10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know to Hone Their Writing Skills
One of the things you are tired of hearing is ‘the book won’t write itself’. Yes, you know. You are aware. Sometimes the quick tips and tricks do not seem to work for you in the long run.
You can set aside time to write regularly, you can assure yourself that editing a bad first draft is easier than a blank page, but writing on some days is just hard. Even if you do show up to write it is a tough battle to fight, because sometimes the blank pages can be intimidating. In this blog we will talk about 10 tips and tricks for writing that will help you form some long term habits.
Silence Your Inner Critic
There is always a voice inside of our heads trying to control every little detail in our lives, and especially in our writing. Silence the inner critic when you are writing. Trust in the process and tell yourself a story that you want to hear. It will make the words pour out until you get tired from typing/writing so much. Do not worry about writing the perfect story. Just write the story that you have been thinking about for so long.
Write Outside of your Comfort Zone
We are often told to write what we know. But sometimes, we can write about things that inspire us or interest us. It is safe to say the authors writing about vampires probably never had that experience for themselves (or at least, we hope so).
We decide what happens and exactly when it happens. While it is true that sometimes characters come alive and incidents are written that the writer did not plan, we suggest writing outside of your comfort zone. Maybe they are concepts that you have not really thought about. Maybe it’s a genre that you are not confident to explore. But do it anyway. Don’t be afraid to cross the line – both storyline-wise and genre-wise, regardless of whether you are writing fiction or non-fiction.
Remember Your Outline
We have discussed that planning out your books are important. Another thing to note is, remembering the overall outline of your book. An outline is a like a map of everything that you plan for to happen in your book, along with the characters. Without one, it is easy to get extremely lost as you write.
So, to ensure there are no inconsistencies, whether you write fiction or non-fiction it is important that you have an outline drawn out first.
We recommend that you download a mind mapping app that would help you clear your head and pen down your thoughts. Or you start a word document where you keep a track of what is happening in your story. Plot outlines are written to help avoid plot holes in the long term. If writing it on a word document makes it difficult to keep track, then you could go for one of the many free writing tools out there. One of the apps you can use is Scrapple which allows you the freedom to explore how your story would pan out.
Perfect the Dialogue
It is easy to get carried away with dialogue. But write it in a way that seems realistic. Research special instances of dialogue writing too. If your character has the habit of saying a phrase when they are excited or angry, keep it consistent. For example, Captain Haddock from the Tintin comics always said ‘Billions of blistering blue barnacles’ and Tintin himself was known to say ‘Great Scott!’ a lot. Maybe you have a character who says, ‘Pop goes the weasel.’
If you want to convey that your character is being passive-aggressive, have their tone not match the words they are saying. For example, if your character has just found out that her ex is coming to her party with a plus one, she would probably say something along the lines of, “Of course, no problem. The more the merrier,” and add in an undertone, “I could also walk off a bridge but nope… the more the merrier.” Dialogues are important to convey messages to the reader, afterall.
Set Word Count Goals
If you wrote down in your to-do list that you need to write 500 words a day, and you did it every day for a week and scratched it out/checked it at the end of the day, you get unspeakable joy from finishing a task. It gives you a sense of accomplishment. Go ahead and set word count goals for the day. You can pair up with your writer friend for this exercise too.
This is one of the reasons why NaNoWriMo is so popular. Every writer around the world shares the common goal of writing 50,000 words by the end of November. You can also look into ilys, which is a website that lets you practice free writing until you reach your word count goal. There are also 750 words which don’t let you stop until you reach 750 words when you sit down to write. The Hemingway App is also useful as it lets you write and identifies how much like the famous author your writing is!
Find a group of beta readers and focused readers
Find some people whose opinions you trust, who are knowledgeable about your genre and recruit them as your beta readers. There are communities on Facebook such as WriMo India or For Writers by Authors, where there are people volunteering to be beta readers. They will read and provide you with the much needed critical feedback for your books. Having a group of focused readers really does help one churn out more chapters or stories, and not procrastinate on writing.
Create Psychological Associations
Associate writing with something in your daily life. For example, a lot of writers prefer to drink tea and coffee and write right after it or at the same time. Over time, their brains started associating the drinking of a hot beverage with sitting down to write. That definitely worked in their favour, and it might work in yours too.
Bring Diversity to Your Content
Every story that you want to tell has perhaps been told before. Or maybe the book you might be thinking of writing has been written before. But the way you write it will be unique to you. You can always bring diversity into your content by going off the beaten track.
Suppose you are writing a queer love story but you yourself are not so, it wouldn’t be your lived reality. To have a more accurate representation of the same in your book, it would be best to reach out to members of the community and ask them to look at your work. Or better yet, share their experiences, and with their permission draw from those for your book.
Keep Pushing Out Content
As mentioned before, writers are tired of being constantly told to just show up and writing will happen. But unfortunately that is solid advice. You need to keep pushing content even on days you do not feel like, because it’s a spiral. It’s all too easy to go into the spiral of not writing content, by deciding to take a break one day. It is important for writers to stay in their momentum and try to write every day.
Decide what your endgame is
Finally, figure out what your endgame is. Is it sharing it with the world? Proving to yourself you can commit to a project no matter what? There are no wrong answers. Decide what your endgame is and work towards it. Having a defined goal will help you align your work better too. If you decide it is to complete your novel by a certain date, stick to your writing schedule. If you decide to get published by a certain time, then that becomes your endgame.
Writing is a choice and should bring you happiness. We feel ultimately, that there are a number of things that one needs to know in order to hone their writing skills. This list is an attempt to narrow down the most needed ones that we hope will help you begin the journey of becoming a better writer and eventually, an author.