By Elane Retford and Sarah Post. Co-founders, I AM in print.
If you are looking for tips on writing, you have come to the right place. As well as tuning into one of our webinars for help and advice we have compiled the following list of writing tips to help you along the way.
TIP 1. CHOOSE THE RIGHT METHOD
Find whatever method you feel most comfortable with. Be it on your laptop or simple pen and paper, begin TODAY. No excuses. If you want to be a writer, START NOW!
TIP 2. WRITE BECAUSE YOU LOVE IT
Many people say write about what you know. Some of our webinar guest authors prefer to write about what they DON’T know because it sets them a challenge to find out. We say, either way, write about what you love! Don’t do it for the money, to get published or to see your books on screen. Write because you can’t help it. It’s your time for YOU! Immerse yourself and enjoy! The rest will follow.
TIP 3. FORM A WRITING HABIT
Whether it’s on your commute to work, sitting at a desk at home in your pyjamas or amongst the hustle and bustle of a packed café. Find YOUR best place and time and stick to it every day. Did we say every day? To build momentum and to throw yourself into your story – Yes, try to do at least a few words every day.
TIP 4. FIND YOUR TRIBE
Writing doesn’t have to be a lonely process. There are plenty of ways to connect with like-minded people. Find other writers via social media on hashtags such as #writingcommunity, #amwriting, #amediting, #amquerying, #writerslife and engage in their conversations. Go to a writing group, attend literary festivals and author events. And remember, from the comfort of your own home you can attend our live webinars where you get to ask the professionals the questions you want answered directly, for FREE! Lots of people have the same goals as you so put yourself out there, inspire others and let them inspire you.
TIP 5. READ, READ, READ!
Who has the time to read when you need to write? Well, all the best authors set time for reading – and not just in the genre they write in. See it all as research, part of the job and read as much as you can across genres and styles. Find books you wish you had written to help improve your craft and make you want to be a better writer.
TIP 6. WATCH, WATCH, WATCH
Take your favourite film and watch it with new eyes. Look out for the plot points along the way, the inciting incidents and the build up to the ending. Like books, lots of films follow a structure and when you start delving deeper you may see things in a different way.
There are two main types of writer: ‘Pantsters’ who basically write by the seat of their pants and ‘Plotters’ who plan each detail for months before they even begin writing chapter one. If you are a ‘Pantster’ chances are you have a basic outline for the story that you want to write in your head. At the very least get a brief outline down on paper so you don’t forget it. Nothing is set in stone of course and you can still change it as you go.
TIP 8. FIND THE RIGHT CHARACTER NAME
Note street signs, village names and number plates. Translate a word, randomly open a phone book or dictionary or even try a keyboard smash. Once you have the right name, it becomes easier to visualise the character and form its personality.
TIP 9. WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?
Every hero needs a problem to overcome? Think about what your main character wants? What is the driving force? What are the risks? How will the story resolve?
TIP 10. WHO’S THE HERO’S ENEMY?
Be it an obvious villain or fake-ally, how do they get in the way and attack the hero’s weak spot? The more you can eek it out to build tension the more mystery you can create. You could leave the reader guessing right up until the end who the villain is or if you make it evident from the outset try an develop a baddie that the reader feels for in some way.
TIP 11. GET YOUR GROOVE ON
All plots need emotion to hang on and, like a good song, it needs to be rhythmic. Intersperse your character’s highs and lows with symmetry and you’ll likely have a hit on your hands.
TIP 12. DO YOUR RESEARCH
Whether writing historical fiction or engaging YA check your facts. Fiction is one thing but if your character is chewing gum in Singapore, think again. To engage your readers’ you need to make it real.
TIP 13. WRITE FREELY
Have writer’s block? Find yourself staring into space? Try free-writing. #FreeWritingFriday is an incentive set up by children’s author @CressidaCowell to encourage fifteen minutes of writing in school once a week without judgement from anyone. And it works for grown-up writers too. Pick a subject and write anything and everything you can for fifteen minutes. It might just clear the way.
TIP 14. AVOID DISTRACTION
Once you’ve got your mojo going and allotted your writing time resist all other distractions. Dancing shows, baking shows, sorting laundry… and stop reading this – no, stop it! WRITE!
