I almost love reading about writing as much as writing itself. The world wide web is full of wonderful (and not so wonderful) tips and advice for writers that one could spend too much time reading and never actually get around to writing.
Over the past few years I have filed away some of my favorite pieces of advice that have stuck with me. They are tips that are not only consistently true but also practical and that can be applied to all forms of writing; fiction, non-fiction, articles and even blogging. So without further ado this novice brings you…
The novice’s guide to writing
1. Write Often
You will often hear the advice ‘Write every day’ or ‘Set a daily word goal’, this can work too, but for me I need to write often. And by that I mean often each day. Being a mum, running two businesses, yada, yada, yada, I don’t get the chance to sit down and pour over words for hours (as much as I’d love to) so I need to steal time here and there during the day.
It might be half an hour before the house wakes, ten minutes here, forty minutes there and bigger chunks at night, but I find if I write often I am more productive. And by writing often I am practicing my craft and finding my voice. It’s like everything else, ‘Practice makes perfect”. Well I’m hoping anyway!
2. Show, Don’t Tell / 5 Senses
Truth be told I hate this advice. It is overused and in trying to adhere to the rule one can go way too far showing with long, descriptive prose that ends up being clunky or boring. Or both. So I have amended this rule to: Use all 5 senses.
As humans, most of us are lucky to have use of all of our 5 senses; sight, touch, taste, sound, and smell. When we use all of these in our writing we give the reader a total experience that they can connect to and that they will become emotionally engaged in. You want your writing to sink into the readers brain matter and be memorable. Writing using all five senses is the key to doing just that.
3. Don’t switch POV
This is a biggie for novice writers. In re-reading and editing my manuscript I found switching point of view was one of my biggest flaws. As the writer I know what each of my characters is thinking and at times I just throw it all on the page at once. This is a big no-no. It confuses the reader and makes the flow of the reading more like a Himalayan hiking trail rather than a smooth, downhill bitumen cruise. The general rule: don’t switch point-of-view in the same chapter, same scene and especially same paragraph.
4. Create emotional involvement
Tightly related to using 5 senses, to grasp the reader’s attention you need to get them emotionally involved in the story and the characters (real or fiction). Make them want to invest their time in what they are reading. This can be done in many ways: conflict, action, surprise, emotion. There is no right or wrong way, what works is what fits the piece of writing, just make sure you do it.
5. Read widely
Every good author or writer worth their salt will offer this nugget, but it is true. If you read only one genre you don’t have a full experience or appreciation of the writing process. By reading widely across all genres you expand your brain and even though you may not actively use techniques from romance novels in you slasher fiction chances are you will actually develop and improve your writing subconsciously from your reading experiences.
6. Know your characters
As you may know I am big on characters. For me, believable, real characters can make or break a story, even if it has a killer plot. You must know the characters in you writing. Fully. I like to interview my characters before I write. I ask all the basic details such as hair colour, eye colour, next of kin, favourite food, then ask some meaty questions to get inside their head. You need to know what they think, how they think and anaylse them deeply. Depending on your writing you will know what you need to find out from your characters. Talk to them as if they are real people, because if you can’t believe they are real, how will your audience?
7. Learn how to handle rejection
The biggest given in the writing world is rejection and if you want to be a writer you are going to become very familiar with the word. It may seem harsh, but if you can’t handle being rejected the majority of the time, this isn’t the path for you. For every one pitch to an editor that gets accepted I have sent seven other pitches. And although it certainly makes that successful pitch all the more sweeter, it’s still tough getting a no, or worse still….silence!
As for fiction, well I haven’t reached the stage of rejection yet. The first phase will be when my mentor critiques my manuscript. The red markings on the screen will be hard to take, but I will embrace the advice and my novel will be better for it. Until the next step of course – rejection from a publisher or ten!
Allison Tait recently tweeted a great article she discovered regarding rejection and never giving up. You can read it here – it’s worth the read and something you may need to re-read should you ever feel like it is all too hard.
So that is my novice’s guide to writing with a few of my favourite writing tips that I’ve gathered in my short writing life-time. And now I will leave you with the best tip of all which is self explanatory:
What’s your favourite writing tip or piece of advice for writing or blogging?