I have been writing for a few years now and I haven’t stopped learning. Mistakes are so easy to make, but in time it becomes easier to avoid them. Lessons are learned and I have learned many Afterall, every writer strives to improve, so here are 150 lessons I’ve learned from my time writing. Please enjoy!
1. The First Draft Sucks
A fact that is hard for beginner writers to accept, including me. The first draft involves your initial bursts of energy, some of your first ideas, perhaps some of your best. However, despite your best efforts, the first draft will always suck.
2. It Takes a Long Time
I know, this is a no-brainer, but let me put it this way. If you really push and write everyday, you could write the first draft in three to four weeks. Seriously, that isn’t so bad. However, most writers have other responsibilities, such as a day-job or perhaps school if you are in that stage of life. That alone will add months to the experience, eventually reaching the year if your responsibilities are so taxing.
3. The Software Doesn’t Matter
When I first started writing, I was using a program called Scrivener, software designed for writing. I then used basic Microsoft Word, Wordpad and eventually Google Docs, using an addon that keeps word count. Software doesn’t matter, use what you can to keep writing. Even a napkin and toothpick dipped in tomato sauce.
4. The Length of the Book is Important
Certain stories can only be stretched so far and others are too complex to be short. That is where you must design your plot structure with length of the book in mind. Avoid padding the novel to make it lengthier, don’t cut something necessary to make it shorter.
5. The Paragraph and When to Start One
The paragraph is important in any piece of writing. Hopefully you have moved on from the phase where you don’t separate writing into paragraphs. Now, you just need to know when to start a new paragraph. Here are two handy rules; when you are discussing something new or when you have passed fifty words.
6. Use Less Complex Sentences
Complex sentences bad, short sentences good. Me make short sentences. Short sentence clear. Me like short sentences.
In all seriousness, a short sentence is punchier and easier to read. Short sentences work well in any genre and try to use them more often than complex sentences. Bear in mind, writing short sentences to explain complex topics can be pretty difficult.
7. The Plot Structure
The plot structure is one of the first steps in the planning phase of writing. After writing several novels I have grown to appreciate this phase, creating delightfully vague plot structures that give me plenty of room in the writing process, but also point me in the right direction.
8. Forming the Idea
Ideas usually start out like rough diamonds looking to be refined. With that in mind, it is easy to confuse a shiny rock with a rough diamond. When you have an idea, give it the appropriate amount of thought and make sure you’re not wasting your time.
9. The Planning Stages
I have learned to take my time with the planning stages. I give everything the appropriate amount of time and if I can build it, I do. Planning is just fleshing out the novel in your mind before you put it on paper.
10. The Spitballing
Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to get a second opinion, so pitching a novel idea to a close friend or family member can do a lot for the idea. Perhaps they point out obvious flaws, perhaps in the process of explaining it you see these flaws yourself. Spitballing is something you do before you step into planning and before you step into writing.
11. The Failed Ideas
You will have plenty of failed ideas. Something that happens a lot to the brighter minds you can devise so many plots and stories. However, great ideas are a lot more difficult to think up, so these bad ideas will be left behind. Accept that and roll with the ideas that truly work.
12. The Hopeful Ideas
Now, hopeful ideas are the inbetweeners that writers seem to develop a personal connection to. The writer knows they want to write a book with that story or along the same lines, but there are too many flaws for it to be a writer, so the writer moves with their best choice and leaves these hopeful ideas at the back of their mind. You never know, they might develop into something great, so write it down, save it for later.
13. The Commitment to Writing
The commitment to writing needs to be there. When I say commitment, I mean your heart must be there, pushing you to write and your mind is happy to help. Dedication to the story is the only way you will finish your novel. I won’t lie to you, this is often just willpower.
14. The Bad Breaks
If you take breaks from writing too often you will find it hard to get back into. Avoid taking such breaks and stick with writing whenever you can. A week away from writing can do so much damage to your attitude as well as your novel.
15. The Writer’s Block Sigh
I believe I wasted a lot of time, when I was hit with writer’s block, sighing because of my lack of ideas. Sometimes the next step in writing your novel isn’t so clear, so get used to that heavy sigh that leaves you staring at the blinking line on your screen.
16. The Rewrite is a Pain
Too late in my career did I learn that is best to start over once the first draft is finished. You can still use your favourite bits from your first draft, but still the rewrite is a pain. You’ve been through it before, but once you’re done and read through the second draft, you are more than convinced that it was the right move.
17. The Editing is Better
Editing is something I’ve come to enjoy. Afterall, it is like grading your own work for your own reasons. More often that not, you will like what you see, correct those silly mistakes or rewrite that seen that you weren’t happy with. Editing is the climb from mediocre writing to something special.
18. The Real Editing is Gruelling
The refining phase of editing is not fun. You read slower, you start reading aloud and fixing the deeper mistakes of your novel. Trust me, these are the mistakes you missed in the first edit, but now you’re experiencing tedious levels of editing and it will grind you down.
