November 29, 2019

Whenever I Speak

By Jan McCanless

Whenever I speak to writers’ groups, or academic groups, I am invariably asked how to get started with their writing. Most everyone feels they have a story to tell, but they are hesitant. Either they are afraid to fail, so, they don't start, or they are not sure how to do it.

The most important thing I tell them is to be sure of their subject. If you love mysteries, as I do, then, stick to mysteries; if it's romance that floats your boat, then, write romance. DO not, under any circumstances, write something you know nothing about, it simply won't work.     

If you lean towards the autobiographical, then pick one defining moment in your life and begin there, adding background, before and after, from that point on. If you can, avoid too many clich├ęs.  Writing is not hard, if you are sure of your facts, sure of the subject matter, and have confidence to put into words, what your heart and mind are telling you. Even writing fiction, you must be factual, if you are describing a real place or thing, like an airliner or ship, do some research, and you'll be better informed, and write in a knowledgeable way.

When I first began writing fiction, I let my imagination take flight, and wrote anything I wanted to about places and objects and was called down by my readers for it. The only exception to this will be fantasy or futuristic writings, then, let your fantasies take over and be as outrageous as you like, but, if you are writing in real time, be sure you are accurate.

How do I get started, I am often asked? Well, use whatever venue you have, pad and pen, word processor, computer, whatever, and tell yourself you are writing a letter to a good friend, and, telling them about something. Once you start, the words should come easily. Edit as you go, and if you are not happy with how you began, after a few paragraphs, or perhaps a chapter, you can always go back and change it. Just get the feel of it first, and soon, you'll be writing away, and, before you know it, you'll have completed the entire book.

A good friend, colleague, or academic can assist you. Let them proofread your work and offer constructive criticism, it will be very helpful for the beginner.

Finally, don't force the writing -wait, and let the words come to you, your story will be better for it.
Jan McCanless is an award winning, bestselling author of mysteries. The Beryl's Cove mysteries, and the Brother Jerome series. She has recently completed her third compilation of her humor columns and articles, and, currently has a manual about writing, in circulation. Her website is She is listed in Who's Who as a premier Southern Humorist. Watch for her latest book: Bizarre Brain Drippings of  Noted Sagittarian, and more Thoughts of Home,  to be published late fall of 2019.

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