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"Everybody has a secret world inside of them. All of the people of the world, I mean everybody. No matter how dull and boring they are on the outside, inside them they've all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds. Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands maybe" ~ Neil Gaiman (A Game of You)

4.23.2011

Tips for Writers

Random tips, in no particular order:

1. Create a writing ritual. Mothers know how important it is to create a bedtime routine to help their children calm down and prepare to sleep. Likewise, a writing ritual can tell your muse it is time to write. A writing ritual could include lighting a candle, putting on some music, taking a few deep breaths, and repeating some affirmations.

2. Write a brief synopsis of your story from each character's point of view. Write as if your minor character is the main character of the story. This gives you a better idea of who all your characters are and what they want.

3. If you're struggling to deepen POV, write the scene in first-person first. Then change it to third-person, keeping much of the inner dialogue.

4. Delete every adjective and adverb in your novel. But make sure you save a copy first. This will force you to show instead of tell, and you will find out if your adjective is really necessary.

5. Pay attention to the lyrics of your favorite music. Lyrics are half-way between poetry and prose. Many songwriters find unique and descriptive ways to convey their meaning. It's a great way to understand metaphors.

6. Learn to write with distractions. Don't wait for the perfect circumstances to write. Smart parents know their new babies will learn to sleep even while the rest of the family goes about their business. Writers can train their muses to get to work in the same way.

7. But set boundaries. Don't answer the phone or check your e-mail. Have a code so your family knows not to interrupt if you're in the middle of an important scene, like raise your hand and have them sit and wait until you give them the go-ahead.

8. Write crap. Seriously, not every word has to be a masterpiece. Sometimes you just have to get a scene down on paper. Use place setters to keep it moving, like “neighbor girl, or “car” or “guard 1.” You can, should, and will go back and fix it later.

9. Experiment with your approach to writing. Like to write by the seat of your pants (aka “pantser”)? Try outlining your story. Love, love, love to outline? Run with it for a change and let your imagination go wherever it wants. You may discover that a combination of the two is right for you.

10. Do creative things that have nothing to do with writing. Cook, paint, sing, create something crafty. Knit, crochet, or sew something pretty. Press flowers, garden, create a collage.

What about you? What writing tips have been the most helpful to you?

12 comments:

Cathryn Grant said...

You covered mine and then some (never thought about the music lyrics). My favorite tip is more of a continuation of your #8 -- write fast. Beautiful prose comes later and capturing character and story is more exciting for the writer and, for me, produces better work. Often, the beautiful prose sometimes pops in as a bonus.

Laura Pauling said...

I think writing at established times and keeping that separate from your family time. But your list of tips are great.

Donna Weaver said...

Great tips, Shelli. So no adverbs or adjectives, huh?

Alana said...

Great post! I especially like your tips 2 and 3.

Re. the adverbs or adjectives, I've read that Twain said to substitute "damn" every time you want to write "very." The editor will edit it out and the story will be just right. ;)

As far as tips go, your list is great and pretty exhaustive! I think #8 is great when you're stuck.

My own personal tip was that when I decided to start my blog, I took a few days to think about its focus (writercizes) and then jotted down a couple hundred half-ideas so that even if I was stuck one day, I would be able to pull out my notes and put some sort of post together. It's sort of related to outlining a book - it's a way to catch me if I fall uninspired or go a little brain-dead along the way!

Amy Wood said...

Love all your tips! Will definitely try them. Thanks!
http://ifbloggingburnedcalories.blogspot.com

Shelli said...

Cathryn, I agree. You have to move too fast for your inner editor to be able to start piping in.

Laura -- Good idea, another way to let your muse know that it's time to write.

Danna -- I know, right? I'm not sure I'd survive.

Alana -- Haha! I don't think "damn" would raise any eyebrows these days. And I love your blog tip. I plan on posting regularly after the A-Z, and that should help.

Thanks, Amy! Hope they help.

K.C. Woolf said...

Great tips! It's interesting you mention lighting a candle as a kind of writing ritual. I like to have a lit candle nearby when I'm writing, because I like gazing at the flickering flame when I'm thinking.

I hadn't thought of seeing the lighting the candle as a writing ritual, but I guess that's what it is. It does mean 'it's time to write now'.

Thanks! :-)

Langley said...

I'm totally a 'pantser' and my work is riddled with adjectives and adverbs. Uggg, I've got loads of work to do! These are super tips.

I’m A-Z Blogging on Langley Writes about Writing and Langley’s Rich and Random Life

Charmaine Clancy said...

I've excelled at number 8.
Wagging Tales - Blog for Writers

Angela Felsted said...

I'm really good at #8. Let me tell you.

Shelli said...

Charmaine and Angela -- Haha! I don't believe you. :)

Shelli said...

K.C. -- I hadn't thought about the flickering of the candle, I was thinking of the scent. Gazing at a flame has always been a way to help you focus inward. Good one!

Langley -- I've been a pantser, too, but I find that a little organization goes a long way. I still can't write a full outline, but note cards of key scenes and plot points have been helpful for me. Good luckQ