Writing isn’t easy. It’s hard work and can challenge the best of us. I’ve put together some tools for writing that may help you focus on building a better product. I’ve already given you writer tip and now I want to focus on the actual act of writing. Here are my five tips that will hopefully help you move forward in your own writing.
1.) Really get to know your characters: Like many writers, I have a busy life and other responsibilities that interfere with the writing process. But the mind is a powerful tool and for me and my twisted writer brain–it never stops. I use this awarenesses to invite my characters into my life to get to know them. You can do the same thing.
Live your characters–let them become a part of your day. Whether you’re walking the dog, grocery shopping, or snuggled in with a book–let them be right there with you.
Now, I’m not talking about getting totally psycho here. It’s not like you “become” them–you have to keep it real. It’s more about an awareness of who they are, what they like, where they come from and how they do all the mundane things while also looking for what makes the characters unique and individual.
Name them and envision their movements, any idiosyncrasies, accents, etc. How are they sitting? how does their hair fall? what are they wearing? do they wear matching socks? what do they do with their hands? The questions are endless.
By doing this, it takes the character off a flat page and adds depth to ‘who’ they are.
These details don’t need to make it onto the page but allow you to get to know your characters.
Keep in mind: The protagonist should be one that the reader likes, understands, and/or relates to in some way. This allows the reader to care more about what is happening and enhances the reading experience.
2.) No Editing as you Write. Do not, I repeat, Do Not edit as you write. Writing that way is stifling and counter-productive.
If you’re constantly going back to fix a paragraph or scene then the flow is broken and you get absolutely nowhere. Get rid of that perfectionist drive to have every scene fully fleshed out and impeccable. You won’t get very far and it gets frustrating–not to mention boring–going over the same thing time and time again.
Leave it alone and get writing.
The key is to get the story down first and then edit when you’re done.
If I get to a place in a story where I need a name of a person/place/institution and I can’t think of anything or need to research it to keep it accurate then I don’t sweat it, I’ll just leave a big marked space ———– and go back and fill it in later.
Sometimes I’ll even leave myself notes or questions like what is the climate in July or what is the name of the lake to the north…stuff like that.
I also like to leave myself notes at the end of each chapter of areas I think need help. This can be one or two lines but it’s just a quick reference to something that has struck me at the time as being awkward or cumbersome.
So…get the story down in its entirety and then go flesh it out. You’ll be happy you did because you’ll have a complete story to work with to develop and grow.
3.) Use the Senses in your Writing: As you’re writing keep the senses in the forefront of your mind. They help you show and not tell. Using the senses can create a visceral or gut reaction for readers and draw them further into the scene. This is important as it adds to the writing without being filled with adverbs and descriptive jargon.
I keep a small note near my desk listing the five + one senses: sight, smell, sound, taste, touch, and intuition. This acts as a constant reminder to include them. Each sense is powerful in their own right and allows you to provide a sensory journey for the reader.
Here’s a couple of simple examples of bringing the reader into the world you’re writing about:
A) Think about walking into a movie theater–the sweet buttery smell fills the room and your mouth waters. Everyone can relate to that. It’s simple but works.
B) As you’re walking down a canyon path, the sudden stillness and silence is overwhelming and gives you goose-bumps. You turn and see a cougar eyeing you. –Here you could add smell, a physical reaction like a sudden sweat or thumping heart…all of these things make your writing more real and relatable.
C) I once took a master class from Diana Gabaldon (Author of the great Outlander novel series). She says that for a successful sex scene a minimum of three senses must be at play. So keep that in mind.
4.) TENSION TENSION TENSION:There should be tension on every page.
Tension and action are what makes the reader want to continue–well, that and caring about what happens to the characters.
If you’ve developed characters that the reader is rooting for, then the tension comes through the dilemmas and high stakes that face them. It’s that proverbial going through the unlocked door–what’s at stake? Who should be trusted? What makes the reader care?
What happens if …???
In your writing, it’s important to constantly keep the story moving. Something needs to happen. Raise the anticipation, the questions, reveal a new fact. etc. Keep the verbs active and not passive.
With a pivotal tension-filled scene the sentences may be shorter and punchier as the action ramps up. Tension is not necessarily about conflict and fighting it’s about the anticipation of something happening, someone getting hurt, the introduction of a new unexpected character, a secret revealed. etc. Tension is compelling and keeps the pages turning.
5.) Do not ever Underestimate your Reader. They’re smart. They don’t need to be told anything if you’re showing them the world and characters through voice, senses and ongoing action. Think of things that bother you about a book or story as you read. Be aware of those things in your own writing.
Those are my WRITING tips. I hope they make a difference. Let me know how they work for you.
Good Luck with your writing. Keep going.