From the seasoned one…

So here is a basic question that comes to mind, how does one get better at writing?

The basic answer you hear from many advice columns is by continuously writing.  Which I do agree with to a certain degree.  I keep getting better at writing all the time.  With each new story I write, my level goes up.  However, if I had it all to do over again, instead of making the same mistakes over and over again like I did when I first got started, I would have spent more time doing research on writing in between stories.

Especially for those of us who aren’t English or Creative Writing Majors, or have a background in teaching, we definitely have a steeper learning curve when it comes to writing.  The later we start, the higher the curve.

So beyond telling everyone to just keeping writing, here is a list of some things that may help others climb that damn mountain of writing knowledge:

  1. Pick a book you’ve read many times before and read it again.  But this time, don’t just read it for the story.  Look at the sentence structure.  Pay attention to how the characters are introduced.  How the author describes people, places and events.  While every writer does things differently, it’s a great place to start.
  2. Pick up a Grammar for Dummies book or something similar.  Part of learning to write is learning to write properly.
  3. Look for resources.  Websites like dictionary.com or thesaurus.com have saved me many times from using the wrong word or not repeating the same words over and over. Sites like writersdigest.com have mounds of great information, you just have to look for it.
  4. Don’t be afraid to read some books on writing or editing.  I’m currently reading Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renne Browne and Dave King.  It’s scary how much I’m learning that I’ve done wrong.
  5. Make friends with other writers.  Whether they may be better than you, at the same level, it doesn’t really matter.  You can learn a lot from each other.
  6. And because I have to add it or be thrown into Tartarus by the great gatekeepers of all things literary, keep writing.

Until next time…

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From the seasoned one…

Here’s one from the request lines…acquiring reviews.

Miss CubbieBerry (@cubbieberrie) asked me an interesting question the other day.  She started out by telling me that my new story on fanfiction generates reviews from people who don’t normally review other Voltron stories.  Her question was, “How do you get more people to review?”

Now, I really don’t have a good answer for how to generate good reviews from your readers.  When I look at my statistics, I always have way more readers than I do reviewers.  I generally think if the story is good and people have something they want to say about it, they will without needing a prompt.  But what I’ve noticed is a lot of fanfiction writers start each chapter practically begging for reviews.

So my answer back to Cubbie was, don’t ask for them.  I don’t know about other people, but I find writers begging for reviews a bit off putting.  It’s like they have a lack of confidence in their own writing and are asking for others to give them the ego boost to keep going. That and to me, the point of writing and posting a chapter should really be that you, as a writer,  just want to share your story and aren’t looking for accolades to keep you going.

Yes, good reviews are enjoyable and do give you a bit of an ego boost.  I’m the first to admit that, but it shouldn’t be the point of your writing.  So my final answer will be, write a good story and the reviewers will come to you.  If they don’t, keep going and advancing your abilities as a writer and don’t worry about it.  Good things comes to those who wait!

Until next time…

From the seasoned one…

Character Bibles/Story Timelines

So I decided to combine two topics today, both of which I learned to do the hard way.  When I first started writing, all I worked on was Voltron fan fiction, pretty much using only the original WEP characters and all of my stories were really short.  As I started branching out, making the stories longer and adding original characters, I discovered I was having trouble keeping track of them.  Sometimes it was just small things, like eye color or if I stated they hated a certain food item.  Sometimes it was bigger things like introducing a new character on page three one way and bringing them back on page fifty looking totally different.

Another problem was knowing what day I was on or how many days have passed in a story.  I’m not a plotter.  I pretty much fly by the seat of my pants while writing (a pantser), so this became a big problem when all at once I needed to know how many days have gone by.  Suddenly, I had to go back through my story from the beginning and figure out how many days have passed.  Not a big deal if you’re only on page thirty, but a huge deal when you’ve reached page one-hundred and fifty.  Let’s talk about things that interrupt the writing mojo!

All of these problems compounded when I started writing my own original novels with all of my own original characters.  So, I learned to keep a character bible and a story timeline.  For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, a character bible is a notebook/computer file, whichever is more comfortable for you to keep, about the characters in your story.  In these files, you keep the information you introduce in your book, descriptions, birthdates, food likes/dislikes, personality traits, etc.  Anything and everything you say, or your characters do in your stories, so if you have to reference it later you don’t have to go paging through your story trying to find it.

Story timelines are not an outline.  It is much simpler than that.  It’s just a document where you type in Day 1: and give a basic run down of what happened on that day.  Repeat for each day that occurs in the story.  I generally add page numbers as well so I can reference the timeline and go back to those pages in the story if I need to check on something.

Especially if you decide to write sequels, these little items will save you a world of heartache later.  Like I said, I learned the hard way after totally screwing up a story to the point I abandoned it when I was around one-hundred and forty pages in.  The thought of starting over and rewriting the entire thing wasn’t something I wanted to do or liked the story enough to do.  Every story I’ve written since then consists of three files, the story, the timeline and the character bible.

Good luck to everyone and keep writing!

Until next time…