19. The Names Don’t Really Matter
The name of your character doesn’t really matter in the end. The reader will enjoy the character if you give it more time than the name. Don’t spend the next day coming up with names that ‘fit the character’. Focus on the character, give them any name you don’t mind reading hundreds of times.
20. The Internet is an Amazing Tool
Every little bit of help you need is on the internet, like this article. If you are unsure of a word or phrase, look it up. Don’t leave it for later in the editing process. The first draft may be the ugly draft, but try to make sure it isn’t that ugly. The internet will help with that.
21. The World is Looking for Something Unique
Writers and readers are looking for something unique. It doesn’t mean they won’t enjoy something similar to what they have read, but if you believe you have something unique in mind, run with it. You never know what might be the next big thing and I bet it is in your mind. However, let me just say one more thing…
22. Almost Everything Has Been Written Before
Unique ideas are in short supply. Everything has been written before at some point, but don’t be discouraged with that in mind. If you are struggling to develop something unique, but you are passionate about something that is more familiar to the common reader, write what you feel. You will do better with what you know than an idea you’re not sure about.
23. Devising Your Own Style of Writing
Writers are much like artists in this respect. Both are unsure about developing their own style as they don’t know if it is good enough. Writers will then write similar to writers they enjoy. To have a unique writing style you need only write the way you think. Tell your story the way you tell a story to a friend or family member. The words you use will come to mind and your writing style will start to stand out.
24. Cliches Can Be Great
I wrote an article on popular cliches and why they still work. To put it simply, writing cliches can be awful if you bring nothing new to the field, but some cliche stories are just too good. I mean that in the sense that you can’t go wrong and readers will still enjoy your piece of cliche writing in your novel. Just don’t overdo it.
25. Humour is Difficult
Something I learned from my students. Often getting the question on how to be humorous, I soon learned that writers struggle with humour. So many writers. For writing humour I simply write what I find funny, but writers are too anxious in their writing and force the humour. As such, it falls short or comes of too awkward. Give humour some time if you do the same when writing, you’re not the only one.
26. Reader’s Can’t Understand What’s in Your Mind
Too often writers zoom through their novel and while the story is enjoyable, too much is either left out or conclusions are jumped to too quickly. In the writer’s mind, nothing is wrong, but the reader is struggling to follow. I know it sounds condescending, but your reader needs hand-holding, especially in complex sequences of the novel. Bear this in mind.
27. How to Read Like a Writer
You are fast becoming an intelligent and proficient writer and they way you know this is because you start reading differently. You no longer read so immersed, as you are not reading like a writer. You admire and criticise writing, learning from others work and comparing yours to theirs. You still enjoy reading, but now you get more out of it than the average reader.
28. Over-Analysing is Easy
When writing and editing it is easy to stop and reread the same lines, finding problems that aren’t there. Nothing is perfect, writers, so don’t spend so much time reading a sequence and wondering what is wrong with. Sometimes certain pieces of writing are as good as they are going to get, don’t over-analyse your writing.
29. The Chances of Being Published are Slim
Publishers receive vast numbers of books every year and as such there many that are rejected. Some are good, but not good enough to be published. Others are great, but not as great as others, therefore they are published at a later date in the far future. Even then, this book has to be something special and that leaves the writer wondering how long it will take for them to make money from their work. Well…
30. Writing is Not a Career in the Beginning
Writing is not a career in the beginning. Your work can be great, but until you are making decent money from it, it is not a career. It is a profitable hobby, but that doesn’t mean it won’t become a career later in the writer’s life. The beginning is a hard time, my fellow writers, but time need only pass. It can take a decade or more in the worst case scenario, but it can be sooner if you keep at it.
31. My First Book is Terrible
A more personal lesson I learned, but I feel that I am not the only one. I left my first book not entirely happy with how it turned out, but it gave me enough push to try better with my next one. It worked out, so if you are like me, you have something to top in your next book.
32. Leaving Well-Enough Alone is a Bad Idea
Now, over-analysing has a friend that does just as much damage to your writing. If you over-analyse, you find problems that aren’t there. However, if you leave well-enough, you are keeping bad habits, you are allowing poor writing. With that, never leave well-enough alone. Fix it.
33. It’s Hard to Get Into the Writing Habit
While I discussed that commitment to writing is necessary, that works hand-in-hand with this lesson. It is hard to get into the habit of writing consistently, although it certainly is a habit you need to work at and eventually get into.
34. Get Used to Headaches
You as a writer are mentally pushing yourself and if you have got into the habit of writing often, you are in for some headaches now and then. In these cases, small breaks are more than recommended. However, don’t be surprised why you get a headache as a writer.
35. There is Always That Fear
Like all careers, there is always that fear that what you are doing won’t work out. Being a risky career choice if you do decide to get into it full time, there is always that fear that it won’t work out. That fear will apply to each and every book you release. However, if you put heart into your writing, you need not worry.
36. The Protagonist is Underappreciated
Too often writers don’t give the main protagonist enough attention. The character will come off bland and with little to no character development. Give the main protagonist the spotlight, there’s a reason they are the main character.
