These last couple of weeks have been, like much of the last year, extremely busy. Somehow between the manic shifts, back-to-back double shifts and now a set of weekend night shifts that I’m starting I managed to achieve a major milestone in my writing journey. I got published for the first time ever! Wit Woo!
Published in a “Publication” on Medium.com, my article is about coming to terms with being a Christian, the challenges of openly admitting my Christian beliefs and how ultimately, people should know that I am a Christian not by what I say, but what I do. I also call out bigotry and homophobia as per. I’m really glad to say it’s been received very well and has definitely served as a great encouragement that my writing is moving in the right direction! If you’re curious, check it out here.
For those who don’t know what Medium.com is, it’s essentially the Youtube of writing. Created by one of the founders of Twitter in 2012 it now boasts over 200 million users and continues to grow every day.
Readers can browse articles to their heart’s content and writers can either self-publish pieces on their own profiles or submit their pieces to “publications”- like Koinonia above that published mine! A publication is akin to an e-magazine and both the publication and the profile acts in a similar way to how a “youtube channel” would.
I’ve fallen for it. My aimless scrolling through Instagram on the buses and trains has been replaced by a strong and varied reading habit. It’s expanding my horizons leading me to learn new things every day.
Don’t worry, this isn’t a sponsored post by Medium!
So what’s the point of all this now? Well one of the most interesting things I like to read on Medium is tips from writers for each other and I thought I’d share with you the top three I’ve come across so far which I’ve found to be really helpful and cool.
1. Text to speak and read it back.
You know that annoying voice on the other end of your GPS that reminds you there’s a speed camera around the corner? Can you imagine that voice ever reading back a manuscript to you to see how it sounds? No? Well, neither could I. Until I tried it. Now, it’s become an irreplaceable part of my writing process.
“Natural Readers” is a website that allows you to copy and paste your manuscript into a box and select which voice you want to read it back out to you. You can follow along to the reading in your word processor with your manuscript in front of you, with the closed captions that track the reading on the site itself or you can just shut your eyes, take a rest from the screen and simply hear the words.
I cannot recommend this as an editing process enough. By having another voice read your draft out to you it forces you to read/listen to work as a third person. It allows you to see how your writing comes across to other people and improves your understanding of your work. This will feed into your edits and improve the work as a whole. Try it out for yourself and let me know what you think!
2. Write authentically.
All the best writers in the world share one thing in common, they write from experience. This simple truth crosses the boundaries of age, social status, genre of writing and experience of the writer. Think about it, a reader reads a piece of writing because they want to take something from the piece. You as the writer absolutely must have something to offer. Be that knowledge, information, expertise or experience.
Take for example Natasha Pulley, an award winning and best selling author of fiction who was picked up by Bloomsbury Publishing pretty much straight out of university. You make ask yourself “Well, what life experience could a newly minted university graduate have to write authentic fiction with?” And you’d be correct in asking. So in preparation for writing her debut novel “The Watch Maker of Filigree Street” she applied for a grant and spent three months in Japan swatting up on their visual imagery, culture and way of life. Only then did she begin to put pen to paper.
The most talented writer in the world will not beat the average Joe who’s writing about something he knows about. Everybody has a story to tell, have a think about what you know about and write about it- be that fiction or otherwise.
3. Read widely.
It’s a commonly accepted fact that the wider you read the better you’ll write. The number one thing that any budding writer can do daily to begin improving both the quality and content of their writing is to read every day. It doesn’t matter what you read, read anything. If you have a particular genre you want to write, then swat up on that!
I use Medium.com to expose myself to a wide variety of writing styles, literature, content and most importantly- ideas. Nothing in the world is truly original – after all every story ever written is a retelling of one of these seven basic narrative devices. I also use Medium.com to discover new and interesting books worth reading.
The more I read, the more I learn and therefore the more material I can draw from. Take this article! In this piece that I’ve whittled away in these spare 2 hours before commencing my first nightshift of this weekend I’ve discussed:
The history of “Medium.com”, text to speak as an assistant to self-editing, authenticity in writing, Natasha Pulley and her story of how she published her best selling novel, Bloomsbury Publishing and The Seven Basic Narrative Devices.
It’s not just increasing your database of ideas and knowledge to draw on either, by reading good writing you’ll implicitly start to absorb and notice styles and techniques that you’ll naturally begin to draw into your own work.
How could I finish off without sharing with you a tip of my own? As a thumbs up for making this far down let me share with you one thing that I’ve struggled with and no doubt others have too. Finding material to write about.
Every writer eventually hits a brick wall, their steady stream of ideas runs dry and suddenly they find themselves staring blankly at their screen not knowing what to do.
I found myself hitting this wall fairly often when I first started this blog. This wasn’t helped either by the fact that I was still finding my feet and the purpose of this blog was evolving along with me, but I never-the-less struggled.
So what I did was started a notebook to write my ideas in and read widely. Every time I would come up with an idea I would write it down in the book and I geared my mindset towards looking for these ideas.
Sometimes I would find an article I agreed with and I wrote down why I agreed with it, sometimes the reverse was true and on those occasions I would write down why I disagreed with it.
From these notes suddenly ideas would spring forth! Every idea I write down in the book so I never lose or forget it. Sometimes, events would happen in my life that would provide material to write about- like the article I recently published above! In these cases it’s even more important to keep a note at the time.
Within a couple of weeks I had a steady flow of ideas of things to write about that easily outstrip the time I have to sufficiently research and write about them.
So, pop your draft articles into a text-to-speech converter to assist with effectively editing them, ensure you’re writing with authenticity and read widely. Do these three things and you’ll be well on your way to improving the quality of your writing in no time at all!
It worked for me, and if it can work for me I have complete faith it can work for you too!