Almost every writer will tell you their absolute best writing tip and we fledglings chirp it over and over, hoping to succeed. Maybe this is the magic secret, we think.
Once you’ve done that a few times you get a collection of suggestions and you act on them with varying results. Gradually your own personal list emerges. Here is mine.
1. Be consistent
Mostly this is about when and how often you write. I find that when I’m doing the first draft mornings are my sparkling idea time. My characters’ situations become my own so much that three hours goes by before I realize I have to pull myself out of my alter ego(s) and make lunch.
2. Write about what you love
For many years my reading of choice has been historical fiction. Colleen McCullough’s Caesar series, Sharon Kay Penman’s British kings and queens and Alison Weir’s histories have been my escape places. Weir writes history so well, it seems like fiction but is not and the other two take the bare facts, study them in-depth and come up with characters so believable I feel like setting an extra place at dinner. Ready to try my own hand at a novel, I naturally gravitated toward historicals.
3. Listen to others’ criticism but be true to yourself
A neophyte, I read how-to books, took courses and joined critique groups. What did I learn? Be careful whose comments you act on. There are many who have an opinion but if they’ve never read your genre take their suggestions, but consider the source. My ears are wide open when my critique group speaks now, but I suffered a few false starts before finding them. And even now, I listen but don’t always agree. After all it is my book.
4. Take time to feed your creative juices
All work and no play, as they say, makes us dull and, by extension, makes our writing dull. In order to be creative I must take my camera and find beauty. Or watch the seagulls line up in rows on the beach. Maybe even cut , chop and stir to concoct a work-of-art meal, beautifully arranged on the plate. Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and Maureen Jennings’ The Map of Your Mind allowed me to stretch and reshape my way of thinking and creating. The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne, was a revelation, as well. Even now I am creating positive thoughts to attract my ‘best life’ (Oprah) to me. All of these examples foster thinking calisthenics and help us pull those epiphanies to the forefront.
5. If a project suggests itself over and over you need to do it
Why, you might ask. Years ago, I read Jean Little’s Listen for the Singing and found myself afterwards sitting in our screened-in porch, tears streaming down my face. Not because of the story. I just so wished I could write like that. And the feeling persisted leading me to write a compilation cook book and two volumes of personal memories. But they weren’t enough. I still needed to write a novel. Now that I’m finishing that, its sequel and other projects slip and slide around my brain. But if I put my writing away for any time, sadness creeps into my life, and is only dissipated by sitting down again to the keyboard. I need to write.
6. Never give up. There is always a way
Ever had a setback? Someone tell you your work is crap? Or part of it, at least? I have come to realize those are the best readers. They tell the truth and you can learn from them. In the early stages of my novel-writing journey (when I thought I was finished, ha ha) I had a number of educated, intelligent people whom I respect read and comment. Mostly that was a waste of time. The problems? a. They are my friends and b. they don’t have the background to effectively critique my work. Their comments fed my ego but not my need to get the darn thing right. Over time I found my way to an excellent critique group. My work has improved because of it.
7. Write often for the sheer fun of it, not just on your current project.
This last point is important. We all started writing because of the good feeling inside and/or our love of words, not to mention our delight in the power of our writing. This is why I keep two blogs: one is about writing, specifically the journey to publication, and the other is purely for fun. There I insert lots of pictures and comments concerning family and my life, in general. Rants appear once in a while but mostly I write about my joy in living. And it’s fun. No pressure, just fun. Oh, and I feel so good when I’ve written it just right.