37. The Protagonist Needs Desires
The protagonist needs wants and needs, something that makes the plot relevant and something that makes the protagonist human. Everyone has dreams and it is even better if your protagonist has dreams that aren’t relevant to the plot, it makes them more interesting.
38. The Protagonist is Still Just Another Character
With all this character building, bear in mind that the protagonist is another character, a piece of the puzzle. Every character has their place, so don’t let the protagonist carry the story alone.
39. The Protagonist Must Have Purpose
The protagonist must have a major purpose in the story. Being the main character, their main goal for the novel has to lead them through the plot or be centred around it. That is what is going to push the main character and keep the story interesting.
40. The Protagonist Isn’t a Robot
The protagonist has emotions, feelings and reactions to every situation. Some of these reactions may be small, insignificant and others may decide what the protagonist becomes later in the novel. Development is important with these emotions changing the character through the story, so ensure your protagonist isn’t a cold robot.
41. Emotions Can Be Powerful
Emotions are something every writer has in their mind and wishes to include in their novel. However, they are not sure if have an emotional scene is entirely necessary and would rather push the plot forward another way. Let me tell you now, emotions can be powerful and make a scene a fan favourite. Don’t hesitate to write emotion.
42. Writing Emotions Takes Time
With that in mind, emotion takes time to write being a difficult part of humanity to convey in writing. Anger, love, courage, confidence, anxiety and so on are popular emotions and should be afforded some time to craft. It is a delicate matter and in the end, time well spent.
43. Actions Scenes Should Be Short/Simple
I know that all writers who enjoy a great action scene in a movie like to jump into their novel and write some dramatic and length fight sequence. Let me tell you, bad idea. Long action scenes in write are hard to follow, especially complicated ones. Keep it them short or simple, otherwise you lose the reader.
44. Magic Should Have Limits
Sticking with the topic of combat, magic has become a big thing in fantasy of late and magic is often overused. With that, you need to set limits. Much like any weapon or technique, magic needs to have limits in order to give it more realism. Make magic drain the character like stamina, make the magic mostly worthless in the overall plot, but never give your characters UNLIMITED POWER!
45. You Need Grit to Use Guns
Guns are another strange thing to beginner writers. Writers know how they work, but at the same time, write gunplay as if they don’t. Guns are not without their faults and it is far more interesting if the characters show care and fear around them, as they should. No matter how badass the character is, they take cover, they reload, they run out of ammo. Death is always there.
46. Fear Helps Every Character
Pondering that point on fear as it does not only apply to gunplay. Fear is something that keeps every character in line. It ensures they make certain decisions, not necessarily ones that are life or death. Someone can simply be nervous asking their crush out, so let fear decide if they do or not. Fear is a great way to devise realistic reactions and emotions in characters.
47. Fighting is Fantastic
Now, I understand there are a plethora of different fighting scenarios and factors to consider, but there are those that decide to avoid fighting entirely in their novel. Writers, fighting is very human, animal instincts kick-in and the character does something that surprises them. It can lead to some amazing interactions and alter relationships.
48. Conflict is Everything
Fighting isn’t the only form of conflict. Arguing and clashing of ideals makes for fascinating and fun to read scenes. It can develop and destroy relationships, but always develop characters. It makes them interesting, it solidifies who they are in the reader’s eyes. Conflict is everything when it comes to presenting your characters and good news, people argue all the time. Be it big or small, conflict is fantastic for writing.
49. The Structure Changes
While you are in the process of your writing you will notice some things change as you write. The structure develops more and you realize that the next chapter of perhaps several chapters don’t actually work out. As I mentioned in a previous lesson, I keep my chapters vague enough to allow for this, but still guide me in the right direction. It is because of this lesson that I do that.
50. Plans Are Never Set in Stone
With that in mind, some stories simply don’t work. Nothing is set in stone, so if you wish to approach the story from a different angel, perhaps from the view of another character, you should do that. These changes can be what saves your novel if it is bordering on poor writing.
51. New Ideas Often Strike at the Wrong Time
Always be ready, fellow writers. A new idea can strike from anywhere. While eating, washing your hair, writing or even in your dreams. It is then you must jump to it and jot down that idea as soon as possible. Never let them escape, writers, because they will try to once you’re alerted.
52. Notebooks Are Underappreciated
That is why notebooks are underappreciated. Carry one with you or always keep it near. Personally, I have one by my bed and on my desk. In my bag if I am going on a trip as well. The notebook is always there to remind you of your brilliance. Especially if you are like me and wonder where your head is. It’s in the notebook.
53. Sleep Can Be Postponed
What is this? An unhealthy lesson? Yes, don’t be surprised, I know you have done it as well. Inspiration fills you up just as you climb into bed, but you know it will disappear in the morning. Sleep can be postponed for the greater good. Hop to the computer, strike while the iron is hot!
54. Bad Habits Happen
Despite an assortment of good habits that help my writing, I still have plenty of bad habits. Some hinder my writing and others affect me in some bad. Take the last rule as an example. However, this does not mean you are not ready to be a writer. Writing is something that takes time, remember? Whatever slows you down won’t stop you from finishing that book you dream of.
