5 Great Writing Tips I Wish I’d Discovered Earlier

One of the most valuable writing tips I think anyone ever passed onto me was “Don’t get it right, get it written”.

In other words kill that maddening editor who sits on your shoulder criticising every word you write and holding you back while it spends hours hunting for that perfect sentence, or just the right word. Just write. It doesn’t matter if you write garbage. You can always go back and fix it later.

Here are 4 more great writing tips.

1) Read your work out aloud. This is an incredibly valuable tip. Writers often get so close to their work they miss glaringly obvious errors. If you read your work aloud it helps to pick out the mistakes. Reading out aloud also helps you spot long-winded sentences, poorly constructed sentences and sentences that just don’t make sense!

Stack of Library Books

2) Join a critique group. Again very useful advice. It’s always good to get a second, or third or fourth opinion of your work as it progresses; to find out what works and what doesn’t; what is clear and what doesn’t make sense; where readers stumble over your words. As I have to submit fresh work to my critique group before every meeting, it also ensures I keep writing, which is no mean feat seeing as I have to fit writing in with a hectic day job.

3) Cut the clutter. Don’t litter your work with unneccessary words. Keep it lean. Most writers have their pet words they tend to use, or overuse. For me it’s starting sentences with “Well…” Here are some words which generally don’t add much value and can probably be cut out of your story:

just
well
quite
perhaps
that
about
actually
almost
already
appears
approximately
basically
close to
even
eventually
exactly
finally
here
just
just then
kind of
nearly
now
practically
obviously
really
seems
simply
somehow
somewhat
somewhat like
sort of
suddenly
that
then
there
truly
utterly

4) Use strong verbs. Rather than littering your work with adverbs and adjectives try and use a strong verb instead. It will give your work more power – don’t let your heroine walk hurriedly to the bus stop have her dash there or rush there both words that make it clear she’s in a hurry!

A Kick In the Guts – or Emotional Punch?

To give emotional punch, a writer has to make the reader feel something (other than irritation or annoyance at the crass plotting or stupid characters!). When I read a book I want to be made to laugh, cry or get so thrilled by what I’m reading I can hardly turn the pages fast enough. I want to be so immersed in the world of the story that I forget I’m reading.

Night dance

 One way a writer can do this is by letting their readers view the world from inside their character’s skin. This is known as “deep point of view”

There are many great articles on the web about deep point of view, but here are four tips of mine to help you stir your readers’ emotions.

1) Show don’t tell.
You will hear this a lot if you’re a new writer. For example: “He felt a blast of cold air as he walked through the door” is telling.  The words “he felt” distances the reader from the character. Rewritten in deep point of view would be something along the lines of: “He walked through the back door and gasped as the frosty air slapped him in the face like an outraged lover.”

The use of strong verbs such as “slapped” makes it more vivid for the reader. You could also substitute a stronger word for walked, such as burst or strode to evoke a different feel to the sentence. 

2) Empathise don’t sympathise with your character.
This is really a continuation of number 1). Sympathy is when you see someone fall over and you think “oh that must have hurt” Empathy is when you see someone fall over and you really feel their pain. I remember years ago we were at a family barbeque in a forest and my younger son slipped on loose gravel and fell flat on his front.  Being a tough teenager at the time, he leapt to his feet and brushed himself down hiding the fact that it must have hurt like hell, but I really felt his pain; it haunted me long after his grazes healed. 

3) Use your own experiences to write emotions authentically.
I recommend you get into the habit of carrying a journal around with you and whenever you feel an emotion whether it’s joy, sadness, fear, anger, try and train yourself to capture in words exactly how it feels. What’s going on in your head? In your body? Emotions generally have a physical presence. When I’m really disappointed about something I get an ache at the back of my throat. When I’m excited I get a lovely tingling sensation in the pit of my stomach. If the emotion is negative you may find writing it down helps ease the pain. 

4) Listen to stirring music
I find if I listen to something romantic I get warm gooey feelings inside which naturally flows through to the words I’m writing. Listening to Andrea Bocelli singing in Italian does that to me. I’ve also started listening to movie music because movie scores are often written to emphasise the particular mood of that part of the movie.

I’d love to hear of any other suggestions you can think of.