10 ways to improve your writing

Image by woodleywonderworks

1. Take a class or workshop at your local writing centre. You will learn at least three things you didn’t know, you’ll meet other writers, you will be energised and inspired and, best of all, you’ll feel like a ‘real writer’.

2. Buy a book – choose from my top three of Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, Writing Fiction: The Practical Guide, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, or check out this list of a coupla hundred on Goodreads!

3. Research a subject – the sky’s the limit (no pun intended). Read about Saturn’s myriad rings, the Milky Way, line dancing, serial killers, war (might need to narrow that field down a little). Much is made of developing character but your wonderfully multifaceted teeming-with-inner-life hero(ine)s need a world to move in – a profession or passion. Reading up on a subject is a guaranteed expressway to inspiration. The odd and fascinating worlds you open can also provide fuel for your theme. My short story ‘Illusion of Love’ began as a simple study of old lovers meeting up for a drink. While reading about memory which I fancied Jessica was studying I came upon the subject of art, and from there allowed my interest and instincts to lead me to illusions. Illusions in art were woven into the story and also helped form the title.

Image by Sathish J

4. Go back to basics – it’s amazing how much we forget without realising. Reconnect with the basics of grammar and you’ll learn new rules or remember others. In my first year as a professional writer I quickly learned there was a different rule for apostrophes and plural possession. I hadn’t even known I hadn’t known.
Image by jimmiehomeschoolmom

5. Study story structure. We absorb much by osmosis – particularly what we love. If you’re writing, chances are you know a good deal about story structure. But what carpenter ever built a house without a plan? Dan Wells’ YouTube tutorial on story structure is excellent. And it’s free! Gotta love the internet.

6. Attend festivals – know what to expect from them and how to ‘behave’ there. I haven’t been to a writer’s conference or festival yet but I hope to soon – and I’m excited. I want to pitch my book to agents, meet up with other writers and feel at home with all the other crazy people who build word-worlds. There’s heaps of advice out there on what to do to prepare for a conference. Research. And get the best from it.

7. Cut – remove adjectives, clean up ambiguous sentences, solidify indecisive statements. Get rid of words like maybe, perhaps and sort of unless they are part of your character. Make your sentences stand with their feet planted squarely on the ground.

Image by runneralan2004

8. Critique someone’s work. Because we are all self-obsessed the process of critiquing someone else’s ms may well shine its brightest light on all the niggles that are present in your own project. It’s also a great way to look objectively at what works in a structure, where and why a story flags, what makes a character appealing, and where a writer is being lazy. Help your fellow writers, build your network, then shine that light back on your own work.

9. Understand the importance of theme – Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club is a story about ‘Mischief, Mayhem and Soap’. Why? Soap springs up in many forms in Fight Club; it’s the symbol of the consumer society the unnamed narrator is rebelling against – and it’s made with the fat sucked from rich women’s thighs. The Paper Street Soap Company finances Fight Club and Project Mayhem. And it’s a mere chemical hop from soap-making to bomb-making. Read more about theme in Gotham Writer’s Workshop’s Writing Fiction: A Practical Guide.

Image by Geraint Warlow

Image by Geraint Warlow

10. Care about something. What do you need to say and why? Whether you think the world needs more music, or more meditations on poverty write what you truly care about. Don’t chase fallen angels or zombies or girls in Manolo’s unless you’re sure you can perform seventeen hundred rewrites about them. (Believe me).

George Orwell

Care. Then write.

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Putting yourself ‘out there’

Visitors to my blog may be wondering why I haven’t posted in a while. It’s not just because of the Christmas rest period – although that has been a great switch off from constant thoughts of writing.

I have a very strict rule when using social media – I never write anything to another person that I wouldn’t say to their face. To do otherwise would be cowardly.

Not everyone has this rule, and for those that do it translates differently for each person. Some people have no qualms about being rude or sarcastic or arrogant to a person they’ve just met.

A question I asked in a forum before Christmas was replied to in a manner I felt was very rude. It had misunderstood my question (wilfully?) and posted a reply that (ironically, for a writer’s site) didn’t make sense. Yet it was flooded with pseudo outrage that suggested I was asking something not just illegal but also immoral.

I wasn’t.

Being a (private/hypersensitive/bordering on reclusive) writer I was shaken by this ‘attack’. It reminded me of the hazards of promoting oneself on the internet and the recent words of more than one artist, ‘I only use it to promote my music/photography’.

The experience made me ask myself, ‘Who am I really writing for? What is my true aim?’

It’s rumoured J D Salinger wrote a number of manuscripts that he never showed anyone. We know Emily Dickinson did. Is this such a bad way to work? Is producing a piece of work valid if no-one else experiences it? (Sure. You just can’t use it to pay the gas bill.)

Does anyone else feel uncomfortable ‘putting themselves out there’? How do you balance this?

Sarah’s Song

Sarah's Song

Sarah’s Song

Want a free copy of Sarah’s Song?

Sarah Smyth is a shy 13 year old who dreams of becoming a singer, like her favourite pop star, Magdalene. When Sarah’s mother decides to marry a man she meets on the internet she leaves Sarah with the half-sister she hasn’t seen for ten years. Sarah starts a band with her best friend Lonnie which leads her to a most unlikely friendship ….with superstar Magdalene herself!

Sarah’s Song is an inspiring story about music, dreams and finding your voice when your world is falling apart.

For a free copy all you need to do is write an honest review and post it to Amazon! Still interested? Email me now at tanya_davies2004@hotmail.com

Or

Buy it now at Amazon.

Sarah’s Song

Sarah's Song

Sarah’s Song

Want a free copy of Sarah’s Song?

Sarah Smyth is a shy 13 year old who dreams of becoming a singer, like her favourite pop star, Magdalene. When Sarah’s mother decides to marry a man she meets on the internet she leaves Sarah with the half-sister she hasn’t seen for ten years. Sarah starts a band with her best friend Lonnie which leads her to a most unlikely friendship ….with superstar Magdalene herself!

Sarah’s Song is an inspiring story about music, dreams and finding your voice when your world is falling apart.

For a free copy all you need to do is write an honest review and post it to Amazon! Still interested? Email me now at tanya_davies2004@hotmail.com

Or

Buy it now at Amazon.

Letting go of ideas

I recently made the decision to order in some help with a wordpress blog I had been playing around with. The blog is supposed to be a small add-on to my first book that has just been published on Amazon et al. I wanted something that would extend the reader experience even the tiniest bit – plus I’d planned on sending out some tweets from my MC and some other cute things. Problem was I couldn’t make the blog site look even halfway decent.

This minimalist theme just about suits me for this blog but I needed something pink and girly and full of energy and I was completely stuck.

I am constantly struggling for time and vacillating between doing more work and passing out in a coma in front of Gossip Girl so I was very proud when I managed to source someone on ODesk to make a few tweaks in wordpress.

Problem was he went crazy – doing a fantastic design job that I couldn’t possibly afford to see to fruition. And even if I could – I could not financially justify. Sarah’s Song will live under the radar for most of its life, I’m sure. The blog was just one more of those ambitious ideas I like to torture myself with. I’m still not entirely sure what I’ll do – I need to balance my ideas with some valuable promotional avenues. Advice on Absolute Write points to sending out copies of my book to generate reviews on Amazon as one of the best returns on investment. I’ve just received a print copy of my book and unfortunately the cover is pixellated in some places so it’s going to have to go through some tweaks with the cover designer.

The good thing that has come out of the episode is that I’ve found a fantastic blog designer – and he got me thinking. If I’m going to pay for a blog design upgrade then it ought to be this one.

Watch this space…(but not too intently).