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 somewhat inane “just write!” piece of advice. Somewhere however, I read Raymond Bradbury recommended 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.
- WordPress is a playground with a great big super bouncy castle in the middle. It is somewhere I come to play, have fun and also to practice some bouncing, pretending I’m a trampolinist.
- Seek out writer’s groups, or start up your own. Attend ‘read out & feedback’ sessions, read out your work to an audience. You’ll feel precious, over criticism, which I advise you try to accept graciously. Usually, when it hurts, it’s because you (ultimately) recognise there’s some work to do, tightening up, tearing up and starting again, etc.
- When the creative thing is flowing, write fast, don’t be fastidious, edit later.
- 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 poem, 3) A ‘possible start’ for another short story, and 4) An unfinished short story, I plan to substantially re-work.
- Writing in English (as my first language) I try to avoid use, whenever possible, of ‘was’ and ‘that’ outside of dialogue. To me personally, 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’ totally excludes dialogue, within which it may feel natural to include them, cuz that’s how people speak…!
- Research over-used words, find them in your first draft, and replace.
- Use strong words to end a sentence, wherever possible.
- While a long way from perfect, I work hard on all aspects of grammar. It is worth investing time into this. I suggest to you, Readers are quickly put off by errors.
- Look out for over-repeated words in a draft and replace with synonyms.
- 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.
- Instead of using the word ‘it’, it feels better to name what ‘it’ is, most of the time.
- Basically, editing cuts down on words in a sentence, giving clarity and an easier read.
- Simple, but essential, I spell check. For me, a misspelled (or is it misspelt?) word detracts from the credibility of a story.Use one word, where one word will do, better than two, or three.
- 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. I like how it is a copy and paste exercise, with no software to download.
- Last word on editing: broadly-speaking, I edit as I go along, it helps maintain a balance of tone to the whole work (bearing in mind at this juncture, I am a short story writer). When I am finished with the story, I edit by pushing the whole piece through several different, heavy-duty sieves, using editing techniques I have held onto until that point. This includes text-to-speech assisted read-outs, software grammar checks, and numerous silent read-throughs either side of those processes.
- Finally, don’t stop writing, don’t take long breaks. Write rubbish and throw it away, but keep writing.