Following on from last week’s post about the best and worst decisions made regarding writing, I thought I’d share here some of the most useful writing tips I’ve picked up on my writing journey to date. The great thing about making mistakes is, if sensible, you learn from them. It is true of life in general you learn what to do by getting it wrong first!
It has also been true, as I’ve tried to improve my craft, that is when I’ve found tips which have proved invaluable to me. You discover what you need to know (sometimes the hard way) and then look for advice on the subject! I know, I know. Sounds a crazy way round to do it but it happens and not just in writing.
Also, as I’ve gone to more writing events and made friends, there has been a collective sharing of knowledge amongst us all. Get writers in a bar and what will they talk about (once they’ve ordered drinks of course)?
1. What they’re writing/what you’re writing
2. Tips they’ve found useful
3. Books they’re currently reading/want to read.
4. The latest bestseller, especially if it’s controversial in any way.
5. The state of the publishing industry.
6. News of any competitions they’ve been in/think may be useful to you.
So some of the tips I’ve found most useful include:-
Write first, edit later, as how will you know what the story is until you have written it?
Show, don’t tell, as we want to see your characters suffer and not have you tell us they are.
Edit on paper and not on screen, as you miss things with the latter.
Your tale is your main character’s story, you are the conduit, so don’t get in the way.
Read widely in and out of your genre, and include non-fiction.
Get your grammar and spelling checked, if you’re not confident enough, by someone you trust before submitting work anywhere.
Never be afraid to ask for advice – see the Society of Authors and Alliance of Independent Authors. (There is also the Writers’ Guild).
Always get contracts checked out.
Never, ever, agree to release all rights when entering a story for a competition. (You license some of your rights for a period of time, period!).
Put work aside for a while before editing it so you come back to it with fresh eyes.
When re-reading work, try to read it from the viewpoint of a reader who hasn’t seen it before. (This is done more easily if you have put your work aside for a while before editing it).
Read your work out loud, especially dialogue, so you can literally hear if it “runs” smoothly. (You could always record yourself doing this and play it back. If you trip over words, so will your reader, so time to edit again!).
Do join online writing communities and try out different ones. You will make friends but some will be better suited to what you write than others. Most of the time the writer is at their desk on their own so, when you can’t get to conferences etc, online support can be invaluable. Don’t feel you’ve got to join every group out there but pick the ones where you feel most welcome and which will be of the most use.
Contribute to online writing communities. It has come as a pleasant surprise to me to find I’ve been able to offer good advice to others. Equally the advice I’ve received has been wonderful and useful. It is a case of swings and roundabouts here.
Do join a professional body as soon as you can. In a lot of cases, you can join as an Associate Member first. It will mean, amongst other benefits, when you are seeking advice especially on things like contract, you will know where to go.
Keep good records from the offset.
Write what you would want to read.
Don’t give up.
Be open to trying different forms of writing. You never know you may well find a form you come to love. I did!
Write regularly. You really do exercise your imagination by committing to a regular session of writing. You are trying to train your brain that this is when you write.
Don’t beat yourself up if the time you have is 15 minutes a day. Use whatever time you’ve got to write productively. Those 15 minute periods build up over time and before you know it, you will have stories, articles etc. I would recommend flash fiction as an outlet for those short on a lot of writing time. It is a good format in its own right and it will teach you to write to a word count. You can also produce quite a bit of work fairly quickly and there are plenty of competitions and markets out there.
Balance your creative writing time with your marketing your work time. Marketing includes everything from blogging about what you’re writing on Facebook to book launches and full scale book and blog tours.
Submit work regularly – and try to have several pieces “out there”. Knowing you’ve still got work out there will help cushion the blow when rejections come in – as they will!
Do share writing tips you’ve found helpful in the comments box. I do love the supportive nature of the writing profession. (Those who are not supportive stick out like the proverbial sore thumb and, surprise surprise, are not at all popular!). There is very much the feeling of being in the same boat though some of us are in canoes rather than ocean going liners!
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.