8 Ways to Elevate Your Writing
1. Write homage:
In order to understand writing, we must first read. Reading our favorite genres, we pick our favorite authors because we like their story and/or their style. A good way to learn writing is from those favorite authors because they are published, and it is a good start. An author can teach another writer some of the bones to writing, to give a foundation to start from every time.
The way to write a homage is by studying one’s craft:
- How does she start?
- How does he invoke the setting?
- How does she end?
- When does he introduce characters?
- What are the arks in the novel and are there individual character arks?
- What is her sentence structure?
- How does he show vs. tell?
- What verbs does she use and adjectives to describe the world?
The different routes you can take while writing a homage is:
- Writing in the same world
- Using quotes from the author in your story
- Using a character from their story
- Writing in the same style, like Dr. Seuss
- Re-telling an ending of a story
- Continuing an ark of the story
For more information on writing a homage, visit this website: https://lithub.com/writing-in-the-shadow-of-a-masterpiece-on-homage/.
2. Write a 2000 word story:
Write a 2,000 short story or a chapter which shouldn't be very hard to write for us writers. Otherwise translated into roughly four pages, singled spaced, 12 size font. The trick here is to then cut that 2,000 into 500 words or less. So basically, going from four pages to one. Squeezing and condensing words improves your writing by fitting what you need for a story in a limited space.
Scene, action, characterization, narration, dialogue, setting, and sensory details all factor into a story or chapter. By noticing where and which type of structure takes more words to express and show, and what to subtract from the others in order to make a full or an abstract story/chapter. Choosing which words that will make an impact and impact the readers and audience in different ways.
This can help with finding momentum and pacing to your style. As well as finding your tone, voice, and mood of your style in the piece. You can change the mood, and the tone by cutting the words down in different ways.
Flash fiction or flash nonfiction are also what literary magazines, and some publishers love and look for. So it could be a way to build up a reputation and get published as well as by really tuning into your style and being able to flex your writing to the form. You are also learning what words mean, and actually finding the heart to your story and writing. Check out the link if you want more information about writing flash fiction: http://writertowriters.com/why-writers-should-write-flash-fiction/.
3. Every word should be necessary
All publishers, editors, literary agent’s value word count because that is how they value the book according to the genre. Why word count and not page right? Pages can vary in length, width, margins, font, typography, size of font, spacing, dialogue, lengths of paragraphs vary, and all of those contribute to the page count. Word count is just words, no characters, no margins, no font size to vary the length of the novel.
Now, why are the rules on words so strict? Every word counts unless you are over or under the limit for the genre. (Which if you are curious about word counts per genre, see my article, "Word Counts by Fiction Genre and Type with Examples"). If there are too many words, the story is most likely over-developed or there are major problems within the book or story. Too many words to describe one thing that could have taken three. Some scenes could be cut or trimmed down, some chapters may not be necessary for the overall story. Some writers think more, write more, the story will be worth more. With some established authors, it can be done like J.K. Rowling. However, most publishers and editors will be wary if not pitch your story in the “no” pile. The point is, the story is probably not refined enough. However, not enough words also worries editors and publishers and probably think the story is undeveloped. Which is why every word is necessary.
Some TIPS if you need to refine (delete):
- Nix all weak verbs, go to this website for a list of weak and strong verbs and the difference (https://www.thoughtco.com/difference-between-a-weak-verb-and-a-strong-verb-1691036)
- Nix all adverbs, adverbs help describe verbs ever further, remember eliminates double words
- Nix repeating adjectives, “The water was icy cold, with frost glazing over the ice. OR “The icy water looked like frost. By choosing the words carefully, and how to place them in the sentence makes the meanings very different, and I used less words to convey the meaning. Look closely at the words you are using to describe your world and characters.
- Look at dialogue, are the words necessary? Nix any that the character would not normally say, or that could be said during narration, but condensed.
Some TIPS if you need to add:
- Add conflict or drama, this helps drive the plot and characters even further (a trick for writers. Always add more plausible drama to a story to create a better story.)
- If you are writing a third person story, add more sides of a story…it will increase a character’s point of view as well as the word count.
- Check your pacing of the story…is it rushed. Where could you add to slow down the action.
- Connect loose plot holes or side stories.
- Add more to your scenes if needed. More clarification, more showing then telling will help the readers further understand the story and the world the story is in.
4. All verbs should have a function:
There are weak verbs, there are strong verbs, there are verbs that don’t belong, and then there are verbs that do belong.The distinction is between both verbs are how the tenses of the verb are used. Weak verbs are regular verbs. Strong verbs are irregular verbs.
