As we wave goodbye to warm summer days and students return to school, it's the perfect time for writers to review project goals. So in the spirit of encouraging continual development we've gathered a collection of handy tips and wish everyone a successful and productive autumn ...
It’s important for a reader to bond early with the protagonist so they are motivated to follow their journey. My writing tip helps to form that bond quickly and it should be done early in the story so the reader feels this protagonist is worth sticking with. I’ve used the device I am about to share for several years, but only lately discovered Blake Snyder, author of the screenwriting guide, Save The Cat, also recommends it. The tip is to ensure your protagonist does something nice/kind early in the story. It may not be as dramatic as saving a life, or as in Snyder’s book, saving a cat, it could be letting a butterfly escape out of a window or, as in The Thief’s Daughter, the hero gives a hungry child a piece of his meat pie. It doesn’t matter how the protagonist is dressed, how much money they have, how grumpy or drunk they are, as soon as the kind act is carried out the reader knows this person, despite their flaws, is okay and worth the reader’s time.
When I first started writing every man/woman and his/her mother felt the need to give me writing tips, and there were numerous 'how-to' books on the market with more of the same. All very good advice but, perhaps, a bit 'dry'. As I became more and more published I was even asked to contribute to a few. But I always felt a bit of a fraud - a touch of the Imposter Syndrome, perhaps?
So, I came up with a couple of my own.
Tip number one :- I never, ever, leave my work-in-progress at a full stop. I always finish my writing day halfway through a sentence and usually I will add ... Doing this means I have an 'in' on my writing day. I don't have to think what to write next because I have to complete the sentence from the day before. Almost instantly I'll be in the zone and ready to knock out another couple of thousand words - or, on a good day, more.
Tip number two :- Get your teeth fixed. Why? I hear you ask. Well, it's obvious, isn't it? It's for that little bio your publisher is going to ask for, for your books. And for your profiles on Facebook and Twitter and whatever other online format you are going to be part of. Unless you can smile like the Mona Lisa you need to be teeth-aware.
So, these tips could transform your writing life, if not your life. And if you want any other tips well, I might .........
|A perfect smile : )|
My writing tip? That’s easy. I have a lot, but there’s one that’s so much more important than all the others. Surround yourself with fellow writers.
When I first started thinking I might one day become a serious author I kept hearing that writers were jealous of others’ success. They damned with faint praise, they bitched about your work, they stole your ideas and, when they’d trampled all over you to become the writer you hoped to be, they pulled up the ladder behind them. I have no idea where that idea came from — maybe there are one or two like that, somewhere? — but my experience is that writers are helpful and co-operative. Pretty much without exception they are generous with their advice, their critiques and their time.
The most important thing, though, is that whatever you’re going through, they’ve been there. The joys of acceptance, the pain of rejection, the crashing of your high hopes, the good, bad and weirdly contradictory reviews, the poor sales, the non-existent royalties…they know. They sympathise. They make it all better.
So, find writers. Find them locally. Find them online. Join Facebook groups and follow them on Twitter (the hashtag #writingcommunity is great). But find them, and when you need help — which you will — ask them. They’ll be there.
|Jennifer with writing friends -|
I love this time of year. For me it always feels a much nicer time to make resolutions and get life back into gear rather than actual new year in January. I know I give an audible sigh of relief around the 1st September when summer is over and I can get back into some sort of sustainable writing routine for the next three months. This year I've even worked out a weekly timetable for myself in an effort to get the next book written as quickly as possible. I have a writer friend who has a full-time job as well as running a home and family, who makes appointments for herself in her diary and blocks out time that way.
My actual writerly tip for the purpose of this 'Back to School' blog concerns characters. Choices are what makes a character's story - especially bad decisions! So have your characters make flawed choices that change the direction of the plot. And remember the 'because' clause. Things happen because a character reacts to something and because of that reaction the story moves forward to another because - ad infinitum!
My favourite writing tip? Ooh, that is a surprisingly difficult question to answer. Let's see.
"Write every day," a successful writer-friend told me when I was just starting out. "Your writing 'muscles' need to be regularly exercised or they will seize up."
That seemed like good advice, and I certainly tried to keep to it. But my friend was a full time writer, whereas I had a day job, young children and an ageing mother, and I found it impossible to find time every single day to write. It suited me better to write for a few hours at the weekend and maybe one or two evenings a week.
Another tip I heard when I was a beginner was to avoid using adverbs and cut out the word "that" as much as possible. Naively I tried both, before deciding it was pointless advice and that every word has its purpose. The trick is to pick the right word for the job, rather than be hung up on whether you should be using a particular type of word or not.
What about the tip to avoid reading books in the genre you are trying to write, in case they influence your style or you inadvertently copy ideas? Yes, I heard that one too. But the genre I write is the genre I most love to read, so following this tip would simply make me miserable. Plus I want to see what top writers in my genre are putting out there.
So my tip to all writers, whether established or aspiring, is to listen to all advice but only use the tips that work for you. Everyone is different, we all work in different ways, and no single tip will help every writer.Oh, except for one: Never stop trying.
|Never stop trying ...|
When we agreed upon a writing tips post, my first thought was ‘who the heck am I to dispense writing advice?’ But then I remembered my favourite how-to write book crammed full of juicy tips, a guide I’ve recommended to friends. It’s The Emotional Craft of Fiction (How to Write the Story Beneath the Surface) by literary agent, Donald Maass. The tip I’ve chosen to share builds on Victoria’s one - ensuring your character does something nice at the beginning of the story.
Donald Maass invites writers to think about your protagonist then asks what one good deed would they find almost impossible to complete? Then work backwards, to make that honourable act even more difficult. Later on, perhaps following a crisis point, find a way for your protagonist to accomplish, at last, that good deed.
We hope you find our tips useful and would love you to share titbits of advice too ...