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rainandsonder

United States

musica est vita

probably not going to be publishing as much this month because of adjusting to a busier schedule + working on reviews for my contest, but i'll still be pretty active

Message from Writer

songs i've been listening to lately: "buttercup" by hippo campus, "when we drive" by death cab for cutie, "grow up" by paramore

lowercase is intentional.

Writing Advice That Has Actually Helped Me

February 10, 2019

FREE WRITING

9
    I've been writing for a while now. When I first started out, I read a LOT of writing advice and blogs, and after a while you start to notice the same tips resurfacing again and again. "Don't use adverbs, don't say it was all a dream, just write, etc." Now that's all pretty OK advice, but I'm here to share the writing tips that actually helped me improve.

1. Vary sentence lengths. If I wrote a paragraph using only sentences with five syllables, it would be extremely boring:

    This is a sentence. Another sentence. The dog ran away. The man looked at me.

    See what I mean? It all sounds the same. If I wrote a whole paragraph like that, it'd be excruciating to read. Always change up the sentence lengths; do short sentences followed by long sentences followed by medium sentences. Of course, slower scenes need more long sentences and fast-paced scenes need more short sentences, but varying sentence length will help make your writing sound a lot more pleasing.

2. Describe with purpose. One pitfall that a lot of beginning writers fall into is thinking of a character's physical appearance as something that helps the reader to see them and nothing more, so they give them arbitrary, cookie-cutter traits. Brown hair, green eyes, short, pale skin. This tells you nothing about the character.
    Of course, description is supposed to help the reader see things in their mind's eye, but effective description does much more than that. Let's take the example I provided above. Brown hair, green eyes tells you nothing, but if we said "bedraggled brown hair and green eyes with bags underneath", suddenly you know not only what they look like but also a bit about their character and scenario. Effective description helps to tell the story, set a tone, characterize, and possibly foreshadow. Another example: Chekov's gun. If I tell you that there's a living room with a mantle, it tells you nothing. If I tell you that there's a living room and there's a gun on the mantle, then suddenly there's conflict, there's a story there. The reader instinctively knows that something will happen with the gun, and it's so much more interesting than the first description with just that little bit of detail.

3. Let your characters be bizarre. If you have a totally ordinary, typical character, you can completely spice it up by giving them a strange quirk--- for example, let's say that sometimes they take freezing cold baths for hours on end even though they hate cold water, or maybe they have a recurring nightmare about the dentist. Now you have a more intriguing character, and potentially a story. This is how I come up with stories, a lot of the time; I come up with a strange concept and build off of that.

4. Writing is not a talent. Writing is a skill. It's not easy and it takes a while to even begin to find your own style and voice. Literally just read any of my really old pieces to see what I mean. A while ago, I was very envious of writers that could twist figurative language and actually write poetry, and I'm not saying that I'm great at those things, but I'm definitely much better than I was back then.

5. You have to find what works for you. No two writers will write exactly the same, because they'll both have different influences. Inspiration for me is not inspiration for you. Find things that make you want to write, but also read things that you wouldn't normally read. I never considered myself a horror person; I always preferred speculative and realistic fiction, but when I discovered short horror stories on the internet, I was obsessed with them. I'm not exactly sure where this paragraph is going, but basically, don't take these rules as gospel. They're just my personal rules. The rules that you follow might be totally different.

BONUS:
WRITE YOUR IDEAS DOWN. Write. Them. Down. Seriously. No, you will not remember that idea in the morning. No, that clever line will not stay planted in your head. Make a quick note on your phone or a scrap of paper or even a napkin. Nothing is worse than the feeling of knowing you had a genius idea but being completely unable to remember what that idea was.
 

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  • February 10, 2019 - 11:34pm (Now Viewing)

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2 Comments
  • Kahasai

    Funny thing, I'm starting a writing tip series and was working on it just a couple minutes ago. I've got sixteen points so far.

    These are good tips. I like how concise you made them. You even included a thought that I've never been explicitly been told before: "let your characters be bizarre." I don't know why I haven't thought of it that way, but I 100% agree with you. (Well, with all of these, but this one was the newest tip I've seen.) Great work!


    7 months ago
  • Onion3102

    I've found myself using a lot of these tips before and my writing has improved. Thank you for consolidating such a great list of tips!


    7 months ago