“Felicia gripped her bosom and gazed into the chasm in discountenance. The chasm was a swirling abyss into the depths of Hades. ‘How dare you steal my cicisbeo?!’ she yelled angrily into the chasm.” Blah blah blah.
IT’S A TRAINED SKILL, NOT JUST A TALENT.
Please tell me you didn’t like those opening lines… If you write like this, you are making some of the most writing-career killing mistakes you can. So I’ve compiled some of the most useful tips to help you to perfect the art of writing rather than write nonsense like the stuff above.
But I’m no master of the trade, myself. In fact, we can always learn more. Instead, I’ll be using a combination of bonafide tips from the biggest authors and lessons from my degree to help all you aspiring authors out there! I hope they help you as they have helped me.
GETTING WORDS TO PAPER
- Set yourself a reasonable due date. When you have one, you will be able to manage your time better.
- Once you have your due date, calculate how long you have until then and how many words you have to do daily to reach that goal.
- Write up to your daily word count (ideally five hundred words) every day. And if you miss one or a few days, don’t pile words up onto the next writing session. Keep it low, or you will be turned off of writing.
- Find your ‘time’. Everyone has a perfect time of day or night when they write best. Mine is those perfect hours between eleven-thirty in the morning to two in the afternoon. So find your time and start setting it aside to write.
THE BASICS ALL WRITERS NEED
- Comma splicing is the devil. And I’m guilty of it. I love my commas (so does Laura) but I’m learning to reduce the amount every day. Comma splicing is where you separate two individual sentences with a comma instead of a full-stop.
- Long words are worst! If your reader has to Google the meaning, you’re writing wrong. The simpler the words, the more accessible your writing will be. Trust me, the more readers you get the more likely you will be to reach people who will love your work.
- Avoid adverbs.
- Show, don’t tell. I’ll repeat this a lot because it was drummed into us at uni. A reader doesn’t want to read a story where everything is laid out for them on a flat sheet of paper. They’d like to see a 3D image, moving with them as they take their journey. It’s hard to imagine such a thing when all they know are the facts. I’ll explain more as this post goes on.
SETTING THE SCENE
- Avoid dedicating too much description. Yes, we should all create a world for our readers. But it’s always better to disperse description throughout to avoid huge chunks of stagnant imagery. This way makes your text feel more alive.
- Again, show your readers your world. Don’t tell them about it.Perhaps you’d like to feel the splatters of the icy rain on your warm cheeks as you tug your too-thin jacket around yourself? Maybe you’d like the sweet smell of the caramelised peanuts to fill your lungs as you walk by the Globe Theatre? That was me showing you London.The textbook version would tell you that it was simply raining in London that day and that the peanut salesmen were shouting outside the Globe Theatre.
- Use what you know. Every time you write something new, you’re creating a new world for your readers even if that place exists in real life. The trick JRR Tolkien seems to have used when creating his fictional worlds was to create a land compiled of genuine places he’d visited in his life. Hobbiton is deeply linked to the English Westcountry.
ART OF DIALOGUE
- Use ‘Said’. A lot. Try to avoid replacing it. If you replace it, it is more likely to take your readers out of the story. If you’re looking for a tried and true example, ready any Stephen King book.
- Listen to the way people speak. This way you can see how people speak depending on their personalities and their emotions.
- Never ever, ever put an exclamation mark beside a question mark. Use one or the other and never both.
- Dialect sets the scene as much as the description. But too much dialect can be too much and unreadable.
- Exclamation marks do not mean your characters are shouting. It means they are in a pique of emotion. You can use an exclamation mark if someone is whispering, so long as the reader is aware that this is what is happening.
- ‘”I have Jaffa Cakes, your favourite,”‘ is an example of terrible writing. This is simply because the writer is using the dialogue incorrectly. Here is what you should do. ‘”I have your favourite.” She set the Jaffa Cakes on the table.’ You see what I did, there? The first quotation is an example of a character telling, while the second is a combination of the character and author showing the readers what they mean.
Now, these are simply a few tips a growing writer needs to know. Anything I missed? Were these tips helpful to you? Comment below!