55. One Book is Not Enough
If you want to become a successful writer, I am here to tell you that writing one book is not enough. Writers who are ‘making it’ today are making it thanks to several novels they have written. One book may be great, but having another or perhaps turning your book into a series is very necessary. The more content the better.
56. Inspiration is a Fickle Thing
Returning to the thought on inspiration, when it comes to writing it can truly strike at anytime. Yes, before you go to sleep is one scenario, but there will be future scenarios where you can’t do anything about it. However, if you have the time and your heart is in the right place, write as much as you can. You don’t know when inspiration will strike again.
57. Finding the Right Genre
For me, finding the genre that best suited was difficult. I soon decided that I had no preference, that I would write whatever I felt like writing. For many others, this simply isn’t the case. I recommend beginner writers look at the present day list of genres and note all the ones that appeal to them. It could be the genre you enjoy reading or the genre you enjoy writing. You will be surprised how often these two are different.
58. Fantasy is Everywhere
Fantasy novels are everywhere. From children to adult, fantasy is a broad enough genre that most fiction produced today is fantasy. Thriller, horror, action etc pale in the amount of fantasy today.
59. Science Fiction is Underappreciated
Science fiction is one the genres today that seem to have a lot of writers researching. I wholly recommend research with any genre, but the amount of time, study and effort that goes into making a science fiction grounded by fact, yet twisted by fiction boggles the mind. For that reason, I believe it is an underappreciated genre from a writer’s perspective.
60. Horror Requires Childish Fear
“If you plan on writing horror, you need to write what scares you most.” A piece of advice you have no doubt heard, but let me tell you, you can write anything scary, even if it doesn’t scare you. All you need to understand is why these horrors scare others. With that knowledge, you can write a solid horror novel.
61. Horror Needs Vulnerability
One recurring theme in any horror to keep in mind is that the characters are vulnerable. It adds to the fear of the situation knowing that you are not safe and more than that, there is little that you can do to help yourself. No matter what the cause of the fear, vulnerability takes the fear to another level.
62. You Need a Good Reason to Shock the Reader
Too often this has been done in writing where the writer will create a shocking scene simply for a change of pace. Much like killing off a character, you can’t do it for shock’s sake. There has to be a greater reason behind a shocking turn of events.
63. Emotions Affect Writing
The emotions of the writer often affects the writing. Bearing this in mind, it is a great practice that you feel empathy towards your characters. Place yourself in their shoes and if you can’t simply don’t write that sequence just yet.
64. Weather Plays a Part
Hear me out, this lesson was something I didn’t believe at first either. Weather plays a part in your writing in setting the mood, the ambience. You will find it easier to describe a cold day on a cold day. It may seem ridiculous at first, but keep it in mind if you have a rain scene later in your novel and the forecast predicts rain soon.
65. Descriptive Writing Can Be Great
I have often written long scenes with intense description, putting passion and emotion into them. I have described scenery, food, music and emotions and by being intensely descriptive, it lent some greater insight. Often I found that being overly descriptive was humorous so I used it for more humorous scenes.
66. Descriptive Writing Can Be Bad
With that in mind, descriptive writing can often be a bad thing. Too many authors today pad their novels with descriptive writing and too often in the editing process did I see myself making the same mistake and cut those sentences from my novel. Avoid such unnecessary descriptive writing, but keep the descriptive writing that serves a greater purpose.
67. Some Character Tropes Are Great Fun
I have had the pleasure of writing an assortment of different characters, their personalities ranging from the average to the ludicrously unbelievable. Of course, I have written common character tropes, sometimes mockingly and it has always been a pleasure. There are some cliches I won’t touch, but it never hurts to include a fun and basic character. Some people are simply like that.
68. Struggling to Write Something Happens
The writer’s block is one thing, but there are other factors that keep you from writing. It could be lack of energy, lack of inspiration or simply wanting to take a break. It is a struggle I have grown used to and so has every other professional writer. Another factor of writing that needs to be endured.
69. Some Characters Don’t Work
I haven’t had this problem too often in my writing, but enough to make sure I don’t make the same mistake again. Some character types don’t work. The characters personality might be a huge juxtaposition from other characters and it readers like a stagger in the writing process. These characters will stand out to you, don’t worry, but make sure to cut them out or change them to suit the story.
70. Walking in the Character's Shoes
Empathy, walking in the character’s shoes, is a very necessary skill as I mentioned earlier. We can’t all go through the same emotions as our characters in order to write them accurately, so we need to be emotionally open as we write in order to better understand how the character is feeling.
71. Side Characters Deserve Attention
The story isn’t all about the main character. The reader will often choose characters they enjoy the most and sometimes the main character isn’t on that list. In order to keep everyone happy, linger on the side characters. Create more reactions, decide on their endings and give them their own story in the background.
