15 Writing Tips that Actually Work

15 Writing Tips that Actually Work by Katie
Hi, everyone!  It’s been a while since I’ve written anything, so I thought I would post this, even though I wrote it a while ago.  I’ve been having a hard time finishing up my novel (grappling with character deaths, trying to write a battle and failing), so I thought I’d post this in the spirit of writing.  Here are my tried and true writing tips.

1. Let’s just start off with some truths. Your first draft will be horrendous. Accept that. You will not create a masterpiece on your first try. So just get your ideas down on paper. Don’t worry about the little details, those will come later on in the second or third draft.

2. OUTLINE!!!! Now, I really hate outlining, but it really is a blessing. If you have an idea, map it out. Write a quick summary of the story. What I do is write an overview of all the chapters. So, I just write one to two sentences about what happens in each chapter. An outline really helps when you have no idea how to keep your story moving.

3. Have a writing schedule. this one is hard if you are in school or have a job, but it really helps you get into the practice of writing everyday. You don’t need to spend eight hours, writing though, it could be as short as a half hour. But make sure that you are WRITING during this time. If you have to, turn off the internet and limit yourself to only a few cups of tea or coffee.  Also, don’t fool yourself with doing research, especially when you don’t need to.  Research should not be done during writing time.

4. READ!!! Read a lot. READ EVERYTHING!!! For example, if you are writing a fantasy book, don’t just read The Lord of the Rings over and over again, read everything you can get your hands on. It doesn’t matter if its a dictionary or its Twilight. Study how other people write. It also improves your own grammar and vocabulary.   Also, if you only read a select genre, you’re writing may end up a regurgitation of other authors.  While it’s likely that this will happen to any novice writers, it’s less noticeable if your writing is influenced by a variety of sources instead of just one.  For example, I’ve recently been trying to read the Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks, and it is very, very similar to the Lord of the Rings, right down to certain plot points and evil creatures.  I can’t even focus on the story line because I’ve been so busy trying to figure out all the parallels.  I have also been a victim of this, I have to admit.  My first novel was a weird 21st century rewrite of the Chronicles of Narnia, and Lord of the Rings.  In my defense, I was about twelve and I spent all my time reading/watching the two series.  So, take my word of advice and read everything.  Don’t be me.

5. Condense your writing. Make it as short as possible. Your readers don’t want to spend three pages reading about someone’s eyes. Use the miniskirt rule- make it long enough to cover everything necessary, but short enough to keep it interesting.

6. Bring a notebook and pen with you everywhere you go. Inspiration strikes when you least expect it. I can name at least 20 times where I had a great idea for a story, or a great melody, or lyrics and I didn’t write it down, so I forgot it. WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN!!!! Please, you will thank yourself later.

7. Know what you’re writing about. Please don’t write about something you don’t know about. I am tired of reading stories about the medieval times where the cities were described as clean and beautiful and everyone was happy. Uh, no. The cities were disgusting, filled with rats and sewage. Research what you’re writing about, even if it means reading a Wikipedia page. But be careful, if you’re anything like me research will turn into 14 hours of reading wikipedia pages about Celtic mythology.

8. Don’t focus on the word count. I am one of those people who focuses on the word count. Don’t be me. Unless a story can be made better by being made longer, don’t do it. My mom always told me “To stop when the story tells you, not when you want to.” If you have a clear ending in sight STOP THERE. You can expand later if you have to. Don’t be me and write a rambling 60 pages about nothing. Learn how to stop.

9. Try Nanowrimo. At first I was daunted by the task of writing 50, 000 words in one month, the first time I did it, I didn’t win, but I’m now stricter about writing and much better at reaching deadlines. I did Camp Nanowrimo last year and I actually managed to finish. I strongly recommend it to anybody who likes to write and is up for a challenge. It’s really fun! And you get to meet people who are doing the same thing you are!

10. EDIT!!!! Editing is the most stressful part for me, mostly because I’m relentless and I don’t want to get rid of anything I’ve written. Be merciless when editing and if you’re in doubt about something take it out.

11. Make a writing playlist. Or make several. You could make one for each type of emotion. For example, if you’re writing a sad scene, make a sad playlist. Music really helps me and it helps me focus on what I’m writing by drowning out all the other noise. Music can also help in setting a scene. Pick songs that evoke an image.  Lately I’ve been really into using Celtic music to help my writing.  It actually makes me focus and I am able to get inside of my world, even if I am surrounded with distractions.

12. Practice writing setting by going outside and describing someone. Make sure it’s not so long that the reader will get bored, by make sure that they can see the scene in their heads. Go to the beach or the park and describe your surroundings, then condense them so they could fit in your story. It’s really good practice. Or sometimes I’ll take pictures on my phone and then write about them at home.

13. Don’t spend a lot of time getting ready. If you’ve spent four months doing character and plot sketches you need to stop and write. Just write. The more time you spend getting ready, the more time you have to talk yourself out of writing.

14. If a story’s not going anywhere, just keep writing. Write down whatever comes to mind. You can always go back later and fix it. Don’t stop writing though, ideas will eventually come.

15. Be willing to write badly. Just don’t stop writing. The bad writing is just something to build on. Don’t worry about it being perfect, you can fix it later.

I hope these tips help! Well, back to editing my novel. Go write guys!

~Katie

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