Tips and Tricks for Writing

Here are some tips, tricks, suggestions, and answers to questions I've received about writing and style. 1. Start with what you know. If you try to write a story about a boy living on the streets of pre-WWII Chicago and you don't know anything about that time period, it's probably not your best option for your first story.

Personal example: I started writing when I was young. Even though my stories always had a fantasy theme, my main character was usually a kid my own age, because that's what I understood. My adult characters that I wrote when I was ten were completely unrealistic.

2. Expand what you know and learn to write beyond your own experiences. Take a good look at your story and determine what things you don't have a lot of knowledge about (like the state of Chicago in the example above). Take the time to research and learn more about these things, and your writing will get better. Your setting, characters, etc. will be more real, more believable when you've got your facts straight.

Personal example: In my trilogy, there's a fair amount of ship-related details involved. I don't know anything about ships, so I had to do some research to see what size ship would be best, what the basic terms for different areas on a ship are called, and so forth.

3. Find a genre and style you like.

Personal example: For a long time, all the books I had read were written as high fantasy, third-person sagas. I wanted to write fantasy, so I started my story from the perspective that I should aim to write a third-person high fantasy, too.

4. Write something outside your style comfort zone. Even if the story doesn't turn out well, you'll become a better overall writer for the experience. Learn from the things that worked well and incorporate them into your writing, and learn from the failures and try to recognize weak points.

Personal example: Mostly, I still write third-person narrative. But I also want to experiment, which is hard to do within the confines of one story. So I started a completely different story and decided to write it in first person. I even took it a step further and changed everything to fit the perceptions of the narrator. I got rid of standard dialogue and changed the narrative to reflect the egocentric perspective of the narrator. Check out my post about Alec for a taste!

5. Does it matter whether I write on the computer or with a pen and paper?

Nope. Pick the tools that are the least distracting, that will let you fall into your story the best. If you have bad handwriting, you might want to use a computer. If you aren't a great typist, maybe you want to use a pen and paper. Maybe you don't like having to hold the pen all the time, or maybe you don't like staring at a computer screen. Personally, I enjoy writing everything with pen and paper first and then typing it into the computer. That way I can just keep writing without seeing all the mistakes I make right away. Typing my stories into the computer is like the first round of proofreading to me. Of course, it's a little difficult because I have horrid handwriting, but I've lived through it so far. :)

6. When is the best time to write?

Whenever works best for you. I know a few people who always get up early so they can write before they head to work. Personally, I am not a morning person. I write after I'm home from work and have had a chance to decompress my brain from the day. The important thing is that you write - every day. Make it a habit, so that it's just part of your daily routine. If you put it off, you'll never grow. Don't expect to write fantastic stuff every time you sit down, but make sure you still sit down and write. You can always go back and polish it later - that's why we have a big chunk of time devoted to proofing and editing.

7. What's the best cure for writer's block?

I can only give you my own suggestion for this one: more writing. Sounds weird, but it's the best way to get past that "stuck" feeling. If you are really blocked in your main story, try writing a character sketch, or a short story, or even a short bit from something completely random. Re-read the pages you wrote during the past week - maybe the reason you're stuck is that something you wrote three days ago doesn't fit in, and your story-brain is trying to get you to realize that. Often, I refer to writer's block as my characters going on strike, because they know I screwed something up and they refuse to let the story keep going until I fix whatever the problem is.

8. I want to write, but I don't think I'm any good.

How do you know until you try? Really - if you really want to write, you're going to write. It'll drive you crazy if you ignore it. And you can't look at a rough draft and say, "See? It's bad. It'll never be as good as X." It's a rough draft. It needs proofing. And editing. And parts of it probably need some serious revision. But Every Single Author goes through that process. Writing isn't just about getting words down on a page (although that's a big part of it). Corrections, revisions, critiques... and more writing... are all part of it too. If you really want to get your story out there, then suck it up, write it down, get it proofed, edited, rewritten until your fingers start bleeding in protest. Get your favorite munchies, your favorite creativity-boosting music, and leave this world behind.