Each week, I post a writing tip on my blog. They are all listed below. Also available on this site are posts on the writing process (signalled by the fountain pen icon), How to… articles offering you writing tools and short videos on a writing topic that is close to my heart.
WRITING TIP #1
USE CTRL + F ON A REGULAR BASIS
Who is your best friend? Answer: your keyboard’s Ctrl + F: a harsh reminder of the many unnecessary repetitions of adverbs, adjectives, expressions, etc. There’s nothing like removing more than 50 times the same word from a text to be cured from using it ever again. I got to learn about my writing tics and correct them that way. And, once in a while, when I’m about to type words that feel a bit too familiar, I revert to Ctrl + F to tell me exactly how familiar they are. Writing IS editing.
WRITING TIP #2
At the end of every writing session, send yourself the documents via email and copy those files on an external hard drive on a regular basis. And always date every document, otherwise you risk overwriting content.
WRITING TIP #3
Writing IS editing. And editing IS removing content. Be prepared to remove a sentence, a paragraph, a page, a chapter, ten chapters, if you have to. You cannot be precious about your words. You can enjoy writing said sentence, paragraph, page, chapter, chapters and, after that, you need to ask yourself if they add anything to the story. If they don’t, hit the delete button! And if it feels too painful, cut and paste it in a separate, and dated, document entitled ‘Put aside’. Content will not be lost but it most probably will not be re-used.
WRITING TIP #4
IGNORE YOUR CRITICAL VOICE
That voice – your evil friend – will find the most elaborate ways to convince you on a daily basis that you cannot write. It will tell you that you are too tired, that you want to surf the Internet, that your oven needs cleaning, that you are not, and will never be, Hemingway, that your syntax is awkward, your grammar wanting, your plot illogical, etc. In fact, were you to judge your creativity purely on the basis of what that voice is telling you, you would immediately feel comforted! So, instead of acknowledging its presence, and therefore giving it more power over you, get on with the writing and ignore it. It’s the worst thing you can do to it and the best thing you can do for you!
WRITING TIP #5
ENJOY THE PROCESS
Contrary to what most people like to think, writers write because they love it, not because they want to torture themselves on a daily basis! As I explained in my post, it is the need to express ourselves which fuels the writing. So, rather than starting your writing session by giving yourself a number of words to write, how about reminding yourself instead why you sat down with pen and paper (or your computer) in the first place? Writing is your opportunity to explore freely your own creativity. No one is forcing you to write. No one is telling you what to write. How lucky is that! The more pressure, limits, expectations you will put on yourself, the less you will write. If you are happy to explore, the process will be far more enriching and fun. So take a deep breath and start your writing session by asking yourself what is it that you want to write about then go for it.
WRITING TIP #6
FLEX YOUR WRITING MUSCLE
Writing isn’t a speed race, it’s the long-distance running, the 40K marathon. Expecting to produce content from the word go and being disappointed if you don’t, is the equivalent of deciding that you cannot run, without having once done a warm-up session, put on your running shoes and left the starting blocks.
Contrary to what is usually portrayed on the small or big screen, inspiration doesn’t come out of the void nor out of the blue. It is because you’ve spent thousands of hours at your desk, shaping and reshaping your sentences and plot, that ideas come to you. Writing is a muscle you exercise on a daily basis. And the more you do, the quicker you get to the right idea, sentence and plot. You cannot predict when those moments will take place. What you can do, however, is apply yourself and write as much and as often as is humanly possible. And if, at some point, you stumble and fall, you pick yourself up and keep going. Why? Because there’s nothing like it.
WRITING TIP #7
FEED YOUR BRAIN
And by that, I don’t mean just reading as much fiction as is possible, but being curious of the world. Go to exhibitions, concerts, events, festivals, search the Internet for new bands, new blogs, new artists. Watch documentaries, series, movies, roundtables, etc. Explore your interests whether it is cooking, architecture or 35mm photography. Your writer’s brain needs the constant stimulation. What you feed it will somehow filter through your writing, though not always in obvious ways. Don’t wait for knowledge to come to you, seek it!
WRITING TIP #8
While the Internet can be distracting when writing, it certainly is a great platform to find editing tools to shape and improve your writing. Here are a couple of websites I recommend having in your bookmarks and using on a regular basis, especially the first two:
Wikepedia is an open encyclopaedia that can be edited by anyone, with or without the required knowledge or background information. It is therefore wise to take its content with a pinch of salt.
WRITING TIP #9
LESS WILL ALWAYS BE MORE
Writing IS editing and editing is removing content. You cannot be precious about your words, otherwise your style will not improve. Being able to distance yourself from your text and assess what needs to be removed is a crucial part of the writing process. It does not mean torturing yourself – remember, writing does NOT mean pain – but, rather, being objective and hitting the delete button to get rid of unnecessary words, most of which being adjectives and adverbs. And, at times, it means deleting an entire paragraph, chapter or section if need be. The word count for the novel I’m currently writing is 43,800. Since I started writing, I have removed at least 20,000 words, if not more. Those statistics do not make me feel bad, they are a reflection of what the writing process is, i.e. learning, exploring, improving and… changing your mind! So be brave, follow your instinct and delete.