, , , ,

I am mostly writing fiction.  Because of that, these tips are best suited for writing fiction.  I suppose some of them might apply if you were to write a non-fiction narrative, but they are of little or no use when writing a manual, guide, etc.

  1. Keep track of the timeline.  I have a pretty good (most folks say amazing) memory, and even I have trouble occasionally keeping track of what happened exactly when.  Have they been on the road for 3 weeks of 4?  Has it been 10 days or a fortnight since the village was destroyed?  Seems like this would be trivial and easy, but when you are writing something it usually happens in pieces over an extended period of time. I have created a spreadsheet with the day (numbered), the significant action, (arrived at Foxvior), the day of the week, and the relative portion of the day (morning, afternoon, night, etc.) as columns.
  2. Don’t get bogged down in the details.  When you write, make sure that you can get the flow of the story going and if necessary come back to naming new characters or places later.  My wife was reading the prologue to book two a couple months ago and said “What kind of name is ‘Getaname’?”  I had continued the story and went back later to fill in the prince’s name.
  3. Don’t hang yourself with cliffhangers.  Cliffhangers are great.  They draw the reader forward and keep them saying “One more chapter.  One more chapter.”  The worst thing is creating a cliffhanger, writing the cliffhanger, and then forgetting the clever way you were going to resolve it.  When I write a cliffhanger, I continue on after the break to a point where I can clearly see the resolution coming.  The bad guy counting to five to give the outnumbered good guys is a great way to build suspense, but keep going and write the believable resolution while it is on your mind.
  4. Ask for feedback.  Whether it is a spouse, a friend, a sibling, a parent, solicit feedback.  Find somebody in your target audience who is willing to read the story and give you an opinion.  It is far easier to correct your course early on in the process than to correct when the story is almost done.
  5. Read your own work.  I read mine as I write it, but I also read it as my wife reads it and read it when I send it off to a friend for review.  I then read it with my daughter after it is complete.  On every one of those re-readings, I have found grammatical fixes or clarifications that needed to be made.

That’s all I’ve got for now.  I hope that this helps you if you ever sit down to write something (and everybody ought to at one point – we were required to write an original short story every year I was in grade school)