To start off here are the tips from Sophia Bennett from her website (sophiabennet.com):
- You know how your English
teacherhas spent years teaching you to use lots of adjectives and adverbs? Well, aspiring professional writers spend years learning how to avoid them. Adverbs and adjectives are magical literary creatures. Use them sparingly and make them count.
- Start in the middle. You don’t have to do this of course, but consider it as an option. Get the reader gripped from the word go. You can go back and fill in the backstory later.
- Read read read! You can’t read too much, really. But I find I can’t read books in a similar style to my own while I’m writing, just in case I copy it. So I often read non-fiction while I’m writing.
- Surprise yourself. You must surprise your reader, and your reader is always cleverer than you think, so make sure you’re one step ahead.
- Read what you’ve just written aloud. Especially if it’s dialogue. Does it bounce along? Does it work?
- Write a bit every day, if you can. Persevere, but try and be objective too. According to Thomas Mann, ‘Writers are people who find writing more difficult than other people.’
- If you’re serious about being published one day, try reading the essays in the ‘Writers and Artists Yearbook’. I think they’re very good and they certainly helped me. Doesn’t matter what year you pick – they’re all good.
- Ditto ‘How not to write a novel‘, which is funny as well as useful.
- Read anything by Elmore Leonard, especially if it’s about writing. And bear in mind that he writes all day and throws much of it away, until his bin is overflowing with scrumpled up pages of yellow legal paper. If Elmore Leonard can chuck all but the best stuff out, so can I. And so can you.
- Don’t spend ages working out alternatives to ‘she said’, ‘he said’. What matters is what they said, not how you frame it. Elmore Leonard: ‘If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.’
- Don’t (only) believe your mother! She will, of course, love it. That’s her job.
- Don’t be surprised if you hate any form of criticism of your work. We all do. But some of it’s right and we have to listen to it. However, the writer reserves the right to work out how to fix it.
- The story’s the thing, but spelling and grammar will eventually matter. While I loved that funny little piece about the kings invisable overcoat, I spent half the time wondering about the writer’s spelling and the other half searching for the kings invisable apostrophe.
- If you’re stuck for inspiration, look out for writing competitions in newspapers, your local library, the BBC writersroom website, or the rest of the web. Having somebody else’s deadline to work to really helps concentrate the mind.
- If you want more practice, find opportunities to write whenever you can. Offer to write for free. Review stuff for blogs, local papers and magazines. Writing for other people will force you to hone your style, fast.
- It’s work! ‘Writers are people who find writing more difficult than other people,’ remember? Don’t worry if it’s hard. It’s supposed to be. The fact that you can do it at all is fantastic. When I come back from a difficult day at the library, struggling with character and plot, my husband is totally unsympathetic. He’s right. It’s what I chose, I love it, and I’m lucky to be doing it at all.
- If in doubt, cut. Works almost every time. *Delete.* Works every time.
- Check out writers’ blogs to see if they have any suggestions. Oh yes, you’re doing that. Go you!
- Read. You can't write if you don't read.
- Try to read as many different stories by as many different authors as you can.
- Develop your own style. Don't copy anyone else's. Your own voice is individual and unique so don't be afraid to use it.
- Try to get into the habit of writing every day. Keeping a diary is an excellent wasy of doing this.
- Write from the heart as well as the head. Write about what makes you angry, moves you to tears, the things about which you feel passionately. If you feel it when you write, others will feel it when they read.
- Don't fake it! Don't write a vampire story if you have no intereste in vampires because it will show.
- If your stories run out of steam half way through, try plotting out the beginnin, middle and end of your story before you start writing.
- Try creating a biography (3 or 4 pages) for each of your major characters. I find that helps in creating characters who become real, live, living people to me.
- When I first started writing, I found joining a supportive writing group invaluable. Friends and family tend to be less objectivewhen it comes to venturing an opinion of your work. But if joining a writing group is difficult, try recording your story onto your computer or a digital recording device or somewhere where you can play it back a few days later to hear what it sounds like. The few days gap is important because that way you're more likely to hear it as it is, rather than how you expect it to be.
- Don't give up!
Here are some places Sophia Bennett says she gets her ideas from (I got this from girlsheartbooks.com):
Here's a post (http://girlsheartbooks.com/2012/01/21/how-to-write-a-very-good-book/) from Sophia Bennet titled "How to write a very good book":
Have you ever read a chapter of a very good book and wondered just how the author managed to think of that first, jaw-dropping sentence? And how she approached that dazzling descriptive paragraph? And just how many rewrites it took to get that other amazing bit at the end?
Or, writing a story of your own, have you ever wondered how other people do it?
Well, I have. And guess what, I have actually found an author, a good one (Maggie Stiefvater) who has taken the time to go through a whole chapter of her latest book (The Scorpio Races) and explain, line by line, what she was thinking.
Wow. It must have taken her AGES. When she could have been working on one of her new books. (She writes two at a time, she says).
I think her description is amazing. And so useful. As someone who never quite managed to do a Creative Writing course (neither did she), I do often wonder about how other people do these things.
So here is the link to that post, written earlier this month.
I hope Maggie won’t mind me showing you one of the illustrations from her draft. She then comments on every note – showing what she was thinking at the time, what she was trying to do, and how she tried to make it better.
I must admit I haven’t read The Scorpio Races yet, but I’m in awe of her writing in Shiver. If you happen to be wondering how to do it, this is one version of how it’s done. And if you happen to know of any other links to great blogs about the writing process, perhaps you could share them here. Our very own Sarah Webb, for example, has just launched an eight week ‘Write That Book’ course. If your New Year’s resolution was to write a story of your own, what are you waiting for?
Goodluck with your writing.