5 Things Every Writer Should Know
You might be completely new to the concept of writing or you might have toyed with the idea of becoming a writer for some years and you want to get serious or perhaps you have already finished several manuscripts that you would like to try and get published. Either way this advice is for everyone who writes.
After fifteen years of being a writer, having read several books on the subject as well as having seen many young and talented writers give up I feel the need to share my own experiences with this craft.
There is no step-by-step recipe on how to write the perfect story but there are a couple of things one needs to remember. Some of these things you will have heard plenty of times and some of these you might not have heard at all but they are all equally important points to remember.
1. A First Draft is Nothing But a First Draft
You finally finish the last chapter of your novel or you finish your short story, whatever it is you're writing you finished it and you're relieved and all excited. But then you read through it and you realize that what you've written isn't as good as you thought it was. Well you're not alone. Every writer has felt like this at some point, including the famous bestselling authors you see featured in every book store.
But there is no need to be upset by this. This is simply a normal part of the process of creating a quality piece of writing. Don't think that the authors on top of the bestseller-lists wrote only one draft. Their first draft might have been completely awful for all we know. And in a way it is supposed to be.
The first draft is the part of your writing process where it's about just getting the idea down onto the paper. It's the very rough pencil sketch that will eventually become a big, colorful oil painting.
The first draft just needs to be written. The real work begins after that.
2. Don't Be Ashamed to Ask for Help
It is always a good idea to have someone else read your work before you decide that it's ready. It is good to have a fresh set of eyes look over it. Someone else might pick up on mistakes you missed or give you an idea of how a certain part can be improved or suggest a change.
It is important to know how others see your work so you'll know what effect it has on them. Your work will have to go through an editor anyway before it is published, (unless you decide to self-publish in which case it is not a requirement but I strongly advice you to let someone else read it before you put it out there).
The important thing to remember is that you are not a bad writer because you need someone else to edit your work. Sometimes it is just better to get someone else's perspective on something. I have friends who are published authors who have been great editors to me but they have also needed my help with editing their work. No one is an expert in this field no matter how experienced they are.
3. Less is More
You've probably heard this saying a thousand times by now in various contexts but this applies to a lot of things. In writing it means that you shouldn't decorate your sentences with lots of fancy, unnecessary words just for the sake of sounding better. In most cases you end up doing just the opposite. Now of course you've probably been told not to use plain and overused words like the word 'very' but it's better than using long, Victorian-sounding words that you don't even understand.
And if you find any unnecessary words cut them out unless they're put there for a reason.
The point is using the fanciest word you can find in your thesaurus will not improve the quality of your work.
4. Watch Out for Mary Sues
If you've done some research on writing you are most likely familiar with this term already but if not I'll explain it to you.
A Mary Sue (female) or Gary Stu/Marty Stu (male) is the term describing a character that is unrealistically perfect. And let's face it nobody in this world is perfect, not even Mother Teresa, Gandhi or any of the world's other big heroes. And that's okay because we are only humans and we all have flaws. So do your characters if they are to be viewed as realistic.
A character without flaws simply isn't interesting or relatable, which it should be. Readers must be able to relate to the character they are reading about, in some way. Nobody wants to read about a character with no flaws and they certainly won't be able to relate to it. When writing a story make sure not to include Mary Sues.
Some of the common traits for a Mary Sue include:
Liked by everyone except the evil/mean people.
Having special talents that sets them apart from other characters.
A tragic past that is supposed to make everyone sympathize with them.
Having no flaws or meaningless flaws that are only added to make them seem more realistic.
5. What Works for Others May Not Work for You
This is in my opinion one of the most important things to remember. I interact a lot with my fellow writers daily and they've told me about their different routines and inspirational sources and I've come to realize that we do things very differently.
Some just try to finish the first draft of a story as quickly as possible without putting too much of an effort into it since the important thing is getting it down and they worry about the details afterwards. I however always have been a perfectionist when it comes to my writing. I can spend forever on finding that perfect first sentence to start my story with and I find myself unable to continue if I am not at least 90 % satisfied with what I've already written.
Some cannot start writing something new without having an outline completed while some just write whatever comes to mind.
Some write from the beginning until they reach the end while others prefer to start with the parts they're most interested in.
Every one does things differently and what works for one person might not work for you. When people ask me how they should start their story or when the best time to write is or any other similar questions I always say the same thing.
Do what works best for YOU and do what YOU are most comfortable with!