72. You Will Gain Confidence With Time
If you have come this far you know that you will grow more confident in your writing if you give it time. Everyone starts out nervous at first because they aren’t entirely sure how it works. I’m happy to say that the anxiety will pass.
73. Some Chapters Are Necessary
There will be chapters you don’t enjoy writing. Hard to believe, because why would you write chapters you don’t enjoy? Well, in some cases the story requires it of you. Writer will write themselves into these scenarios and they need to persevere in order to continue the story realistically. Some chapters are necessary and sometimes, you won’t like writing them.
74. Writing Everyday is Great for the Book
The habit of writing everyday is often mentioned and recommended. I believe that piece of advice needs to be broken down a bit better. A writer must write every day IF POSSIBLE. Sometimes it isn’t in the cards and there are other responsibilities or distractions. There is nothing wrong with that. By writing whenever possible each day, your novel will progress smoothly and you will maintain that mindset.
75. It is Easy to Abandon a Novel
There are many reasons why writers will drop their novel before it is finished. A better idea might come along or perhaps they left their writing untouched for too long and they lose interest. Another dose of strong will power is required, writers. I learnt this lesson the hard way, because if you keep dropping novels for simple reasons such as these, you are wasting a lot of time.
76. Reading Should Come Second to Writing
Ouch, this one hurts, but it is true. We can all be absorbed by a good book, but spending more time with someone else's work than your own is a bad idea. By no means abandon reading, but certainly remember that you are more writer than reader now.
77. Variety in Writing is Essential
It was easy for me to get into writing a variety of stories by writing short story every day. I wanted to mix things up by changing genre as often as I could. It tested my imagination and it helped develop some interesting ideas that later became their own novels. If you enjoy writing fantasy in a medieval world, try writing fantasy in a modern world. Experiment with your writing and thus, develop it for the better.
78. Living Off of Writing Takes Time
Writing is a habit that you will get into and as such you will need to do it consistently to maintain your current life-style. That in itself is something that hits beginner writers the hardest. However, as I learned, this is something that grows easier with time.
79. Starting Now is Better Than Later
Writing is something I often push to young writers, but quite frankly, I push to everyone interested as well. Seeing as writing a novel takes time and making something from writing takes even longer, it is better to start not rather than later. I mean now, start planning your novel as you finish this sentence.
80. Self-Publishing is Fantastic
Self-publishing has grown more popular and now there are mountains of e-books available online. It does my heart good to see so many authors putting their work out for all to see, it is a hard step to take if you are nervous of public opinion. However, it is a necessary step and self-publishing has never been so easy thanks to services like Draft2Digital and the Amazon Kindle Store.
81. Some Stories Are Best Left Alone
I have often pondered certain ideas and even went as far as to plan them out. Develop a plot structure and start creating characters. However, if at any point something rings in your head as a big ‘NO’, then just leave it alone. No story is a bad story, but if you don’t feel like spending so much of your time writing it, then don’t.
82. Most Writers Are Introverted
Not too surprising of a lesson, but certainly one that took me time to fully realize. Most writers are shut-ins or at the least, introverted. Quiet and productive people who tap and dream wonderful things. Not to say there aren’t extroverted writers out there, the kind of people who love to make a scene or spark conversation and controversy. However, most seem to keep it to themselves. Wonderful.
83. Keep Your Deepest Thoughts To Yourself
Not an addition to the last lesson, but one to your writing itself. I have done this and a lot of writers as well where we will write our deepest thoughts. It shows clearly and it is best to keep these thoughts to yourself if you can’t disguise them well in your story.
84. Writing is Relaxing
Ah, yes it is. I’m not going to go all guru on you explain some fundamental philosophy. Writing is simply relaxing.
85. You Can’t Stop After You Start
After the mess that was my first book I took a break from writing. With my life taking a different path I focused on other work, but this soon changed. I still had the desire to write. Putting it off for over a year, I finally returned and could not be happier. It’s something you fall in love with and as such, you can’t abandon.
86. Finish Before You Start Another
Foolishly, I tried writing more than one book at once. “But Matthew, the other lessons you learned say don’t!” Yes, you’re right, but I still stuck with the first book. Bouncing between the two I finally slapped myself and focused on one before the other. The writing was better and once more writing became relaxing.
87. Forcing Ideas Leads to Terrible Ideas
Something proactive writers seem to do is force their ideas. I had to on many occasions and not once have I been happy with the result. If you’re not happy, give it time, a better idea will come along.
88. Dodging Burnout is Possible
Burnout is a very real threat to all writers. Given that some like to get stuck-in and write as much as they can, they will experience burnout, which makes the process even lengthier. To avoid burnout, pace yourself. You will get there, you set your deadline and you shouldn’t have a problem extending it.
89. Time Away From Writing is Necessary
As great as it is to spend a lot of your time writing, it is even better spending your time with more important activities, like family, friends and spending time on your health. A refresher such as this can help your writing as well, but there are other priorities.
90. Music Helps Writing Flow
Most writers prefer to write with certain music. As a writer you doubt have a band or genre that you can write too peacefully and I push this idea for writers who wish to flow through their writing, slow and steady.
