Great Writing Advice!

Read more. Read less. Get writing books and learn as much as possible. Plan and outline everything. Just sit down and write. Honestly, even the best writing advice doesn’t work for everyone. 

People regularly ask about the best writing advice on the writing website I’m on. So many people jump in with great thoughts and helpful tips for newbies. Honestly, I wish I’d asked when I first joined the site after drafting a 500+k pentalogy without having a clue. There’s so much information on how to write that it can be overwhelming for newbies.

I think the best advice is to take it one element at a time. 

What newbies tend to forget (me included when I started writing) is that writing is so much more than sitting at a document and typing away. It’s creating interesting characters, having your plot points make sense, considering your genre and target audience. There’s a ton of planning and research that goes into a WIP. Some people do this before they write while others do it as they go. 

I started by just writing and seeing if I came up with a story I wanted to make something of. I wrote a horrible first draft, even by first draft standards. But I considered it a very detailed outline. My next version was from scratch after looking up various writing techniques. But again, it was all too overwhelming with the options. 

After banging my head against my computer screen, I decided to get a couple of books. I started with “Writing Fiction for Dummies” because that’s what I was in relation to writing. It gives some great tips on each aspect of writing without overloading newbies. When I wanted to know more, I looked it up online with the basics already in my head. I then bought “Dialogue” and “Grammar for Fiction Writers” from Mary Kennedy’s “Busy Writer’s Guide” series. I also have “How to Writer Science Fiction & Fantasy” by Orson Scott Card. Between these books, I got more than enough advice to start my journey as a real writer. 

Over time, I found more advice and tips online to build on the basics I’d already learned. The best place I learned is from the critiquing website critiquecircle.com. check it out. You’ll be amazed what you learn by having others critique your work as well as you critiquing theirs.

I discovered some great YouTubers who not only gave great advice, but help writers think about what kind of writer they want to be. For me, this was the best advice I’ve found.

Firstly, Jenna Moreci. She has a variety of writing advice as well as marketing tips for those who want to self-publish. But it’s still helpful to know about these things like creating a social media presence, having a personal website, and being part of online writing communities. Below are some of my favourites from Jenna. 

She’s great with getting people to think about how they want to write rather than telling people how to write. I also just adore her realism over how the writing world works. 

Then there’s Abbie Emmons. She covers many of the topics Jenna covers, but delves deeper into the hows and whys of human behaviour to help build believable characters and plots.

Another favourite of mine is Meg LaTorre. She’s done a couple of collaboration videos with Jenna, which I really enjoyed. Their major books, The Savior’s Champion (dark fantasy) and The Cyborg Tinkerer (space steampunk fantasy) are very different in plot and characters. But they’ve still created really great literature. I’ve read Jenna’s Savior’s Champion and am halfway through Cyborg Tinkerer. So far so good.

I also like Sacha Black. She doesn’t beat around the bush and has a fun podcast.

You need to find a few sources who offer advice suited to you and stick with them. That’s not to say you shouldn’t keep looking for other perspectives. You should never limit your learning. But why change you main teachers if you’re learning what you need from them?

Jenna, Meg, Sacha, Abbie, and my critique partners are my teachers, so I’ll stick with them while seeking an occasional lesson from other authors.


Title image by Geralt at pixabay.com.

Reigniting an Old Flame!

This is very much how I feel rewriting my Starlighters book one, Wings of Fire and Fury. It was my first. The words have changed so much since I sat down at my document five years ago. Now, my voice has changed along with my ideas for the characters and the story. But it’s still the same at its core.

When you go so long without seeing or touching something, it’s like you have to relearn everything about it. For me, as a writer, I’ve thought about this story lot since I last did anything significant on it. And due to personal issues, I went a long time without even looking at it. But I still thought about what I wanted it to be.

Unlike an old flame, and old WIP can become exactly what you want it to be when you’re ready to put the ideas into it. An early WIP might have a lit of messy parts and a plot all over the place, but with renewed vigour and experience, you’ll be surprised how you can turn that old WIP into something new and exciting. 

I need a break from Out of Ashes while it’s with my beta readers, so reviving my first project makes sense. It’s a pentalogy, so not the best idea for a debut novel. I’m not saying that all series are bad ideas for first-time authors. But I found the project a little overwhelming not so long ago and chose to focus on my standalone novel, Out of Ashes, as my debut. It’s on the shorter side for fantasy fiction and more likely to be published for this aspiring author.

That didn’t mean that Starlighters left my heart or my thoughts. It was purely on hiatus in the writing sense, but I’ve made regular notes as I’ve thought of new and more interesting events. 

Now, I’m trying to put those ideas into my latest version. Some things are getting completely rewritten while others are simply getting a prose upgrade, but at the end of the day, the whole thing will look different when I’m done with it. 

This is a good thing, and while my primary WIP is pending feedback, I’m going to use my writing time to rekindle this old flame and make it loveable. 

Title image by Myriams-fotos at pixabay.

Get Real!

Whether you write speculative or realistic fiction, your characters need real character traits and real issues going on in their lives. I’m not talking solely about plot-related things. I’m talking about what makes your character multidimensional. 

You might create them from scratch, or they might be inspired by someone you know. Honestly, a lot of my characters are inspired by people I know. Sometimes it’s just the small things like uncommon words or personal preference, or.some personality quirks that I think made that person interesting. Other characters represent someone or something in my life, and others are very closely based on people I know. 

But at the end of the day, they’re my fictional version adapted to work with my story. 

Below are just some of the “real” things that my characters deal with. Some overlap, some dominate their lives, and some are just the little things that create a realistic and relatable character.

Making Characters Unique

Every character needs something that sets them apart from the others. This could be a personality trait or a special skill. It could be done through their mannerisms like someone who always shrugs or rakes their hand through their hair or paces. Or maybe through their abilities, like speaking several languages or a rare magical power.

Insecurities

This can manifest in various aspects of a character’s life. Self-image, jealousy, too much pressure to succeed. They all make a character doubt themselves, which you might have casual mentions of throughout, or it might come at a crucial moment and the character has to overcome their insecurities and be brave. 

Good or Bad Luck

This is a big issue in my Starlighters series, since a few characters can sense the gist of a good or bad future. Of course, this is magic based, but many of us get niggly feelings that something good or bad is going to happen. It’s also part of foreshadowing in your book. 

The other side of this is past luck. Someone might consider themselves bad luck because of the life they’ve had. Others might have lucky charms to help keep them on a positive path. 

Reactions to Traumatic or Stressful Events 

Characters go through a lot during an average book or series. You need to drop descriptions of how certain stresses or emotional events affect your characters. Life stresses can cause limp hair, bags under their eyes, weak state, weight issues. That last one is very true for me, so I used it for one of my MCs.

Or there are deeper traumas like a break-up, death, or losing a job or home. These major losses will create grief in your character. It usually affects the character in every scene after the grief hits and might manifest in depression or frustration. Yes, it’s dark and grim. But it’s real and will make a big impact on your characters. 

Real Moments

Characters need a few real moments, like getting up in the morning, eating food, shopping, at work or reading a book. These could happen before or after the plot-related events of the scene, but you should include these activities even if they’re summarises in a short paragraph so as not to add too much detail to a mundane activity.

Nobody wants a book full of boring conversations, but a few lines of banter or general chit-chat go a long way. Use the quiet moments for characters to drop a comment about a character’s clothes or their sister’s boyfriend or how their new job is going. It’s best to keep this to a few lines of dialogue before leading into the conversation you need the characters to have.

Your characters are as real as you make them. 

Title image by Thoughtcatalog at pixabay.