Writing Tips

Learning to write a novel has occupied the last several years. Here are a few tips I have learned.

Writing Tip: If you are a pantser, try plotting. If you are a plotter, try writing by the seat of your pants. You never know what imagination will inspire.

Writing Tip: Writing is hard work. Put away distractions, get your favorite drink and get at it! Your story won’t be read if you don’t write it.

Writing Tip: don’t use big words to show off your vocabulary. Big words get in the way. If they are appropriate use them. Otherwise, think reader first.

Writing Tip: Be thick-skinned and take advice. Those that critique and edit are only trying to help you. It may hurt your pride, sting your heart, or embarrass you. You may not want to change your baby, but if she stinks, for your readers change it. I know the feeling.

Writing Tip: Write about what you are most passionate. If you are excited about what you write, it will carry over to your readers.

Writing Tip: Here are few overused words to avoid: great, awesome, literally, crazy, hack, basically

Writing Tip: If you don’t like what you have written, there’s a good chance others won’t either, so always do your best. As Jerry Jenkins says, “All writing is rewriting.”

Writing Tip: Find your unique voice. You have a story to tell. Write it well.

Writing Tip: Edit and write some more. 🙂

Writing Tip: Just Write

Writing Tip: Another one from Jerry Jenkins: Cut dialogue to the bone.

The idea here is to keep the story going. You may have a character who is chatty. That’s good. All your characters shouldn’t sound the same. Make them all different so we know who is who by the way they speak. But brevity is best. So, cut out the fluff. It’s okay to jump into a conversation without preambles. And we normally repeat ourselves in regular conversions. Your writing doesn’t need that – the I know, I know. Once is enough.

Writing Tip: According to reliable sources, it’s quite all right to use prepositions at the end of sentences. Also, using but, and, or because to start sentences. These were more guidelines, and not hard and fast rules as we were taught to believe.

Writing tips for poetry:

Understanding poetic meters.

YouTube video from Local Gems. Look them up. They also have prompts for Poetry available.

Tips I have found helpful from the Jerry Jenkins Writer’s Guild.

Writing Tip: Just say it

Most people these days don’t want a literary read. They want fast scenes and succinct words, not what Jerry Jenkins would refer to as written-ese. So I am told to not use flowery turns of phrases. Ugh! This one I hate, because I am a poet and songwriter. I love flowery words. I like to read literary books. I understand the logic in getting on with the story, but I’m afraid I may not fit this model well.

Writing Tip: Avoid echoes

As you are writing your first draft you are getting your thoughts out. But combing back through, read carefully as you don’t want the same words to appear over and over in your final copy.

Example:

She ran. As she ran her dog ran with her. They ran through the copse of trees and then ran to the edge of the water.

How would you change the wording to eliminate the extra four times ran is in the sentence?

Writing Tip: Avoid began or started.

This is hedging. Just say it.

He began to shout. He shouted.

She started to cry. She cried.

Writing Tip: Watch out for state-of-being verbs (passive voice)

Is, am, are, was, were, be, being, been, has, have, had, should,
would, could, may, might, do, does, did, can, will, must

Replace them when possible to make your prose powerful. Examples:

Eric was walking Jane to her class.
Eric escorted Jane to her class.

Janice is a lover of Christmas carols.
Janice cherishes Christmas carols.

There are things you do that make me wonder if I can trust you..
Convince me to trust you.

Writing Tip: Less is More

Less is more, so omit those needless words.
Most of the time you can omit the words that, just, and sometimes, had.
How many had survived the shooting? omit had
I just thought I should say something. omit just
She said that she would rather die. omit that

He put his hat on his head. (Where else?)
He put on his hat.
She put her gloves on her hands. (Where else?)
She put on her gloves.

I see paragraphs like this all the time. What could you omit to tighten this paragraph? Less is more. When you tighten, it adds more punch. The first paragraph is a sample to edit. The second, is a quick edit.

Chris Burrows lifted his face to the sunny blue, but cloudy sky and breathed in the scent of earth after a storm. Just calm down. It was better to be outside again. He slid his hands into his coat pockets, trying to warm his hands. It was cold. Here, at his childhood home, he sighed and turned away from the house he had vowed he never wanted to see again. The horrible memories. He felt just like he did as a child, remembering when his swearing, nagging mom would let him play outside after the beatings. Free. She was dead now. Good. Just burn it down. Why did it matter to him?

Chris Burrows lifted his face to the cloudy sky and breathed in the scent of earth after a storm. Calm down. Breathe. He slid his hands into his coat pockets, turned from the house, and sighed. He vowed to never return to this hell house. It reminded him of playing outside, free of his mother’s constant swearing, nagging, and the beatings that followed. But she was dead now. Good. Just burn it down. Why did it matter?

Writing Tip: Find and omit Redundancies

Redundancies may happen where you least expect them. Here are a few examples.

Redundant: He sat down.
Quick fix: He sat.
Redundant: He stood up.
Quick fix: He stood.
This one cracks me up. I’ve heard it at church.
“Stand to your feet.” Um, no thanks, I’ll stand on my hands. lol

Here are a few more. What words don’t belong? A clue? About half. I’d like to see how you would rewrite this horrid paragraph.

Just before dawn, about 6:00 AM the next morning, the day began as Jane watched and saw how adequate enough John and Justin were when they merged together their past experience. The three began to start thinking they would work well enough together as a team. The reason why they thought this is because they could revert back to her biography of her life and the end result would show that circling back showed that she liked their short stories in magazines. Moreover, she enjoyed their books as well. But, Jane, she became fed up and didn’t care for their repeated redundancies, those repetitions of needless words, so she stormed outside and they followed her out.

Wow! That was painful to write! Read through your writing and cut those redundancies!

Writing Tip: Avoid hedging verbs

Smiled slightly
almost laughed
frowned a bit
Either they smiled, laughed, or frowned or they didn’t. Make it clear.

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