TIP 15. SHOW DON’T TELL
Don’t tell us how the lake is calm, show us how you can see your reflection in the glass-like water. Research the difference between showing not telling. Once you get the hang of it you will be away.
TIP 16. AVOID A SAGGY MIDDLE
Try to avoid a boring middle by raising the stakes and using the midpoint as a failed ending. Let the protagonist and reader feel success is coming then let them feel the emotions of the failure. You can then build up the tension again for a dramatic ending.
TIP 17. WHAT’S BEING SAID?
He shouted, she yelled, he roared – dialogue may get confused with varying tags when ‘said’ is enough. We can’t cough or sigh while speaking either. ‘Be consistent,’ Nuff said.
TIP 18. MIND YOUR LANGUAGE
Don’t overuse dialogue. Body language is one of the most telling methods of communication. From eyebrows lifting to toes curling, get your characters to show the story as well as tell it. If you need to, look in the mirror when you talk and look at your own facial expressions and shoulder movements.
TIP 19. BE INSPIRED
Inspiration may strike any time. Some of our webinar guest authors have been inspired by the strangest of things: washing up, reading a magazine article, arranging some flowers. Your story will always be marinating so give it time to breathe. You might be surprised when the inspiration strikes. When it does, grab it with both hands and don’t let it go!
TIP 20. FEEL THE NOISE
Research proves creativity is boosted by background noise. Coffee shops, white noise, playgrounds – all help neuron connectivity. Many an author confession includes a playlist. Listen to fast upbeat music if you have an exciting part of you book to write and perhaps classical if it’s a more poignant part of your story.
TIP 21. DISCARD NOTHING. KEEP EVERYTHING!
Something that may seem pointless now may be used for a plot injection later or develop into a new story altogether! Our webinars demonstrate that some of our author guests have even rehashed stories they once wrote for their dissertation and which then ended up being published as a novel. So back up all of your computerised documents. Keep your paper scraps in a folder or chest. Because one day it just might be the best treasure you ever find.
TIP 22. DON’T BE SCARED OF CHANGE
Characters sometimes develop a mind of their own or turn up where you may not expect. Let them alter the story where needed, if it feels right. Your tale is organic; it can breathe and grow as it develops. Let them and your story flourish.
TIP 23. NEVER GIVE UP
Don’t give up or lose heart. You will have moments of doubt and you will undoubtedly face rejection once you start querying. You will wonder if what you are writing is any good, if your plot is intriguing enough or if your characters are interesting. But, just like the guests who inspire us on our webinar shows, if things get tough, persevere. Take inspiration from Tip 4 and surround yourself with supportive people. Don’t be scared to ask for help. You can do it – you are almost there!
TIP 24. BUILD AN INTRIGUING CLIMAX
Let the reader anticipate what’s coming, but make them wait. Eek out suspense with added twists and tension then build momentum with shorter scenes.
TIP 25. EARN THE ENDING
Does your ending make sense? Is it logical? Many of your characters have an arc of their very own within your story – show how they have changed. Are they stronger? Weaker? Have they come full circle? Do they live happily ever after or do you live the ending open to interpretation?
TIP 26. TIGHTEN IT UP
Editing – Pay attention now. On an agent’s desk your manuscript has one chance – make it count. Spell check, grammar check and repeated-phrases-words check. The word ‘as’ for example is small but dangerous. (Highlight it in your WIP and see what we mean!). Use the ‘Find’ tool and discover where repeat words or phrases occur then whittle out or replace those that are overused.
TIP 27. KNOW WHEN TO STOP
Draw a line and type the end. It can be difficult to know when it is done but continuously editing may mean you overcook it and it may lose its original verve.
TIP 28. FIND A FRIEND
A new pair of eyes and a frank opinion will help find those imperfections before you send it away. Find someone you can trust and don’t take offence. When you finally do get published lots of people will have something to say about your work.
TIP 29. PUT IT IN A DRAWER
As tempting as it is to submit straight away, put it away, wait a month and re-read it. Be sure it’s right. Taking a break can make all the difference. When you are so close to your book you will gloss over what later become glaring errors. Having some time away from your manuscript means you can look at it with a fresh perspective and ensure it says what you mean it to say.
TIP 30. CELEBRATE!
Writing a book is a HUGE achievement! We applaud anyone who tries. Whatever the end result, feel proud! Honour the highs and lows, don’t give up and celebrate each step!