In the previous post in this series I wrote about the importance of sitting down to write. You can’t succeed self publishing books if you have nothing to publish.
As well as writing, and the pure drive to get words on the page, you need to be looking to improve your craft of writing. Make what you do write better. And understand that this is a lifelong task – as long as you are writing there is always something to improve.
Story structure, characterisation, emotional resonance, dialogue, descriptions, outlining methods, how to create tension, … this list can go on and on. And I have by no means mastered any of them! I am still finding out what works for me. I find this really exciting – a challenge to see how my writing improves the more I do it. Trying to find new ways to describe things. Description is really one of my weaknesses, as by default I write hardly any of it. So in revisions I am really working to make sure that the reader can picture the characters and settings, but without going overboard and slowing the whole story down. Getting that balance right is the trick.
I’m constantly watching people, looking for the characteristics that make them unique. Whether that’s a physical quirk, a mannerism, figure of speech, or something else. And then trying to give my characters something similar, something to make them stand out. It’s all very welt to describe someone as blond haired and blue eyed, but that’s so generic that it doesn’t really tell us anything. A missing front tooth, or walking with their back hunched over, or a lisp all give a more specific feeling to the character. And that’s what I’m working on too.
Four of my favourite resources that I’ve found useful for learning to write better:
- KM Weiland’s blog and her books – she is the master of story structure, outlining, and character arcs;
- CS Lakin’s blog and her books – I especially like her series on layering a novel by building up the core scenes, then adding in a subplot, romance etc;
- David Farland’s courses – these are amazing – just look at his list of previous students – and he also sends out free writing tips by email;
- One Stop for Writers – the best place to go for character creation tools, this includes all of their thesauri and more.
These are the ones that I go back to and reread, getting something new out of it every time. I’m someone who takes bits and pieces from different places and melds them together into what works for me. If you have something else that you love then let me know as I’d love to hear about it.
And if you haven’t checked out my short story yet then go get yourself a copy:
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I was reading a mystery/thriller recently–fast-paced, twisty sort of tale–and the thing that kept interrupting the flow, like a tire gone flat on a bumpy road, was when the author tried to used similes or metaphors. OUCH! To call them bad would be a serious understatement. Halfway through, I thought, Why does the author bother to use these devices at all? They weren’t necessary to tell her story; in fact, were doing an otherwise readable tale, harm. I thought about the many writers who don’t use them much, perhaps because they understand it’s not their forte, but still write good, strong stories that move and have memorable characters. It’s definitely important to improve our writing, which as you point out is made up of many different skills, but this author made me think that it’s also important to be aware of our own strengths and to play to those in our work.
Interesting – it just shows that like any other literary device they work when done well, but really don’t when done badly!
Reblogged this on don mulcare.