Advices

Since I started writing, in autumn of 2016, I have picked up a number of tips from various sources. I am listing them here, partly to put them altogether for my own reference and also to make them available to anyone interested. I wanted to avoid the “just write!” piece of inane advice, but somewhere, I read or heard that Raymond Bradbury advised writing a short story every week of the year. According to his logic, no one could write 52 bad short stories in a row.
The list will grow, change, over time.

  1. WordPress is a playground with a great big trampoline in the middle. It is somewhere I come to have fun and also to practice.
  2. Seek out writer’s groups. Attend ‘read out & feedback’ sessions, read out your work to an audience. Don’t be too precious when it comes to receiving feedback – do so graciously (whatever you think).
  3. Try writing drafts in comic sans font. I don’t know why, but it seems to encourage thoughts to flow – especially if you are experiencing a block.
  4. I don’t get over fussy about style and grammar in the initial stages of a story, instead letting the ideas flow freely and return the next day with an editor’s eye to knock it into shape.
  5. Having different writing projects on the go (in draft) while focused on one piece, avoids the feeling of a ‘crash’, when a current project is complete. At the original time of writing this tip, I have a 1) short story about ready to post, 2) An unfinished short free-verse, 3) A ‘possible start’ for another short story, and 4) An unfinished short story, I plan to substantially re-work.
  6. I try to avoid use, whenever possible, of ‘was’ and ‘that’ outside of dialogue. They seem like ugly sounding words to me and certainly ‘over-use’ just looks wrong! I believe there are better and more satisfying ways of saying something without their use. This ‘rule’ excludes dialogue, in which it may feel natural to include them, cuz that’s how people speak…!
  7. I work hard at being sure of my use of capitalisation, and punctuation, inside and outside of quotation marks, etc. It is worth investing effort in this, as a reader can be put off by errors.
  8. I look out for over-repeated words and replace by seeking synonyms via an online search engine. If I have a feeling of over-use in respect of a particular word, I use the ‘find’ function to check text, rather than attempting to comb through several thousand words – and miss them, during an edit read-through.
  9. I try and get the tenses right (correct and consistent). This can be tricky, when both past and present tenses appear in a story. Carrying out an edit with this being the focus, will usually weed out any conflicts.
  10. I edit as I go along, for each session of writing. I go back to the beginning each time – but then I am writing short stories, I’d guess with a novel, I might re-read from the beginning of a chapter.
  11. Instead of using the word ‘it’, it feels better to name what ‘it’ is, most of the time.
  12. Sometimes I try to cut down the words in a sentence, during editing. Often, I find this gives clarity, feels tighter and is easier to read.
  13. I keep adverbs to a minimum. They are useful, if lightly sprinkled. However, I try and convey the emphasis primarily through the structure of the events and within context.
  14. I edit many times over. I edit with a) silent read-throughs from the screen, b) printed out – speaking out loud read-throughs and c) online text-to-speech programmes.
  15. Simple, but essential, I spell check. For me, a misspelled (or is it misspelt?) word detracts from the credibility of a story.
  16. I avoid passive voice, unless in dialogue – and even then, only if it is a character trait of the person speaking.
  17. I use one word, where one word will do, better than two, or three.
  18. I steer clear of purple prose, resisting self-indulgence on my part and boredom in the reader.
  19. Online grammar checks, the best I have found is the first one listed on a well-known search engine, when you type in “open source grammar check”. I find if I type “free” anything, I am directed to free trial programmes. Open source, IS free – unless you decide to make a donation. I have learnt a lot from the grammar check programme I use – liking it because it is a copy and paste exercise, with nothing to download.
  20. Don’t stop writing, don’t take long breaks. Write rubbish and throw it away, but keep writing.