Everyone has a list of ten, twelve, fifteen, maybe even twenty ideas of tips for writers. Sometimes those tips are good and at other times, maybe not so good.
What I am offering today will be a short list of seven obscure writing tips to enable you, as a writer, to improve your skill.
Most people use Word or another piece of software to create their masterpiece. Most of these word-processing programs have a grammar checker. TURN IT OFF!! I have found it to be an aggressive application which wants me to put my words in a certain way. I'm a writer and most readers are not Harvard graduates. My dialogue should have a ring of authenticity, not sound like college graduate speaking. Be honest. How many people actually speak like this?
Hello. How are you today?
Hi! What'cha up to?
Just make sure you leave the spellchecker on. You don't need a grammar teacher, but do allow the computer to assure your words are being spelled correctly.
Outline your project. Many a writer have attempted the "pantser" method and found themselves in a quagmire or with a lot of loose threads and lost in a back alley of finishing. The outline doesn't have to be elaborate but should include a beginning, a middle and most definitely, an ending. I outline my novels using a chapter idea with only the simplest of suggestions to what will happen.
CH4: The group goes to J's camp. Breakfast. Strangers appear at gate. Discover who J is.
The above is chapter four of the original outline for my novel Pangaea, Eden Lost which actually became something like chapter twelve or thirteen. My story took off on a tangent which I followed and decided to keep. I just renamed chapter four to the new chapter.
Pipe in music or noise. The brain doesn't work well in a quiet vacuum. For some it is classical music, for others, perhaps New Age, rock, electronic, or even big band. Some people prefer what is called "white noise" and there are websites to offer that option.
There are those who claim they need absolute silence to be able to concentrate. It is a proven scientific fact, noise will aide in being productive. Try it.
Create a datasheet of the character details. This information is critical and will assist in keeping your mind focused on the character. This datasheet should have all your character's traits and nuances listed. Doing this is beneficial if you are considering a series and need to keep true to the character from book to book. Readers pick up on flaws: book one, your character has blue eyes and in book two, your character has green eyes. Also, if your character has sky-blue eyes, you certainly don't want to say 'dark, brooding eyes' in your manuscript.
Creativity. Contrary to popular belief, one does not learn creativity in a classroom. As children, we learn to be creative, but as adults, it is more difficult. Attending a class to learn creativity is usually an exercise in futility.
Adaptability. Be open to change. As I explained earlier, I was following my outline when the story changed. It was a simple modification but it led to a new thread of thought which took my characters to a new locale. The adventure was great, my test readers enjoyed it — so I kept it and finally, when that thread ended, I brought it back to my outline and picked up those thoughts.
Edit Aloud. Always take the time to read your final version aloud as a method of editing. I don't mean quietly read the words aloud to yourself. If you can, read the manuscript to another person. Nobody available? Read the piece as if you were reading it to a group. You're alone, who is going to know or think you're crazy? Your ears hear awkward words, repeated words or poorly structured sentences.
There are plenty of other writing tips, some obscure, some more well-known. Share some of your writing tips in the comments below.
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~ COMMENTS ~
Lisa M. Collins
Bob, I use an app on my phone to recreate the coffee house experience when I write. It is call Coffitivity and it is available for iPhone and Android. https://coffitivity.com/ It is my favorite way to "Pipe in the noise."
For some, working in a coffee shop is a must, it seems to boost their output potential. Having moved to rural America, I live outside of town and to "pop" into a cafe is major hassle. I've used Coffitivity for years now (on and off) to give me the experience. I even have a candle with a heavy coffee scent to ensure the illusion is complete.
I live under headphones. Ask any of my co-workers. I found I was more productive that way - especially programming and writing. Certain music was more conducive than others. As to reading aloud - I won't release a book without having read it aloud to my #1 audience, my wife.
As always, Bob, your suggestions are solid. Good job. I particularly like your suggestion to turn off grammar check. I write a lot of dialog -- it's my favorite way to tell a story. When I used to write in MS Word, almost my whole manuscript would be filled with those squiggly underlines. Besides, grammar check is wrong as often as it's correct.
Scrivener does have a grammar checker, but I keep it turned off. It's worth looking at the "Corrections" tab under preferences. There are some things there that I like, and some that I disabled. I would have a problem going back to writing books in Word.
I'm also experimenting with the new version of Ulysses, which automatically syncs between the Mac and iPad. It offers a lot of the same features as Scrivener, but it's simpler to get used to it, and I like being able to write on the Mac and then tweak things on the iPad whenever something comes to mind.