Whether it’s dialogue, transitions, rushing through a scene, anticlimactic action sequences or showing vs. telling, every writer struggles with some aspect of their craft. Don’t waste your precious time drafting scenes you know miss the mark. Dedicate some time now to overcoming your weaknesses. Writers are generous when it comes to sharing tips of the trade. Spend time finding blogs and podcasts by writers for writers. Take advantage of the archive keyword search feature to hone in on the area you want to improve. Find resource books dedicated to becoming a better writer and read the chapters that cover the skill you want to develop. Chances are, you’ve also read books by authors who did a good job of writing the way you want to write. Revisit those books and study their techniques. Write by Midnight 2022 will be here before you know it. Use the coming months to learn, practice and improve so you can make the most of our next write-a-thon.
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It’s important that the different POV characters in your story all read as different people. To practice making your character’s distinct, take a sentence or paragraph from your story that describes one character’s action, paying careful attention to your word choice and sentence structure. Now, write another character performing the same action. How would this character do and think differently than the first character? Did you find yourself using different words to describe the action? Were your sentences shorter or longer for the second character? These small changes add up to create a unique voice.
Commit to promoting literacy by donating a book to commemorate #InternationalLiteracyDay. Schools, public libraries, prisons, non-profits that resettle refuges or work with populations that do not speak English as a primary language which all run some form of literacy program. @worldliteracy is also a great resource. Sharing the books you love with others is a great way to promote literacy.
To make your writing clearer and give it punch, avoid overusing vague words in your prose. Words and phrases such as feel, seem or looked like can often be omitted or replaced with specific details that will root your readers in the world you’ve created, as well as allow them to understand your intent. Consider this sentence:
She stepped on the gas and the car seemed to shudder.
The word “seemed” isn’t needed in the above example.
She stepped on the gas and the car shuddered.
In addition to the above examples, here are some other common culprits: many, most, few, soon, early, late, good, great, very, a lot, things, stuff and the list goes on. Search your work-in-progress for overused vague words. Then re-read the sentences where they appear to see if you can remove or replace them with descriptive words that help your readers experience the scene right along with your characters.
In our last installment of How to Get Inside Your Character’s Head for More Authentic Writing, we offered strategies to help you figure out how your character would act and react to the circumstances of a scene. This week, re-read the scene and ask yourself whether the character’s actions and thoughts are simply convenient to your plot or a true reflection of his/her heart and soul. If it reads genuine, congratulate yourself on a job well done. If it still feels like it’s falling flat, try this exercise to add more depth. Ask yourself:
How does my character’s _________ influence the way he/she acts and reacts in this scene?
- Family circumstances
- Economic circumstances
- Education level
- Belief system
- Birth order
- Race or Ethnicity
- Period of history in which he/she lives
Taking the time to answer each of these questions will help you get a better handle on who your protagonist is so that your readers will care about what happens to them throughout your story.