Sunday, November 3, 2013

Reagan Chesnut – 10 Tips for Becoming a Better Writer @reaganchesnut

10 Tips for Becoming a Better Writer

1.  Read your genre.  Whatever you are writing, it is probably safe to assume there are others writing in the same genre.  It is important that you read as much as you can from your chosen genre.  This doesn’t mean you have to emulate it in any way, but, especially if you are planning on publishing, you should know the lay of the land.  As you expand your knowledge of your genre, you will find less direct inspiration for your own book and more niches that you can fill.  You will start asking questions that other authors haven’t addressed.  The more you explore, the more there is to find.

2.  Read other genres.  While you are becoming an expert in your own genre, you should also explore works far outside your realm of experience.  Literature cannot thrive in a vacuum.  New information, styles, themes, and topics should always refresh the literary landscape, and we do this by cross-pollination, if you will (see what I did there? Science!)  If you are writing epic fantasy, go read some Mary Roach.  Biography?  Read some Orson Scott Card.  Your work will be richer for it.

3.  Pay attention when you are out and about.  Writing comes from the world we live in, even when we write about new worlds.  Pay attention to how people speak, interesting turns of phrase, striking visual images.  You know when you’re driving and you suddenly arrive at your destination without knowing how?  Try to avoid that automated state of mind whenever you can.  Be conscious.

4.  Chronicle.  Write things down when you can.  I’m sure you’ve heard the advice to carry a notepad with you, well here it is again.  Those of us without eidetic memories need to preserve little details in the only way we can – by chronicling them.

5.  Write every day.  It’s a job.  You won’t feel inspiration all of the time.  You still have to write.  Writer’s block is a wall that doesn’t go away with time – it needs to be broken through.  You can always go back and edit the “uninspired” parts.

6.  Take a vacation from your work.  There are times you just need to walk away.  If you’ve been working on a piece for hours each day, put it in your desk and leave it for a while.  Come back with new eyes.  You might choose to work on a different piece, or journal, or watch TV.  Either way, sometimes you just need a break.

7.  Share what you write.  I get it – writing can be intensely private, but to get better, you need feedback.  Join a writing group or send drafts to trusted friends and family.

8.  Read critically.  The most helpful thing I have done as a writer has been to work as a reader of unsolicited manuscripts for a playwriting company.  My job was to respond honestly to the scripts I received with helpful feedback, not to say whether I did or didn’t like a script.  By giving that feedback, I was able to recognize similar mistakes or successes in my own writing.  Find a way to put yourself in a position that you can read new work and respond, whether to the author or simply to yourself.

9.  Read your own work aloud.  This is important.  Everyone reads differently, and your writing might sound different in your head than it does on the page.  Read it out or have someone read it to you.  When my eyes get tired, I have my computer read it to me.  It’s rudimentary, but it does the trick quite well.

10.  Buy an audiobook.  This is a variation on #9.  Get used to how certain books sound when narrated.  Listen to your favorite book.  What do you like about how it sounds?  Do you notice anything different about the book hearing it?  Where does it fall flat?

Reagan Chesnut

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Genre – Children’s

Rating – G

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