To the beginning writer…
So you want to start writing stories? My advice follows…
Don’t jump straight into the deep end
I always remind people to think of writing a novel like a marathon, and yourself as an athlete. You can just write 26.2 miles through London, you have to practice, complete the smaller races, know the skills and how to be successful. Very much the same with writing – write the shorter stories, know what makes good writing, set yourself daily goals and be committed to your work.
Try and begin writing stories with 1,000 words, then 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 and keep moving up the ranks when your comfortable.
The opinions of your readers matter, however a simple, ‘that’s good’ or ‘rubbish’ is not constructive criticism. Constructive criticism gives reasons. You must remember that you can’t please everyone, and the advice is yours to take or leave, but a lot of criticism is valuable, you must be able to learn and develop and use it to your advantage.
I said, he said, she said, they said, we all said
Don’t be afraid to use the dialogue tag ‘said’. In fact, use it throughout the majority of your book. The reason for this is ‘said’ is invisible, it doesn’t ruin the flow of the dialogue and it should only be there to show *who* said something. The *how* should be shown through the dialogue itself, description of body language and reactions from other characters.
Use adverbs sparingly
Using adverbs, as Elmore Leonard says, is a mortal sin. They are extremely distracting and often quite useless. For example: ‘he ran quickly‘. If he was running slowly, it would be jogging, if he was running super fast, it would be sprinting.
Show, don’t tell
This applies for the majority of your book. One of the most important thing is making your readers *empathise* with your characters, and we can only feel what they feel if we experience it with them, you have to show us the nightmare to make us understand the horror. If your character only whines about bad it was, at most, we can only *sympathise*, but usually, pity is all your reader will feel.
Never begin a story with a load of your character’s history. If your story starts on New Years, don’t tell us about their rubbish Christmas, tell us about New Years Day. Back story can be very tedious for a reader to go through, and so you should only use it two or three sentences at a time, throughout the book. Also, that’s important because each time we learn something new, we create a better rapport with your character.
It’s very easy to slowly lose interest, but keep reminding yourself of how inspired you were when you began writing, and use that to keep on going. Love what you write and write what you love.