The more I write, the harder it seems to get. By which I mean, I realise some new complexity or paradox every time I sit down to work. That’s when some basic advice comes in handy. These are insights that I’ve been given, and some that I’ve picked up along the way.
1. Show, Don’t Tell:
Like all writing advice, I don’t necessarily think this is written in stone, but it’s a good place to start. It’s always better to set the scene with descriptors and actions rather than “telling” the reader what’s going on. The latter can be boring and flat, and you have more opportunity to experiment when you use descriptive language.
Having said that, over-describing can be irritating to read through as well, and there are benefits to “telling”. (Primarily, you don’t waste time and page-space on things that are less important to the plot or the scene. For instance, you don’t need to painstakingly go through the details of your character getting ready for her day, not if it has no relevance to the scene or what you’re trying to convey. This is highly contextual advice, though, so a writer must consider what’s right for their story.)
2. Your Character Needs Motivation
There are a few benefits to giving your character a clear goal. First, it gives you, the writer, a sharper understanding of who your character is as a person. Second, it allows the story to have some direction. Third, it makes structuring your story that much easier, because once your character has a goal, you can design your plot around the obstacles they face to reach the goal. Three good reasons to use this one neat trick.
3. Outlining Can Really Help
Some writers prefer not to outline and that’s fine too, because each one of us has our own style. But I find that plot outlines make the writing process far more efficient and manageable. Just from a psychological standpoint, it’s less overwhelming when you sit down and write, to know what you need to get done. It really helps to know where you’re going before you set out. But that’s just me.
4. Adverbs: Are They Evil?
I don’t think so. They’re words like any other, and they serve a purpose. I do think one should be cautious about overusing them, because it’s easy to fall into the “telling” trap. Adverbs, when used in moderation, can make the prose sharper and more direct.
5. Read The Writing Aloud
I personally really enjoy doing this. I’ve noticed that when I read my writing aloud, I am able to pick out awkward sentences and typos. It’s a great way to notice if you’ve repeated words, too. Besides that, I think it’s fun. I find it makes my story seem a little more…real?
Writing advice is always contextual. There are never any hard rules, which is great, because that means there are no limits to what’s possible. The only thing to remember is to keep practicing. And keep experimenting.
And to have fun.