Seven Useful Tips from Seasoned Writers
By Paige Donahue /Many people think that writing, especially fiction, is a walk in the park for those with the talent. It’s just words, after all, right? However, writing is a skill first before it is a talent. Think of it as a block of marble. You know there is a potentially beautiful piece in there, but you have to go a lot of chipping, carving, and polishing before you produce anything approaching art.
Writing takes a lot of hard work as well. Laconic author Ernest Hemingway says it all, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is just sit at a typewriter and bleed.”
You don’t actually have to bleed real blood, but sweat and tears may be in the offing. If you are an aspiring author, these 7 useful tips from experienced writers may just help you become a successful one.
Writing Tip #1: Plan your story
“Introduce your main characters and themes in the first third of your novel. If you are writing a plot-driven genre novel make sure all your major themes/plot elements are introduced in the first third, which you can call the introduction. Develop your themes and characters in your second third, the development. Resolve your themes, mysteries and so on in the final third, the resolution.” — Michael Moorcock, science fiction and fantasy writer, Moorocck's Miscellany
One of the hardest things for new writers is structuring the story line. Putting in all the key points of your character and story at the beginning makes it easier to develop your content as you go along. It also provides your readers with the “ingredients” of your particular recipe.
Writing Tip #2: Choose the right words
“Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very”; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” – Mark Twain, American author of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
Twain’s advice may no longer be applicable today as editors have no problem with keeping in the word “damn.” However, the message remains true. Using adverbs to prop up weak words is a sign of lazy writing and limited vocabulary. There is no reason, nowadays, to be at a loss for the precise word you want to denote your sentiments. Every time you are tempted to use the word “very” or other prop words for emphasis, look for synonyms instead.
Writing Tip #3: Jot down your thoughts
“Always carry a notebook. And I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea for ever.” — Will Self, English novelist, political commentator, author of Great Apes
Of course, you can substitute a smart phone or tablet for a notebook if you prefer. The important thing is to document your ideas so you won’t forget. Your first bestselling novel may be lurking in one of those thousands of ideas.
Writing Tip #4: Take breaks to gain new perspectives
“Leaving the desk for a while can help. Talking the problem through can help me recall what I was trying to achieve before I got stuck. Going for a long walk almost always gets me thinking about my manuscript in a slightly new way. And if all else fails, there's prayer. St Francis de Sales, the patron saint of writers, has often helped me out in a crisis. If you want to spread your net more widely, you could try appealing to Calliope, the muse of epic poetry, too.” — Sarah Waters, Welsh author of six Victorian novels.
All writers will experience a feeling of panic at one point when their stories don’t seem to be going where it is supposed to, or it isn’t going anywhere. Take a break and give your mind a rest.
Straining for the elusive when your mind is exhausted will get you nowhere. Get a new perspective on what you’re writing. If you still can’t get your head around it, don’t be afraid to shelve it for a period and work on something else. Go back to it when you feel more in control.
Writing Tip #5: Get it done
“The nearest I have to a rule is a Post-it on the wall in front of my desk saying ‘Faire et se taire’ (Flaubert), which I translate for myself as ‘Shut up and get on with it.’” — Helen Simpson, short story writer of Four Bare Legs in a Bed & other stories.
Don’t expect to get anything done by just thinking about it. You need to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). Write if you want to be a writer. Stop procrastinating, waiting for inspiration. If you write you will find your inspiration.
Writing Tip #6: Don't expect to have it perfect the first time
“I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts. All right, one of them does, but we do not like her very much.” – Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird
Your first draft is bound to be so full of holes it is impossible to keep it afloat. That is part of the creative process. Very few writers can get it right the first time. However, you need to get the broad outline of your story down so that you have something concrete with which to work. This is where the polishing comes in. Finish your first draft and then go over it afterwards.
Writing Tip #7: Get a good editor
“Writers develop a blind spot when it comes to policing their own work. It is like asking a parent to make an unbiased assessment of his or her own child. You are bound to miss obvious problems. You need to get someone objective to edit and proofread for you.” – Jeff Morris, editor at Best Essays
Once you’ve finished your masterpiece, you need to hand it over to your editors. Professional editors are invaluable for polishing your final product. They can make sure there are no grammatical mistakes and plot holes. They can also give you advice on how to improve the work.
Make no mistake. Writing is hard work, and satisfaction may be long in coming. You never really know if whatever you’re working on will be well-received. Even successful writers have their bad days. However, you just need to keep on doing it until you get it right. Thee 7 tips can get you there.
About the Author
Paige Donahue is a blogger and editor from Pennyslvania. While she values independence, she likes to immerse herself with other people. It is where she is able to think freely and creatively without having to set up a wall between her and her surroundings. Follow her on Twitter.