I’ve been talking about some specific genres a lot lately, neglecting others, so let’s fix that. I am going to give you 10 tips that will help your writing no matter who you are and what genre you work with. These are tips I gather from my top articles and blog posts, the tips that will help anyone ready to try them out.
Let’s get started!
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1. Crush Bad Habits Often
Bad habits are most prevalent in the beginning when you have a set idea of how to write. It could be that you have always used ‘said’ in dialogues and nothing else, or you use qualifiers far too often, such as ‘quite’ or ‘rather. You might even repeat phrases, which isn’t bad if you assign them to a character, but in narration, it comes off as amateurish.
Clarification; bad repetition is several times a chapter, not several times in a book. Of course, this does depend on length, but it is easy enough to spot when reading one’s work closely.
Yet, even when you crush all your bad habits, you will pick up new ones as the months or years go on. Conscious editing will help you spot them and they can be corrected then, but to crush them, you have to be conscious of them when you are writing as well. Spot them, list them and keep an eye out for them when you are writing.
2. Write Now, Edit Later
A lot of time is wasted when a writer decides to break their writing flow to edit. When you start writing you can feel yourself get into the swing of things. Momentum is there, it helps you forward as you write. You will start slow, but then things start to pick up, your mind feels tested and it is ready for the challenge. Your instincts come to life and then…you make a mistake.
Something you wrote didn’t feel right, or there were so many grammar mistakes or spelling errors that the red lines are distracting you. You begin to stutter and the desire to correct those mistakes grows. These are the mental breaks that destroy your flow and soon you are spending time fixing your work.
After all, fixing one’s writing is a part of the process, so it isn’t that bad.
HOWEVER, that momentum could have carried you further if you didn’t look back. The train has come to a stop, the plane has landed. You will need to expend more energy to get back to cruising speed and maintain from there. Don’t waste that momentum, write now, edit later.
3. Don’t Waste Inspiration
Of course, when you feel the most inspired is the ideal time to write. All sorts of ideas are forming in your mind and swirling around like snow in a snowglobe. These are words ready to be written, but are you at your desk? Do you have access to your phone, a notepad?
Inspiration can be wasted for many good reasons. We all have responsibilities and they will always take priority.
Yet, are you addressing an important problem in your life or are you spending your time surfing the internet, watching YouTube or browsing Instagram or Pinterest? Are you tackling some other hobby that can wait or are you just burning time with something a bit more entertaining, but less productive?
If you can confidently say you’re not wasting your time, then carry on, but if you can’t, then maybe you should strike when the iron is hot.
4. Use Vague Plans
The planning process with any creative project is important. Artists find references, sketch something, perhaps even do a practice painting or two before they start. For writers, plot the story, structure the pacing, write character notes and so on.
Unfortunately, most do too much.
As a victim of this in the past, let me explain the problem. There is a mentality that a great plan will help you overcome every obstacle. Having an accurate idea of every scene in the novel and laying it out chronologically will help productivity and prevent any writer's block. There won’t be any excuse not to write anything, because you will have exactly what to write explained in a short paragraph.
It sounds great in theory, but in practice, it hits many bumps.
As you are writing, you will find better paths. Ideas will hit you, characters will say things you didn’t plan for, but certainly makes sense in the scene. Suddenly, the master plan is unravelled and you find yourself forcing your characters back onto that path you set for them. You break their characters, you twist your story and by the time you reach the end, you will not be happy with the result.
Give yourself room to breathe, write with creative freedom, use vague plans.
5. Read Dialogue Aloud, It Might Sound Wrong
Many writers still struggle with dialogue and no doubt there are various exchanges in your story that just didn’t seem right. However, a lot of writers believe it comes down to their characters, how their words don’t fit and look to their personality to create dialogue that emphasises that personality.
It works sometimes, but most of the time that is not the core of the problem. The biggest problem might be the dialogue sounding wrong when said aloud. Whenever you feel like your dialogue is lacking, try reading it aloud before you start the scene from scratch.
This is a simple tip, but it is one of the best. It is also a tip you can have fun with if you feel like putting emotion into it and acting out the scene.
6. Don’t Concern Yourself with Money Yet
A more serious tip for the writers concerned with making money.
I won’t sugar coat it, writing is one of the most difficult careers to start, but there are many ways one can make money from it. Sending one’s work to publishers, working for fiction websites, starting your blog posts and building a following, self-publishing and marketing your books; you take your pick.
But, if you are starting from scratch, you might be disappointed with the income you receive, if any.
Many writers who jump into writing with dollar signs in their eyes are disappointed and that can have a harsh effect on their attitude towards writing. Most will drop it and pursue something else. Which, in many cases, is a good thing as they have responsibilities that writing cannot help them look after.