"In Garner's Modern American Usage (2016), Bryan Garner offers this explanation for the terms "strong" and "weak”: Irregular verbs are sometimes called "strong" verbs because they seem to form the past tense from their own resources, without calling an ending to their assistance. The regular verbs are sometimes called "weak" verbs because they cannot form the past tense without the aid of the ending (most often -ed ).” (https://www.thoughtco.com/difference-between-a-weak-verb-and-a-strong-verb-1691036)
Be careful to limit the verbs: really, that, can, things, stuff, I feel, I believe, I think, be verbs, very, sad, mad, happy, hot, cold, poor. These are all words that can be replaced by descriptive words like massive, petite, tiny, thrilled, glad, pleased, superior, incredible, terrible, dreadful, haunting, comical, entertaining, and so on.
There are some verbs with meanings and proper times when to use them that can “trip” people up, always make sure you are using these verbs below correctly:
Verbs are also informal and formal, so make sure the verbs match your tone of writing or what the character wants to express or even what the setting wants to express to the readers. Informal verbs are how we speak with people we know and are familiar with, like slang, idioms, regional terms. Formal language is what we write with for a college paper, or a letter, or how you might even address an elderly person or important person. Would you want to speak to the president like you speak to your best friend? Some things might be inappropriate to say to someone who is currently running the country.
- First go through a page of writing and circle all of the verbs. Note what kind of verbs you use, strong or weak?
- Next note, if you are using the verb correctly. Check both the connotation (emotional response to a word) and denotation (actual definition) and make sure that is the meaning you want to express.
- Then finally, are the verbs formal or informal? Do the verbs fit within the context of the situation. Being a grammar lover, sentence structure, verbs should fit in the sentence structure.
5. Find a writing partner
Like I said before, other writers teach, inspire, and motivate. So, find a writing partner. They don’t even really need to be a writer. They could be someone just to bounce ideas off of, or a beta reader who will read your work and give you feedback. A partner or partners who will help encourage you to become a better writer. I have friends who are writers, and constantly go back and forth sharing ideas, stories, and new techniques or things we have learned. Imagination can come from one but spilling out the words and creating a story and making worlds can come from many without even realizing it. Your friends, family, and even strangers might become a part of the story. A writing partner can tune those creations for you.
6. Find Inspiration
Inspiration can be found anywhere right? Well…kind of. The best places to find inspiration, and this is subjective, is nature, art or history museums, and strangers. History is inspiring because the story already happened but told from one point-of-view. What other views are left to be told, what other creations are yet to be invented, how does culture and life change over decades and centuries. All of those things make great stories.
Nature is beauty and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Stories are a work of art, and how that art comes to form is words made from 26 letters of the alphabet. How art to become to be, what kind of story goes with their creation. What inspires the artist in the first place to create such art? A fun way to create short stories or even get great ideas from novels is a slideshow of pictures, of writing prompts, write a story from the picture. Strangers are my muse. Sit in a coffee shop and observe the world around, the people around, their natures, their habits, their clothes and manners. They can create a character for you. Simply list out those things as mentioned before. Where are they going to next? Why and how did they come to the coffee shop and why? Form a world around them, inspiration comes from being able to create. To put words you are thinking or feeling onto paper.
It doesn’t have to be strangers either. It can be your family, friends, or even co-workers. They may be talking up a storm of ideas without you even realizing what stories those ideas could become.
7. Join workshops or writing groups
The best place to look is actually Facebook. Check the events in your local area. Another way is just to simply google search writing groups in your area. Workshops can be costly, but the knowledge and writing inspiration you get out of them will be worth the weight of pennies. To be even surrounded by people who love to write, who want to write, will help you want to write too. These workshops can teach you new writing techniques or even hone into the writing techniques you already know.
Writing groups are great to be a part of in general. Another writer will understand the pain of bleeding onto paper and struggling to fight the imagination trolls to the creation/writing bridge can help you overcome those roadblocks. A great talk, or exchange of ideas or writing styles can help you see what you couldn’t before with your writing.
8. Find a great beta reader or editor
A beta reader is simply one who reads your writings, stories, and can help flesh out ideas. Some beta readers will even correct minor grammar things like syntax, some commas, and missing words or extra words. A friend, co-worker, family member, a writing workshop member, any of those can be a beta reader. The things you should have a beta reader look for are:
- weak or strong opening
- weak or strong ending
- pacing--too fast or too slow
- lack of world development
- lack of character development
- information dumping
- any illogical behaviors or factors
- confusing action
- confusing descirption
- confusing setting
- timeline errors
- world/setting errors
- unresolved plot threads
- repetitive phrases or sentences
- contrived dialogue
- inconsistencies in tense
- unclear sentences
- inconsistencies in voice and tone
- awkward syntax
- anything else they can fathom
Here is a link to go to if you wish to find a beta reader: https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/find-your-next-beta-reader/
Finding a great editor can also be a beta reader, but will also edit on a higher level. They can help with all of the things listed above as well as listed below. Just make sure to do some research on the editor unless you know the person. Make sure you check the credentials and the pricing. Shop around for editors, don't just pick one either. A few editors to look at a final manuscript will come back different and newly improved each time:
- Remove/add text
- Readability, flow, and language
- Word choice
- Sentence construction