You Write and You Learn: Tips for Fellow Aspiring Authors
By Eve Volungeviciute
Writing tips are so prominent and sought after they have their own section at bookstores. How to structure a scene, how to create compelling characters – there are do’s and don’ts for pretty much everything writing related.
As someone who studied the craft in university, I read my fair share of advice from various authors. While they provided me with a lot of insight, I found that it was equally as important to figure out what works for me specifically. Since I’m currently writing my first novel, I thought of compiling a few tips I am currently using for my work for you to have a look at.
It goes without saying that this article is based on my personal journey as a writer. Which might not be useful for everyone but, if I can help a fellow aspiring author, I’ll consider it a success. Alright, then…let’s begin!
1 – Give Your Characters a Face
Seems pretty self-explanatory, but it makes such a big difference when you have a face to match your words. You can use pretty much anyone, from friends and family to celebrities, or even random people on Instagram if they fit your description. I personally found that using actors, especially those I have seen in a few different projects, worked best, as I have seen their emotional and physical range and could match them to my characters. This one can get a bit tricky if you start to adapt your character to whoever you cast them as (as has happened to me a couple of times), so if you notice it’s hard for you to separate them, perhaps you need another method. They’re your characters, after all – they deserve to be one of a kind!
2 – Nothing Wrong with Editing as You Go Along
While everyone says writing and editing are different jobs – which they are – and tell us to not mix them, there are times where I find myself doing just that. Sometimes, I have to admit, it’s because I don’t feel like writing but still need to be productive; so, going by that logic, editing’s better than doing nothing. There are plenty of occasions when I find that for me to proceed with a scene, I have to go back and trim or add some things or tweak bits of dialogue that I think would fit better with what I have planned next. At the end of the day, if you genuinely feel like you have a good idea for a redraft, don’t force yourself to wait till you have a complete piece done – you could be missing out on a great idea.
3 – Let Your Story Write Itself
This doesn’t mean you should open Word and hope the words will tumble onto the page by themselves (although what writer hasn’t hoped for it at least once?). It’s more the case of, while it’s important to have some kind of an outline of where you would like your story to go, sometimes the characters we create can develop a life of their own and leap off the pages, turning your pre-planned story into something else. Sometimes it’s just as important to let those deviations from your outline be realised, as it might result in a more organic storytelling with characters that don’t seem like cardboard cut-outs. Be careful of any plot holes, though.
4 – Plot Setting Layouts
In my personal experience, it can be tricky to not only describe the setting the characters are in but to move them around in said setting. Which is why I found it helpful to do a basic floor plan/layout for the main places of your creative piece. Mine is set entirely indoors minus some flashbacks, so having a specific idea in mind of how big the rooms were, as well as furniture, helped to realise how the characters would fit into the structure and in general aided me in visualising their movements. It doesn’t have to be artistic or crazily precise, as long as it gives you a better understanding of your setting!
5 – Don’t Forget to Have Fun
Writing, especially if you’re trying to get published, can be very stressful. It’s easy to forget that the process should still be enjoyable for you, and sometimes that means you might want to include something in your draft that’s just complete nonsense and probably won’t work in the final version. In that case, you should go for it, because there is always time for editing later and who knows, you might find some hidden gems in whatever you’ve written that you can use, even if it’s just some extra characterisation or a nice description of a location. As long as you keep enjoying being a writer, it won’t feel like a job and likely will help you to produce a better-quality piece in the long run.