Yet, I believe it is a waste of talent when someone abandons something that initially interested them for the right reasons. I am talking about the desire to create something they would enjoy; something they can be proud of.
Unfortunately, money is an important part of life, so writing ends up being a hobby for most. With hard work, money can come from writing and if lucky, it can be decent money. If very lucky, the book is accepted by a big publisher and exciting things happen.
Yet, before any of this happens, if it even does, a writer should be content with their writing. It should continue to be something they enjoy in their spare time and perhaps an important part of their lifestyle.
7. Try to Get a Second Opinion
Either when writing or reading their work, a writer will sometimes feel their writing is missing something, or that something is wrong, or they don’t see any problem which can be just as worrying.
In which case, it might be time to get a second opinion.
I know that isn’t easy. I am shy about sharing my work with someone, along with many other writers. Most writers are introverted, making it a common problem. It’s hard to take something that you aren’t completely happy with and ask for a friend or family member’s opinion.
Yet, their perspective can do your writing a world of good. If they are honest, they will tell you what they don’t like as well as what they like. From this, you can take their advice and decide for yourself if it has merit.
Chances are that some of their advice will make sense and you can use it to rewrite a scene or two, or perhaps add something throughout the book. If approached with an open mind, getting a second opinion becomes a part of any good writer’s process.
If you are ever stuck with a problem, ask someone you know who enjoys the kind of your book you are writing. Or, you can join my Writer’s Workshop and ask me.
8. Start Simple
For the beginner writer who feels the powerful feeling of inspiration, you probably want to tackle writing a book with all you have. Usually, that means starting with a strong first chapter, that sets a detailed scene, places all the important pieces and gives the reader all the information they need to know to read the book.
In other words, it’s to bombard the reader with your ideas and hope that every nugget of information is a hit.
The first chapter needs to be a simple one. The reader does not know your world, its characters, its intricate relations, which might seem like a good reason to establish it all as soon as possible, but the opposite is true. Information requires pacing just as much as the story. Many writers forget this and create a first chapter filled with too much exposition and too little story.
Start simple, set the scene, follow a character. Use dialogue and actions to explore the details as the story goes on. Try not to break pacing with huge clusters of info, but keep pacing by introducing discovery and learning experiences along the way
Before I end this point, a lot of people treat the first chapter like it is a bomb waiting to explode with one wrong move. Approach it calmly, and if you have to, imagine it is the second chapter in your book. It’s a chapter like any other and doesn’t need to have something special.
9. Surround Yourself with Inspirations
There will be many mental blocks that keep you from writing. Unlike responsibilities and chores, these are blocks that cannot be dealt with so easily. It comes down to attitude and sometimes, willpower.
If you have been writing for a long time, you might experience burnout. You feel mentally tapped when it comes to writing, a feeling that ultimately makes you reject the idea of sitting down and continuing your story. You could have the energy, your mind could have the energy, but the burnout keeps you from writing.
Or, you might have reached a dead-end in your story. You lack the ideas or creative flow to continue the story or to rewrite the points that brought you to that dead end. Depending on how far you are in this book, this can be a nuisance or it can be soul-crushing.
Whatever the block, you are in dire need of inspiration, which can come in many forms. Many writers are inspired by other writers, so simply reading books that are of the same genre or plot structure helps. Some writers like to look at artworks, listen to music, watch shows or movies or engage in any form of creative medium that gives that spark to relight the flame.
You need to fully realize your inspirations and embrace them whenever possible. Taking the time to surround yourself with your inspirations is a great way to ensure that the next block you experience is short-lived.
It will be like that ‘hang in there’ poster you see in those cliche office scenes with beaten down desk jockeys, except this method works.
10. Take Short Breaks
Of course, one of the biggest solutions to almost every problem is taking a short break.
Want to be more productive? Take a short break before you burn out.
Want to find inspiration? Take a break and enjoy your inspiration.
Want to improve your writing? Take a break and analyse other writers, do some research, or hey, watch some of my videos. I am happy to answer questions and it means a lot to me if my work helps another writer.
There is nothing wrong with taking a break from writing to refresh. The key is to get back into writing before you become content with doing nothing. A day or two is plenty for most, but after a week, almost every writer will struggle to get back into writing.
10 tips you can use to improve just about every aspect of your writing experience, be it ambitiously developing your skillset or simply maintaining your passion for the medium.
Now, I would like to know what lesson you have learned from your writing, what tips would you give to help another writer?
Let me know in the comments!
Good day, goodnight and happy writing!