91. Music Interferes with Important Scenes
HOWEVER, there will always be scenes that you cannot relax when writing. At least, not to such an extent. If you are struggling, give your thoughts some space and turn off the music. You need quiet to focus on these crucial scenes.
92. Comfortable Seating Helps
I don’t recommend writing in bed if you can help it and I would avoid those stiff chairs. As a writer you will spend a lot of time sitting, so give your back some support and make sure you’re seated comfortably.
93. You Can Write Anywhere
Earlier in this list I mentioned you can write with a napkin and a toothpick dipped in tomato sauce. That is a ridiculous example, but more than that, you can write anywhere in the world. Keep something handy, that you always carry, such as your phone. Writing is a great way to pass the time and stay productive.
94. The Side Characters Need Their Own Story
As mentioned earlier, side characters are underappreciated. More than that, their own story can add a lot to the novel. I enjoy building the world in my story and you can’t building it much following one story. Giver everyone their goal and their journey and you should have an in-depth world by the end.
95. A Human Villain is a Great Villain
I try to avoid writing a villain who is just a monster. I prefer writing damaged people, even evil people, who have some positive quality that makes them more human. These villains are great to read and to write.
96. Villains Are More Fun to Write
Lingering on that point, villains are fun to write. It is different from spending so much time writing on the good side, so writing a villain is a change of pace, not to mention an interesting experience.
97. Patience in Writing is Healthy
Taking your time with your writing isn’t bad, but patience is a very different thing. Writers write when they feel like writing, but few often take a moment and think about what they’re writing. Sometimes there is a better way to phrase things and other times, what is written isn’t so great.
98. Once Writing Becomes a Career, You Need a Hobby
Now, you’re hobby has become a career so you need a new hobby. You have to do something else in your life. Writing is fast becoming work, even if you enjoy it so much, so you need to relax with something else. Take up art.
99. Deadlines Are Necessary...if Fair
Deadlines are necessary for those procrastinating writers. I did this myself, but soon fixed the issue my giving myself a deadline. I had to finish the first draft before a certain date, focused on that date and the draft was written in time. Set yourself a deadline, it will keep your writing consistent.
100. Strive to Improve Your Writing
There is always room to learn more. There are several techniques and styles that you can learn from and thus improve your writing. Expand your vocabulary, try different literary devices and so on. You are becoming the best writer you can be by striving for improvement. Your readers will thank you.
101. Less is More
Don’t over complicate your life by writing some long-winded, complex story that leaves your reader searching for answers you won’t give completely. Sometimes, less is more, so if you’re struggling, change your attitude. Write simple scenes that are easy to follow, give you and the reader some breathing room. After that, return to the intricacies of your brilliance!
102. Imagination is Appreciated
It is difficult to be unique, but more so than that, it is difficult to be weird and show some imagination. Afterall, these are simply strange thoughts you are having, strange ideas. Well, those ideas could become something special, so don’t be afraid to give them a shot. Imagination is appreciated.
103. Backstory is Brilliant
I have read some fantastic backstories and some time wasters. After a while you learn that the best backstories are the ones that are actually important to the plot. In that way, backstories are brilliant in adding to the story, so don’t shy away from using them if the need arises.
104. Dark Fears Make Great Writing
Finding what you fear most is one thing, but there are many others out there to choose from. Find the darkest and most disturbing fears. Write about them, place your characters in those situations. It makes for a gripping read.
105. Write for Yourself, Not Others
Okay, I know there are some writers who wish to appeal to the market or even appeal to themselves and the market. None of these are great compared to those who write for themselves. There are plenty of like minded readers who will love your book even if it was written for your tastes. Get as much enjoyment out of writing as you can and write for yourself.
106. Don’t Use Many Metaphors
Most metaphors have become infamous cliches and as such I recommend you use as little as possible. The only time I ever wrote so many was mockingly in a detective noir short story. I have to admit, it was a lot of fun.
107. Try to Be Creative with Every Paragraph
Creativity isn’t frowned upon, not every sentence should be so formal. Have fun, be creative and show some of your wonderful personality. This goes a long way in creating your own writing style.
108. Input From Family is More Than Valuable
While getting input from friends is great, input from family is a lot better. Their criticism, especially harsh criticism, will hurt more than any stranger’s words. It will prepare you for those critics who didn’t understand your work.
109. Don’t Be Afraid of Writing New Things
You have experimented with genres, but there is a broad spectrum of sub-genres and topics to choose from. Be sure to experiment with them as well, it will develop your skills and expand your imagination.
110. Watch Out For Writing Habits
Now that you are writing more often you are no doubt developing writing habits. Be sure to keep out for these, because these writing habits can either be good or bad. You must find what works with you and train yourself to avoid those habits that make you cringe.
111. Being Spontaneous Requires Writing Backwards
If you wish to surprise the reader you need to have the surprise in mind and think backwards. You can lead the reader along much better if you start from the surprise and work backwards. Once you have those steps in mind, the scene is ready to be written.
