7 Writing Tips (From an Unpublished Writer)

February 5, 2011 at 12:12 am | Posted in Writing | 4 Comments
Medieval illustration of a Christian scribe wr...

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Despite what we were all initially lead to believe when we first set out on our writing journeys, writing is not easy. Sometimes we sit down at our computer screens or take up our note pads and stare aimlessly through them in the hope that our ideas and emotions will magically transcribe themselves onto the page. It never happens like that of course, so we’re forced to dig in for the long hall.

In the time I’ve spent writing my screenplays and now my novel, I have come across several tips and tricks that have helped me to get these ideas down on paper and boost my creative output. You may not agree with all of them, some of them may not work for you at all. They are simply what I have found useful for me and thus find worth sharing with you. Here are the first seven.

1. Almost nothing great comes from the occasional dabbling.

Only through the persistence of time and constant repetition can the truly great be discovered. In order to become a good basketball player, you have to shoot hoops all day every day. Your God given talent helps, but you still have to do it over and over again in order to truly perfect it. Writing is no different. If you want to be a good writer, then you have to write, a lot. So whatever you are good at, whatever you enjoy doing, pursue it consistently and perhaps you will achieve the extraordinary.

2. Don’t let your outline define you.

There have been many discussions by greater writers than myself over the merits of an outline versus just plain winging it, so let me just say that I personally have found that some of my most inspired work was never what I set out to write when I picked up my pen. While I do not doubt that it definitely helps to know where you are going before you start to write, there is a certain creative spontaneity that your story might miss out on if you conform too rigidly to your outline. So, why not try keeping your outline to a minimum. Let your first draft be about letting your creativity take you to exciting and unexpected places and worry in the second draft about making it all fit together.

3. Make every character a person.

When creating throwaway characters, try to come up with at least one or two unique or distinguishable characteristics about that character. Do they have a lisp? Do they have an annoying shuffle when they walk? Do they have a knack for saying the worst possible thing at the wrong time? Do they over analyze things? There are no one-dimensional people in real life and there should not be any in your story either. You’ll have more fun writing them once they are somebody, not Prison Guard #5 who you randomly pulled out of your naming hat. Your world will be more believable too. And who knows, you might like the character so much you decide to keep them or explore them deeper.

4. Say only what you need to say.

Just because your readers need to know something doesn’t mean you need to tell them right away. No, I am not talking about the big twist at the end of your story (you know not to reveal that, you’re not stupid). I am talking about places your readers might not be familiar with or the height, weight, and hair color of your characters. If you spend several paragraphs describing in detail each character or location as you introduce them, you might take the reader out of the scene they had, up to this point, been engrossed in. Also, remember that your readers are in it for the long hall, so give them a description that tells them absolutely what they have to know, and you can slowly sprinkle the rest in throughout the narrative at appropriate times.

5. Remember you are writing for the reader, not yourself.

Just because a really big word or extra long sentence may showcase your dexterity with the English language does not mean that your readers want to read it.You may even be taking them out of the story by using words that they will have to buy a medical dictionary in order to understand. Not that you can’t use big words, when appropriate, just uses your brain and know your audience.

6. If you have a case of writer’s block, whatever you do, do not stop writing.

No matter how absurd or wrong what you wind up putting down on paper when you are “stuck” might be, write it down anyway. Sometimes the surest way to figure out what needs to be written is to write what doesn’t. Or conversely, you might find that by keeping those creative juices flowing you were able to come up with a solution that you might otherwise have not considered. You can not fix what isn’t broken yet, so write down that broken sentence, paragraph or chapter so you can start fixing it.

7. Keep a cache of names on standby.

If you have some time between projects, use that time to create lists of people (first and last names), locations, band names, etc. that you like. You can then go to this list whenever you need to name a quick throw away character or meeting place (i.e. Buttered Buns Bakery). This way you don’t let yourself get taken out of the creative flow while you struggle to think up a good name.

Well, that’s it, seven tips. Best of luck on your writing projects. Have fun with it. I hope you found this list helpful. I plan on adding to it as I continue to write and find new and interesting things worth sharing with you, so check back in every few months and see what’s new.

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4 Comments »

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  1. we can never get too much advice from the trenches…thx! RT

    • Thanks man! It’s always encouraging to get feedback. Makes it fun to keep writing.

  2. Book-marked, I really like your blog! 🙂

  3. Highly descriptive article, I enjoyed that bit. Willl there be
    a part 2?


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