Monday, February 3, 2014

6 Steps to Effective Writing


You will not understand your story on the first draft. You will not understand your story on the second draft. On the third draft, you will discover what you are trying to say. On the fourth draft, you will work toward developing that story.

Any drafts after that should enhance the story and ideas and characters. Understanding what you want to say is CRUCIAL. Don't pretend you know exactly what your story is about on the first and second drafts. You don't. You can't. IT WILL CHANGE.

My life is a lie.

Lesson: Don't fight it. You will either give up, or write something you aren't totally proud of because it seems forced.


Need I repeat the first paragraph of #1? You will not understand your characters on the first draft. You will not understand your characters on the second draft. You will....

Catch the drift?

It's true. Characters change. They will. Again, don't fight it. You WILL lose. The purpose is to let characters become their own, unique person. Just like everyone on Earth is different, so should be characters. Don't label characters. Don't. Once you have them and have an understanding of the story, let them choose their own path.

You will notice when this happens, because as you write dialogue or actions, you will feel drawn toward a certain style for each character. One might be funny. One might be serious. One might be sad. One might be a jerk. One might...yada yada yada. Get the point? Let them do their own thing. You just write the words.

I know my characters' fears. Nearly all of my characters' deepest, darkest fears. I know what makes them cry. I know what makes them laugh. Everything. PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR CHARACTERS. They run the show.


And sometimes, whole chapters. Editing, we all know, can be really hard on us. We don'twant to delete this and change that. But IT HAS TO HAPPEN.

When you know your story and your characters, it is really easy to understand how a situation will play out, and what characters will or will not do for each other. USE THAT TO YOUR STORY'S ADVANTAGE. Sometimes you'll have to change a scene to make it fit with the plot better, or because a character changed and just wouldn't act that way anymore. Maybe the scene just doesn't seem realistic anymore. Or contrived. Or forced. Or hinders development/develops characters and story in the wrong way.

Could I have some sugarcoat with that?

Whatever the reason, KNOW WHEN TO CUT. You don't need every word you write. And the early drafts will always be worse than later ones, because you will figure out what works.

Use it to your advantage.


The best way to fix a story is to let other people read it. You have worked so hard for so long...and yet that's the downfall. When reading your story to edit your story, your brain will think it's fine after a while and miss some flaws and faults and mistakes and and and and....

When other people read your story, your words are fresh to their brains. Sure, they don't know what's going to happen. AND THAT'S THE POINT. Listen to their comments. Appreciate their feedback. If they don't connect with a character, or understand a plotline, you know you need to develop more.

You might think your characters are real people and fully developed...but remember, you have spent MUCH more time with them than anyone else. You get them. You understand them. Now it's time to let other people understand them by providing as much as possible to make the characters seem real to the readers.

Development in every aspect of the story is crucial. Don't let characterization overpower the story, or vice versa. Don't let the world-building bury the rest of the story, either. Balance. Is. Key. Let other people read your work, and you'll be well on your way.

Hint: Grow some skin and tell your readers to rip your story apart. That is the only way you will improve. Seriously. It hurts at first...but then you start unconsciously fixing those flaws on the first try and voila, you become a better writer, faster!


We've all heard this one. So that should be enough evidence to convince yourself to do it. Reading something in your head is a much different experience than reading it out loud. Your voice finds errors. If you stumble over a sentence, you know it needs to be changed. If you hear something strange, you might have the wrong tense or number.

Reading out loud slows you down and lets you process your words. Remember how giving your work to other people lets fresh minds read it? Well, reading your work to yourself (or others!) out loud, is as close as you'll ever come to being completely fresh. And if something sounds off, fix it. Don't convince yourself that other people won't notice it. Remember, THEY are completely new to the words. If you catch something when your brain is already mushy, IT. NEEDS. FIXED.


Yes, I am being 100% serious. And I mean out loud, using your voice. No, you don't haveto do this around other people, but I encourage you to talk to yourself positively all the time, especially when going through a difficult section of editing or writing.

Say, "I can do this. I can get through this. Yes I can. I can finish. i can power through this. I will fix this." Any of those phrases. Just talk like that for a minute or two. Positive words, even mixed with negative attitude, can raise you up and make you feel better and more enlivened.

I talk positively, out loud, all the time. It helps. There are days when I feel like I'll never finish. But I never quit. Motivation is ESSENTIAL. Guess what positivity does?

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