Today I’ll just share with you some random writing tips I’ve picked up along the way.
1. Keep a notepad handy. If you are like me, you get great ideas when you are in the shower, cutting the grass or in the produce section of the grocery store. Later, facing the blank computer screen, those ideas have vanished like the dying embers of an extinguished campfire. Don’t let them escape! Write them down as soon as possible. If you can’t get to some paper right away, call your voice mail and leave yourself a message. Or repeat some key phrases of the idea to yourself over and over until they are drilled into your memory. Believe me, it will be hard work to resurrect those creative gems, if you are able to at all.
2. Don’t judge your first draft. When you are creating your novel, article, blog post or whatever, just get everything down on paper. Don’t stop to look up a synonym; don’t pause to devise the perfect metaphor. Just write. If you have to, highlight a section you want to be sure to come back to, but keep moving. Otherwise, you could get bogged down on one section and frustrate yourself into giving up.
3. When it’s time to edit, edit ruthlessly. It may feel like cutting off one of your feet to eliminate a particular scene or sentence, but if it doesn’t contribute to the flow of the story or the point you are trying to make, get rid of it. Examine every word for spelling errors, review every line for grammar, especially overuse of the passive voice. Look for places you can reword a sentence so that you are using action verbs instead of passive ones. Read through each paragraph looking for repeated words (now is the time to haul out your thesaurus), unclear statements or clumsy wording. Get others to help you edit, looking for inconsistencies, repetition or other problems.
4. Read your manuscript out loud, even if it is just to yourself. You’ll be amazed how you’ll be able to hear awkward construction or weak writing much easier than just reading it silently. If you can, read parts of it to a group for feedback.
5. Going along with #4, get feedback from others. If you find someone who will give you thoughtful, specific comments (“I liked it” isn’t good enough), treasure them. The people you need to find are those who will tell you honestly if your manuscript drags in places, if some parts are better than others, if your major characters are annoying or your plot is clichéd.