A few Tuesdays back, I wrote some tips for all you beginning authors. Maybe you’ve already given up on that book this year or maybe you’re sticking to it…and struggling. Well don’t worry!
All authors struggle. I don’t care who they are. If a writer says they have never struggled then they are lying. Simple as that. We’re starting off with this: you aren’t alone.
Just because you’re struggling though doesn’t mean that you are treated to any sort of understanding. Since we all struggle with writing, get over it. Embrace it! You wouldn’t walk up to a professional body builder and complain about sore legs two weeks into a new workout regime would you?
Writing is hard. Like really, really, really hard. And I’m generally not a huge fan of the whole “correct as you write” kinda thing. I like to think that we need to write and we need to revise. But I also think we have a duty to ourselves to make as little work in the future as possible. We need to educate ourselves on how to write strongly and correctly. And grammar doesn’t play into it that much.
Sorry grammar nerds. It just doesn’t always work out.
A good book is written with heart, emotion, and technical prowess…at least enough to know when to ditch traditionally grammar rules.
So how do you write a book? A short story? A poem? How do you make it go from okay or good to great?
Stick with said.
Seriously please just use the word “said”. I know, I know. Since forever you’ve been told to never use the word “said”. Use whisper! Grunt! Croak! Scream! Anything but the evil word.
C’mon. Said is perfect and you wanna know why? Because we read over it. It’s a word that guides the reader. It tells them who the speaker is. It tells them someone is speaking and it doesn’t disrupt their flow. They aren’t going to hit some weird verb like a nail sticking out of the floor but instead coast right over it onto the meaty stuff.
Use strong verbs/Describe things correctly
Part one is quick. Use strong verbs, not adverbs to describe a scene. Verbs give us motion, they give us emotion. They help keep us in the moment.
You know what removes us from the moment? Calling “eyes” “orbs”. If one more person writes about “blue orbs” in someone’s head or “round lakes of ocean blue” I will actually hop through the page and punch them.
All jokes aside, there are some things that you just let be. Eyes, ears, mouths, body parts. If you are using a word too many times instead of replacing it with a thesaurus word or something annoying, consider a different way to write the scene. “They” works fine. You don’t have to be romantic or extremely detailed in every sentence. In fact…
Break up sentence length.
Sentence variety is so important. Why? It keeps your reader engaged. We don’t want to read the same sort of sentence over and over. We don’t want to see sentences that look and sound exactly alike. This is where grammar can fall away.
It’s okay to have a fragment.
For that matter, it’s also okay to make one sentence a paragraph. Or make a paragraph really long. It’s okay to have five word sentences and fifty word sentences.
Write what you want to read.
And for that matter, read what you write. Sometimes writing can read as if it has never once been read over and/or read aloud. Things that look completely fine will read aloud terribly. There have been sentences I love that once I hear them I crinkle my nose. Great, powerful writing sounds good on and off the page.
Write what you like to read. Your enjoyment of it will come through the page. It becomes authentic. The reader can tell you are genuinely invested in the story. Plus since it’s something you read, you’ll more likely pick up small habits or genre characteristics that help make your writing stronger.
There isn’t a lot of advice out there that I think is super great. It’s not a one size fits all deal. What is important is that you prioritize writing in your life. Don’t just work on your project. Learn about writing. Learn about everything. Learn through the world around you. Observe everything you can and swallow it up with your whole self.
Don’t let a single thing slip by you.
And write. Write for fun. Write on prompts. Write garbage. Free write. Try different kinds of writing. Work on your project.
The most important part to improving your writing is just to write.