. It didn’t work. I didn’t finish any project I had started, and this bothered me: I’ve always yearned to take my plans to completion.
In the summer of 2019, I started thinking about creating a blog. I knew it wasn’t my time to create from anew, so I understood I needed to use my experience as an undergraduate student abroad. I wanted to share my knowledge about living in another country and going to university. I had created a first version of my website, but I did not understand where to start from or how I could manage writing and my academic life at the same time. It ended up in nothing concrete.
In February 2020, I saw the now famous video of Quaden, the 9-year-old child bullied in school. I was fuming. I wanted to say something about it. Here’s why I opened this blog. My first article, On Difference And Kindness, was the starting point. Sunday 22nd of March, I celebrated the first month from the official upload of Noemi’s Corner. In the meantime, I decided which topic my blog would cover – which has changed in the past few days to accommodate the new world situation with coronavirus – and I started recording my podcast, The Argentina Experience.
As I mentioned, I had to rethink my posts, as I imagine people do not want to know how to live in another country. I want to keep creating engaging content for my readers. And what better way to spend time than learning a new skill?
How to begin?
The first question that comes to mind whenever you’re trying to learn a new skill is: how can I start? It’s a well-known fact that beginning is the hardest part, if you’re starting from zero. Here are some of my top tips to kick off your writing.
Read, read, read.
There’s nothing more important than reading, if you have written nothing apart from school assignments. I have hundreds of books in my bedroom and I read from a collection of authors and time periods. It’s an excellent practice handed down by my mom and I plan on keep doing it. I’ve always loved reading, and it has helped me define what my target as a writer in training is.
Reading allows you to understand your favourite writing style, topic, genre and it enriches your vocabulary. Try to read at least 20 pages per day. Find a quiet spot and give this practice some time. If you incorporate it in your routine, it will become easier to allocate time to doing it. It not only can give you inspiration for future work, but it also makes you more knowledgeable, so it’s a win-win situation.
You can’t expect to write a book if you don’t have any kind of experience in this field. In the beginning, I thought I could become a writer in no time. Call it confidence or arrogance, I thought my work was a masterpiece, no matter how many clichés I was using and how boring my characters were. My work has sometimes been sloppy and I could have made my stories better by just being a little bit more realistic.
Start by writing about your day, your favourite movie or book. Talk about memories or describe your travels. Look at a painting and try to think about how to describe it to someone who has never seen it. The point is: get acquainted with the act first and create a masterpiece later. Keep a diary, either on paper or on your computer, where you can annotate ideas, concepts and what is going on in your mind. You can come back to it whenever you feel ready to create something bigger.
Let It Flow
You don’t have to edit your words for now. Just allow them to flow out of your head and into sentences. Doing this is one of the most complicated aspects of writing. Ideas form into your head, but you can’t translate them into words, or at least that’s how you feel.
To connect this point with the last, I had so many ideas that turned into nothing concrete just because I didn’t write them somewhere. One of the best source of ideas are dreams, which we forget as soon as we wake up. If you remember something, write it down. Don’t be bothered about how much they make sense or, again, the words you are using to describe them. Try to focus less on the way you’re writing, focus on doing it.
Roam The Internet
Having a look around on the internet is one of the best ways to know what people are into at that moment in time. You can see what readers are looking for, but also the hot topics of discussion. Hot meaning what people are talking about. You can find forums and websites to connect with other writers.
One website I’d like to recommend for my Italian readers is EFP Fanfiction. It’s a website where anyone can publish their short stories, first attempt to writing a book and even poetry. The only downfall to it is that, as it may be expected, not everything on there is of quality. Anyone can publish their work, so you can find bad pieces of writing. However, don’t be turned off by this. Everyone starts somewhere, but not everyone starts from a high place in terms of style and grammar. Each writer – this is what you are aspiring to be – has a journey. It may end in nothing, or it might be just a hobby, but it can also become your source of income.
For my other readers, those of you who want to approach the English-written community, Archive of Our Own and FanFiction.net are your go to. The only actual problem with these two websites is they aim at those who write fanfictions, so you won’t be able to find what I refer to as original stories.
If you’re interested in finding a community where you can share ideas and get suggestions from fellow writers, I would consider joining The Write Life Community, Writers Helping Writers and Blogging Newbs on Facebook. Depending on what you want to be writing about, you can join different groups. Do a quick search on Google typing “writing groups on Facebook” or in any other preferred platform and then filter your search depending on whether you’d like to start a blog, short stories, fanfictions or even a book.
Ask For Opinions
I know, the most challenging aspects of your journey. Asking for other people’s opinions is difficult and it can sometimes be hurtful, especially if you have recently started and are still new to the process. You need a little boost of confidence, but you have to get honest reviews of your work. If no one corrects it, you might consolidate mistakes that can easily be prevented.
For me, the toughest part was allowing my parents to read my stories. I felt judged, even though they never did. If you don’t want to ask your family and friends to be your critics, turn to Facebook groups again. There are a variety of groups that offer what’s called “beta-reading”. It’s an editing and reviewing process, where the writer submits a piece of work to the “beta-reader”, that in change reads the work and can either correct it, check it for cohesion and offer you advice on how to improve it.
When people review their own stories, they can either be the most hypercritical or the most hypocritical editors. Therefore you need someone else to do it in your stead.
Don’t Be Offended By Critics
I was a beta-reader for a while and I know that they only want to offer heartfelt advice. Don’t be upset if the work you submitted comes back full of corrections.
One time, I had to read a boy band fanfiction. I don’t want to sound mean, but it was full of clichés, grammar mistakes and an immature piece of writing. I tried to correct it to the best of my abilities but only got so far. The author, in exchange for my free work, insulted me and said that I didn’t know what I was doing. I don’t want to be arrogant, but as someone who fluently speaks three languages and can write in all three of them, I knew what I was doing. I didn’t take it. I knew that they were young and not ready to hear that they had a lot of room for improvement. I stopped helping them after the first chapter.
Beta-readers have nothing against you, so they are not trying to hold you down or disappoint you. They are just offering a service that, trust me, is most needed.
Whether you aspire to become a novelist or you just want to write as a hobby try setting up some goals. If you decide that, for example, you want to write an article, aim at writing at least 500 words per day. Find some time just for this in your routine and establish short and long-term achievements. This way, you will feel accomplished whenever you reach your daily, month or even year targets. It will boost your confidence and your writing will improve.
This last point is as it sounds. Just start. You need to begin somewhere, so put your pen on paper or type on your computer. Your journey starts here.
I hope you found the inspiration to write now. If you are a beginner, don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Mistakes can turn into lessons, and lessons into new, better content. Let me know what you think about it and if you’d like a list of writing prompts to use as blueprint for your first attempts. Most of all, send me your works and I will be reviewing them. Use writing as a form of therapy, free expression and release of creativity. Use it as you prefer, and share it with others.