Whether you write for personal reasons or you freelance, etc., I wanted to do a post which will include some helpful tips that helped me get through college. For those who do not know, I have my B.A. in English Literature & Creative Writing. I currently specialize in creative non-fiction and soon I wish to explore the world of fiction. Most of my courses were workshops, in which I sat with 14 other writers (15:1 student to teacher ratio), that’s how small these classes were and very competitive to get into. We would often work with our professors, who were published themselves, we would write pieces each class and review each other’s work. Most of the critiques I received were routine. I will share some below.
- One important tip I remember from one of my creative non-fiction professors is this: “Just Write.” Try to fight that inner voice inside of you who feels the need to edit and just write everything down. Do not worry if its gibberish or it does not make any sense. My professor said, “Write until you hit that wall.” Now you may ask, what if I’m experiencing writer’s block? Well, I often suffer from this, but I have found ways to fight this off. I begin with taking a walk, listening to music, or just taking a simple and random object and writing everything I possibly can about it. Whether it’s a flower I had seen on a morning walk or taking a phrase from something I heard in a conversation. I have been using this strategy since I was a young girl and it works. My mother would give me random objects and I would have to write about it. One time she gave me the topic of ‘clouds’ and I created a story. As crazy as this may sound, I promise it works. You end up writing an idea that you can then expand upon and work from there.
- The first line is ultimately what is going to capture your readers or make them close the book. You want to open with a line that basically ‘punches them in the gut,’ so to speak. I often find when I am reading books, articles, etc., I am drawn in by a line that immediately gets my attention. For instance, I am less likely to read a story that begins with: “It was a cold winter day.” I would be drawn to a line such as: “That winter was a brutal one, but the cold I felt most was the day I lost my sister in that tragic car accident.”
- SHOW DON’T TELL. When I would edit the work of my peers in class, one issue presented itself constantly. Students would tell a story without painting a visual image for the readers. Imagery is key. You want to capture the reader by exploring different senses. What did you see? What did it smell like? What did it feel like? You want readers to be able to place themselves in the story.
- Try and evoke some sort of emotional connection for the readers. How can they relate to the story? Why is it important for them to read it? What can they take away from it? How do you want them to remember your story even after they’ve finished reading?
- One of my fiction professors, who had published 6 books herself, told me the following: you should steer away from the words beauty or pretty, or any synonyms of the two. Reason being is beauty is different to everyone. It is also too cliche.
- The same professor who was mentioned above also said the following to our class. Not every story needs to be tied neatly together with a bow. The best stories that attract the most readers can be messy and chaotic. Not everything in life is going to be a happy ending.
- Your last line should make your readers remember you. What will make you stand out? How will they remember your story over others they have read? Consider this when you write. In my stories, I like to leave readers with a cliff hanger which leaves room for them to imagine an ending if I do not explicitly give one.
- EDIT EDIT EDIT. There is always something to improve. You can never edit too much.
- I tend to benefit from reading my stories out loud. This is when you can hear mistakes and make the necessary changes. You may hear a flow of words you want to change around to fix the meaning.
- Believe in your story. Everyone has a story to tell. Never think that you should not tell yours because there is something similar out there. You are unique and your story is too. There is something different within your story that can appeal to readers.
I hope these tips help you improve your writing. Feel free to like/comment/provide feedback, subscribe, email, or connect with me on social media.
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