- Books, Literature, and Writing
Writing Tips for all Writers, Big and Small
I’m Trying to Include All of You
I have written a great many articles aimed at writers of books, but in truth that is a small percentage of the writers out there. Many writers just write short stories, or articles, and never once attempt to write a book or have any desire to do so.
So today I’m going to attempt to toss out a few tips that will help most writers, no matter what it is that you write.
As with all advice, some of these tips will work for you, and some will seem beyond silly and not worth your time or effort. That’s fine. My feelings won’t be hurt if you choose to ignore 90% of these. Use what you need and leave the rest for the next writer who comes along. And don’t feel bad about using one of these before the next guy, or gal, comes along. There is more than enough here for all of you.
Shall we begin?
THE PERFECT TIME FOR WRITING DOES NOT EXIST
If you are serious about writing then you need to make time to write. There will always be distractions. Life does not stop simply because we have a passion for writing. Taking care of the kids, working a full-time job, visiting with friends, running errands, and of course eating and sleeping…..when in the world will we find time to write?
We will find time to write when we make time to write. Period! I have a dear online friend who gets up two hours early each morning to write. Before her job, before her other responsibilities, she crawls out of bed and puts pen to paper.
So must you!
CONTINUE TO ADD CHALLENGES FOR YOUR CHARACTERS
If you are writing a short story, then one challenge is enough to carry the story. If, however, you are writing a novella, or a novel, then one challenge is not enough. You must continue to challenge your main characters so that the story will flow smoothly and quickly.
The general rule of thumb is one challenge, or spark, for every 25,000 words.
SIMPLE IS OFTEN BETTER
Listen, I was a teacher for eighteen years, and I am in love with vocabulary. I was constantly harping on my students to use a thesaurus and to not be lazy in their word choice.
Using big words just for the sake of using big words is not the answer. You will not only bore your readers, and quite possibly confuse them, but you will ruin the flow of your writing. Large words are hard to read, so choose the time and place wisely. What’s more important, dazzling your readers with your vocabulary, or writing a story that reads easily?
DO NOT USE ADVERBS OR ADJECTIVES AS CRUTCHES
Of course there is a time and place for adverbs and adjectives. I have nothing against either. They serve a purpose, and when used properly can be great additions to any sentence.
Having said that, I think many writers use them as a crutch instead of learning to write at a higher level.
Let me give you an example.
I can write…..”She was a beautiful woman”…..or, I can spend a couple sentences describing her beauty without once using the word “beautiful.”
Don’t take the easy way out when writing. It is beneath you.
RHYTHM COMES FROM WORD CHOICE AND SENTENCE LENGTH
Action can be attained through the use of shorter sentences and smaller words. If it reads quickly, it will give the impression of quickness in an action scene. Conversely, longer sentences and larger words tend to slow down the action and allow for some reflective passages.
Know what you are trying to achieve, and then use language to reach your goal.
TOSS CLICHES IN THE WASTEBASKET
As mindful as I am of this tip, I still find myself using clichés. I know better but still I do it. Why? Because clichés are a part of our daily speech. We all use them….that’s why they are called clichés.
So what’s wrong with using them, you ask? If we all use them in our daily conversations, why shouldn’t we use them in our writing?
Let me ask this question as an answer to that inquiry: do you want to be a follower, or a leader? Do you want your writing to be known for its originality, or do you want your writing described as mundane?
THERE MUST BE “NEED” IN YOUR STORIES
To put it another way, there must not only be a need in your characters, but you must write so that your readers have a need to continue. If you do not develop a hunger in your readers for the next paragraph, you will soon find yourself without readers.
The average reader wants to be entertained. They want to be transported to an alternate reality, and for however long it takes to read your story, the reader wants to experience a different life. That is their need. It is your job to satisfy it.
DEVELOPING A WRITER’S VOICE IS A MATTER OF TIME AND EFFORT
I’ve been asked often how one develops a unique writer’s voice. The only answer I have for that is to write, and write often. There is no magical formula for developing your unique sound and style. It will come with time, but you have to make the effort by practicing your craft.
INTRODUCE CHARACTERS A LITTLE BIT AT A TIME
When I think about this writing tip, I automatically think of some espionage thrillers I have read. They take place in foreign lands, and the characters do not have names like Tom, Dick, or Harry, so they are immediately difficult for me to relate to. Then the author adds to my confusion by introducing twenty of these characters in the first three chapters.
Needless to say, I am one lost puppy by Chapter Four.
If you are writing a short story, and you only have three characters, then by all means, introduce them quickly. If you are writing a 100,000 word novel, take your time. Let the dust settle from the first five introductions before you toss in the next handful of characters.
BE TRUE TO YOUR VISION
I don’t know what your vision is. Do you?
Let me explain this to you by way of an example.
Doris loves to write, but she has no desire to write a novel. She just finds great enjoyment in writing her flash fiction….but….she keeps hearing about all these writers who feel it is necessary to write a novel, so she decides to do it. She labors long and hard following this path, but the longer she labors the less she enjoys it.
Writing needs to be pleasurable for the writer. Otherwise, why do it?
What do you want to gain from writing? Answer that question and then don’t let anything deter you. In the end, you are the one who needs to be satisfied by your results. Critics be damned….please yourself and stay true to yourself.
Join me on my website
- William Holland | Thoreau of the 21st Century
Writing tips, discussions, and community for all writers
Were any of these tips helpful to you?
That’s All for This Time
I hope these help you all. I want you excited about writing. I want your passion to shine through in your writing. I want you to look forward to your next writing adventure and certainly not dread it.
As I said before, take what you need and leave the rest. We work on a barter system here. I give to you, you give to others, and we all benefit when we read each other’s writing.
2014 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”