112. The Semicolon is a Fantastic Tool
Truly, the semicolon is an underappreciated. Use it whenever you can; semicolons being a lot better than commas. However, a period and a new sentence trumps the semicolon.
113. Alliteration Helps Add To Your Vocabulary
I practice alliteration often in my fiction work as it pushes me to use more words with the same first letter. Alliteration is not only fun to read and write, but it also pushes you to take your time when writing and improve your vocabulary.
114. Stop Writing the Same Description
Something I am guilty of in my early writing. There are only so many times you can mention description of a character or a place before it starts annoying the reader. At most you can mention it every second chapter, perhaps twice the first time to reinforce the description, but anymore than that is padding and pointless.
115. No Character Should be Truly Good or Bad
I have stressed this in many articles and course I have taught, no character should be truly bad or truly good. The only time it is every so black and white is in children's storybooks. Every character should be a lighter or darker grey at best. These characters are more realistic and enjoyable to read.
116. Examine the Structure of Classic Books
Experimenting with more serious topics for one of my books I began doing research into the classics and observing their structure. Essentially, the classic novels similar to my story line helped me build the structure of my novel. In my case, it was a structure of building character development, step-by-step. Find a great novel similar to yours and use it’s structure as a guide.
117. Quotations Around Song Titles
Song titles need quotations around them, eg: “Stressed Out”.
118. Said is Dead
Try to avoid using the typical he said, she said, they said etc. There is a wonderful array of words to choose from. For example; murmured, screamed, ordered, muttered, grunted, bleated, spat, burped, cursed, yelled, stated, sang, whispered, etc.
119. Everyone is Breaking
Conflict has a way of changing characters and a great novel is a series of conflicts. As a result, characters start to break, make impulsive decisions that don’t suit their character. Characters at the end of the novel should change, learn from their experiences.
120. Action Novels Need Action
If you plan on writing an action novel you need to include it. So often the pacing of an action novel is broken up by lengthy chapters that have nothing close to action. With this in mind, action can easily become drama which doesn’t fit the characters the writer created for an action novel. The point of this lesson was that I needed to stop writing a different genre for novel and instead stick with what the novel was all about.
121. Write the Book on Your Mind
Writers often get into the career because they have a book on their mind. However, these writers sometimes choose to write something different, believing it to be more suitable to start with something else. Sometimes, their dream book is pushed aside for more supposedly realistic ideas. Don’t do this, write a book that is on your mind.
122. Romance is Difficult
Romance is a difficult genre and I initially believed it wasn’t. In order to salvage some stories I had to write a romantic relationship as a small, background matter. Still, I’m pushing to write it better, but for all beginners thinking about, romance is difficult. Good luck.
123. There is a Formula for Writing
That’s right, soon you are going to develop one of your own. A formula for writing, a step-by-step process that you can follow in order to create an interesting story. Of course, this depends on writing style, but I believe every writer will find their formula. It was an interesting and rather helpful lesson I learned not too long ago.
124. Movies Keep Playing in Your Head
As a writer with a wonderful imagination, you will often have your story playing in your head like a movie. In addition to this, your movie might have excellent casting, which only makes writing the characters better.
125. Death is Not Biased
If you are writing a fantasy story you must avoid being biased. Don’t protect your characters with plot armour; if they die, they die. Use these moments in writing to improve or change things, but if something ends up leading one way, you must decide whether saving your character with a deus ex machina moment is right or simply letting the writing flow, leaving behind whom it may.
126. Not Every Story Needs a Lesson
Not every scene will have a moral lesson, quite often scenes are just to progress the plot. Don’t push to add meaning to every scene, it will only jeopardise the plot.
127. Adventure Books Need New Discoveries
Fantastic adventures are nothing without the reader and characters discovering something new. Broaden your horizons as well as theirs. If you are writing about a foreign country, do your research and teach the reader something new an interesting through the characters.
128. Research Goes a Long Way
Lingering on that point a moment longer, research is a wonderful tool in developing anything you’re writing. While it is necessary for unfamiliar topics, it certainly can help you improve topics you believe you know as well.
129. Character Development Can Be Easy
Character development is something I mention a lot in writing, so let me clarify to those beginner writers that it isn’t as difficult as it seems. Character development is simply teaching the character a lesson. Even one clear lesson is enough. Perhaps it is a lesson that affects their personality, making them less egotistical. Or perhaps more practical, teaching them not to eat yellow snow.
130. Unbelievable Characters Are Often the Best
I try to have more grounded and believable characters than the strange and unbelievable. I prefer realism over the fantastical, but that doesn’t change how much fun I have writing this wonderful characters. Yes, you can write an unrealistic character in your novel and it can be great if you do.
131. Writing About Family is Entertaining
Humour, at least in my work, is based around what I personally find funny. However, something that most writers can relate to is the funny moment their family has. Either it is ridiculously awkward or heart-warmingly entertaining.
132. Writing A Series is Gruelling
Writing a series of novels requires a lot of planning, imagination and time. In that time it easy to let your writing slip or the quality fall, which is often the case in most series today.
