Advice

Since I started writing, roughly from around autumn 2016, I have picked up a number of tips from various sources – tips that have worked for me. Partly as a way to put them altogether for my own reference and also to make them available to anyone interested, I am listing the tips here. This list will grow, over time.

  1. Begin writing in the early hours of the morning. Coming back from work at the end of the day, I find it impossible to write. Too much has been rattling around in my head all day, unless something experienced during the day becomes an inspiration for a new story.
  2. Don’t be over fussy about style and grammar in the initial stages of a story, let the ideas flow freely and come back the next day with an editor’s eye to knock it into shape.
  3. Having a few different writing projects on the go 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.
  4. Avoid use, whenever possible, of ‘was’ and ‘that’ in text. They’re ugly sounding words and certainly ‘over-use’ just looks wrong. 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.
  5. Be very sure of your use of capitalisation.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Edit as you 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.
  9. Instead of using the word ‘it’, better to name what ‘it’ is, most of the time.
  10. Cut down the words in a sentence if you can, during editing. Often, this is gives clarity, feels tighter and is easier to read.
  11. Keep adverbs to a minimum. They are useful, if lightly sprinkled. Otherwise, try and convey the emphasis primarily through the structure of the events and context.
  12. Edit many times over. I edit during silent read-throughs, but for final edits, I always read aloud. A printed copy helps, but can be tiresome, if you’re still needing to make significant amendments. If you have a friend who is prepared to do a read-through, this is very useful – not just for edits, but also for general feedback on the quality of the story and readability.
  13. Simple, but essential, spell check. For some readers, a misspelled (or is it misspelt?) word detracts from the credibility of a story.
  14. Avoid passive voice, unless in dialogue – and even then, only if it is a character trait of the person speaking.
  15. Use one word, where one word will do, better than two, or three.
  16. Steer clear of purple prose, resisting self-indulgence and risking boredom in the reader.
  17. Hitting shift then return, eliminates the line space gap, when writing in WordPress.
  18. Online grammar checks, the best I have found is the first one listed on a well-known search engine, if you type “open source grammar check”. Remember, if you type “free” anything, you’ll be directed to free trial programmes. Open source, IS free. I have learnt a lot from the grammar check programme I use – liked because it is a copy and paste exercise, with nothing to download.