The first thing is to overcome writer’s block, if you have it. Writer’s block comes in a couple flavors: not being able to write and not being able to finish a writing project.
Ellis Shuman Writes has a great post with tips on how to cure writer’s block, which includes writing something every day, cursing, and knowing that whatever you write will not be perfect the first time around, and that’s okay.
The Book Designer also recommends having a writing plan. When creating a plan, make sure to leave time for rest and leisure, so as not to get burned out. Also, make yourself accountable, and reward yourself when you meet your goals.
If you want to write a good story, then you will have to do some research first. According to Steven Ramirez:
A bad piece of writing advice goes like this: “Write what you know.” Well, here’s what the author Joe Haldeman has to say about that:
Bad books on writing tell you to “write what you know,” a solemn and totally false adage that is the reason there exist so many mediocre novels about English professors contemplating adultery.
The point is this—if you are a horror, fantasy or sci-fi writer, then obviously you cannot write what you know. You are creating worlds that don’t exist, for crying out loud. But that doesn’t obviate the need for some solid research. You need to describe places and things, and how stuff works.
Steven recommends researching online, and not just Wikipedia. There are also online forums, Youtube, and check multiple sources, other than Wikipedia.
However, be careful that your research remains research, and that you do not plagiarize. According to The Happy Guy, “The “research” is not plagiarism if you connect it all together in new ways or remix it to put forward a fresh perspective. Research is good; copycatting is pitiable.”
Building a Story
Once you have your idea and have done your research, it still takes some planning to write a strong story.
BubbleCow shared Pixar’s essential storytelling rules, which includes character empathy, figuring out your theme and then rewriting to make it stronger, and making your characters believable.
The Book Designer wrote about how authors can engage with readers via their story, strategy, and structure.
To get more insight into what makes a novel a bestseller, check out Better Novel Project, which deconstructs “bestselling novels, one index at a time.”
Writing Strong Prose
Rebecca Roberto writes in her post, “Hard writing makes easy reading,” a number of suggestions on how to write skillfully, which includes avoiding repeated words, being specific, writing emotions in addition to plot, and having a good critique partner.
There are a couple techniques writers can use when drafting their novel. Self Publishing Advice advocates for The Snowflake Technique, which can help you avoid plot issues by following six steps. Steps include writing a summary, charting your characters, and expanding your plot synopsis.
The NORTAV Method also talks about how writers can “construct professional quality prose.” This method makes use of beats, to help learn “when and how to properly construct and combine all thirteen beats.”
One thing to keep in mind, is that as a writer you should be constantly learning and improving. Jordan Rosenfeld said:
Every time you read a fantastic book, your writing has a chance to crack open. Every time you hear a lecture, attend a class, or pick up a writing guide, you can learn or see something in a new light, and your writing changes. Time and distance also change how you see your writing.
Filling in a blank page tends to be more difficult than editing and revising. Sometimes it’s good to get a first draft out quickly, so you can go back and make changes.
Big Sky Words gives some advice for how to write quickly, which includes not worrying about format and skipping around chapters. Jennifer Ellis recommends having strong outlines and writing simply. And A Writer’s Bucket List says not to worry about “good writing” but to write what’s “effective for your audience.”
Got any tips for writing? Please share in the comments!
This post was originally published on November 5, 2015.