133. Writing A Series is Suffocating
In addition to the pain of sticking with the same world and characters, you are restricted from working on anything else for a while. As I stated in an earlier lesson, writing more than one book at a time only results in two bad books. So, creatively, you are stuck until the series is done of abandoned.
134. Writing A Series is Worth It
However, by the end of the series, if you have maintained your quality and given your characters fitting endings, you can feel a sense of pride. Writing a series is not easy, so in doing so, you have done something that most professional authors fail at doing. In addition, you have a set of books that you can read and enjoy.
135. Draw From Other Writers
Inspiration can come from anywhere, ideas can come from anywhere. You can get both from other writers if you are stuck. If you are considering science fiction, read a science fiction novel and soon ideas and inspiration will blossom in your mind.
136. References Are Welcome
A wonderful addition to any novel are references to popular culture and icons in the writing. Any reader that stumbles upon a reference will get a good laugh out of it, guaranteed.
137. Practice Writing Every Emotion
Humans go through a spectrum of emotions in any ordeal. If you are like me and ensure that your characters go through a lot, I would recommend writing an array of emotions in your story to add to it. It helps the story and is interesting to write.
138. Madness is Inspiring
Toying with the mind of a character can turn sinister and thus a character can become insane, crazy, mad! I have often enjoyed writing some thrillers with cruel and mentally unstable antagonist. It leaves the mind wondering what goes through their mind, which is often inspiring.
139. You Can Lose Yourself In Writing
There will be plenty of days where the hours fly by and your productivity levels sour. Writing is one career that is easy to lose yourself in as you are often curious where you might end up.
140. Passion is Necessary
Writers need to have a love for the craft. It is easy to write a mediocre book, but to write something that peaks interested, scratches the right interests and leaves a reader looking for is something that requires passion. Afterall, a lot of writers get into writing because they want to create such a story. Passion is a must in these cases.
141. Songs and Poetry Add to the Story
Many writers today add to their novel by including songs and poetry they wrote. If it fits the scene it will add to the ambience and make the characters or world more interesting. Don’t be afraid of sharing some other creative media, creativity and great writing work hand-in-hand.
142. Imaginary Worlds Need to be Grounded
If you are working in a genre built on an imaginary world you need to take care in setting some restrictions. Like magic, creating an imaginary world without limits actually takes away from the story rather than gives. There needs to be a negative, a downside or a sense of being believable to anything you write. An imaginary world is no exception.
143. In Fiction, History is Malleable
I have often enjoyed writing alternative history based stories, but this can stretch into any genre. Alternative history plays a part in changing the whole world, so you don’t need to worry about fact checking certain matters. Write with confidence if true history is not important.
144. Some Genres Won’t Work With Your Style
You will soon come to realize there are some genres that just don’t work well with your taste or writing style. In these cases it is better to abandon the story and stick with what works. If you don’t enjoy writing it, avoid it.
145. No Character is Perfect
Every character you write should have some flaws. I don’t mean bad qualities that make them less good, but flaws in the sense of common faults. For example, a character can be clumsy, allergic to cats or perhaps believe that the Hobbit movies were better than Lord of the Rings (although that is leaning into truly immoral). Your characters need these flaws. It makes them human, it makes them interesting, it can be used later in funny or tense moments.
146. Consider Every Reaction
Every character has an opinion and as such there will be different reactions to everything. If something important happens in the story, consider every character’s reaction.
147. It’s Easy to Write Something Unnecessary
It is incredibly easy to pad your novel, write something that doesn’t add to the plot, the ending or the characters. Which is why you need to keep a sharp eye out for this writing during the first draft or be brutal in your editing.
148. Pacing is Important
There needs to be decent pacing between high tensions scenes and more relaxed conversations. If you feel things are slowing down too much, pick things up with conflict. If you believe there is too much conflict, give the characters moments of peace. It will improve the reading experience as well as the story.
149. It’s Alright to Have Favourites
I have favourites in my novels and these are often quirky side characters. Having favourites beyond the main characters can be a good thing, it means you pay more attention to the story than just what makes up the bigger picture. Pick your favourites, give them some attention. However, don’t push other characters aside in doing so. There is plenty of room in the book for everyone to have a turn in the spotlight.
150. It Only Gets Easier
You have finished your first book. It is marvellous, although there are some problems here and there. You published it, devised a new idea and started planning. Immediately you notice something different. Planning is better, it is quicker too. You start writing and everything is fitting. There are some bumps along the way, but now you are truly enjoying yourself.
My fellow writer, you have taken the next step into the world of writing. You are now experienced in writing and have learned a fantastic lesson.
It only gets easier.
Thank you for finishing this article. I had a lot of fun writing it and I hope you truly enjoyed it. There are many things you will learn from the writing experience and the 150 above are only a few.
As a big thank you I would like to offer you something for FREE!
A writing course on how to improve your main character!
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Thank you very much for reading!
Matthew Dewey, Writer & Writing Instructor
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