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.

Writing on a Budget!

Before I start, let me be clear that I’m talking about WIPs on their way to being published, not for polishing that final manuscript. Jenna Moreci has a video on Easy Budgeting for Writers for when you reach that stage. Here’s an older video on How Much Does It Cost to Publish a Book?

I’ve recently read a few forums with experienced/published writers giving new/budding writers great advice on creative writing courses, getting an editor to go over their work, and paying for beta readers. But that’s not financially possible for those of us with day jobs that just about cover our existing bills. 

I’d love to take a really good creative writing course and share with fellow writers in person. I’d love to get all the wonderful software that helps me create polished work. I’d love to send some sample chapters to a professional editor for some real feedback and the main things I need to work on. But money doesn’t grow on trees.

I’ve already shared some writing tools and useful software in Let’s Get Technical. But here are some things I use within my budget.

Expanding Your Writing Skills

Joining a critiquing website has been an amazing learning process (see below from more), but it’s good to find other ways to learn that don’t involve expensive courses.

Invest in a good grammar for writers book. I have a few books from “The Busy Writer” series by book editor Marcy Kennedy.

There are some decent online course, according to the forums I follow, but again, they cost money. Masterclass and Skillshare are ones I hear about a lot. However, there are a ton of YouTube videos giving advice. Advice is subjective as I mention in this post, but for writers getting started, they are some great videos for you to think about. 

I typed “writing advice” in YouTube and recognised several of my favourites on the first page. They’re more idea and concept related, but they’re great to get you started with plot ideas, characters, avoiding common mistakes. 

Jenna, obviously.

Meg LaTorre is another one I follow.

A freebee from Margaret Atwood, also on Masterclass.

Organising ideas

Scrivener is pretty cheap and a one-off payment. But I find OneNotes a great free alternative for organising ideas. I created a new notebook for each WIP with tabs for notes and ideas, outlines, feedback, characters, word building etc. Each tab has multiple pages with the different versions of my outlines, different characters with full descriptions and inspiration images, and feedback by chapter or beta version depending on how I have received it.

OneNotes is also available on Windows (obviously), Android, and Apple devices. I haven’t checked if it’s on Linux, but you can access it through most browsers, including Firefox, so you can basically access it anywhere.

Organising Documents

I decided to keep my Office 365, but if I had to, I could use Google Docs. I save my writing to my Gdrive so I can access, share, and edit in Chrome. There are extensions worth flipping to Chrome when editing. You don’t even need to pay for a word processor. Also, you can save offline versions of your work in the Gdrive app and Chrome or get the free Google backup folder for automatic synchronisation on your computer. You can open, save, and edit as a Word .docx or Google document. 

The best thing about using Google Docs is the extensions. Which leads me to…

Editing

Pro Writing Aid and Grammarly have free extensions for Chrome and are super useful to pick up silly writing mistakes. That’s not to say they pick up everything, so you need to do a good run through yourself.

This is where Natural Reader comes in handy. Again, it’s a free TTS extension on Chrome. It uses either Microsoft voices built into Windows or Google voices via Chrome. I personally prefer Google’s voice because it feels more natural. They even offer twenty minutes per day of the premium voices, so if you want to go through a poem, flash fiction, or a short scene, then you get this included.

Sharing Your Writing

I use Critique Circle, which is convenient because it’s all online, and it’s free to join and share in the public queues. This is where any member can submit a story for review and any member can review it. You earn the same credits as everyone else when you critique a story, and you pay the same in credits when you submit a story. 

For the paid version, you get private queues where you can save credits, invite specific people to review your work, and submit as often as possible. I do recommend this version because it really helps with learning and getting more tailored feedback. If there is anything I suggest you invest in early on, it’s a good critique site. 

I can’t rave about this site enough. They have great forums for sharing thoughts and ideas as well as helping with publishing advice when you get to that point. I admit I roll my eyes at some of the things people say on there at times, but I’ve learned what kind of advice best suits my work. For example, I write fantasy, so if everyone said that I need to dial back on the visuals, then I’d be concerned that I’m overdoing it. But if only one person made a big deal of it when I’m trying to describe something unique to that world, that would concern me as to whether they really understood the genre.

Long story short… Writing isn’t cheap, but whether it’s a hobby or leading to a second career, it’s worth investing a little from the start then saving up for the bigger costs as and when you really need them. 

Featured image by Comfreak at Pixabay.

Writing Advice VS How-to-Write Advice!

There’s so much writing advice available on the internet that it can be overwhelming if you’re starting from nothing. I’m not talking about people who studied literature or creative writing and are starting their writing careers. I mean people who have an idea and want to make a go if it whether for personal writing or to possibly be published. But with no previous experience, where do you even start?

I admit I was a pantser when I started. I just sat in front of my PC and typed away until it looked like a story. Then I bought a couple of writing books and started to see where I was going wrong. Then I joined a writing group and found even more ways that I had gone wrong. Now, I’m still probably going wrong somewhere. That’s okay. Even the best authors are always learning. But I feel that I have enough experience with the process of turning an idea into a story to suggest a few things to help others get started.

I was discussing writing advice on a forum recently after a non-writer asked how to get started. I offered some links to YouTube videos and suggested they follow successful authors who give online advice. Then someone said one of the YouTubers was a bad example because that author didn’t tell people how to write and that it was more about marketing. The YouTuber is a best-seller, self-published, and hilarious, but no, she doesn’t tell people how to write. Nobody should “tell” people how to write. 

Writing advice isn’t always about how to write. It’s how to plan a story from a single idea. How to incorporate multiple ideas into one story. How to build an entire world from your imagination. How to find your style. 

With no idea where to start, I think that’s the best place to start. Others are free to disagree with me, and I won’t argue on that. But the best writing advice is the kind that guides you, not dictates what you should and shouldn’t write. I would call some of my writing ranting “advice”. Because that’s what I intend, to advise people so they can choose the best path for them when starting the writing process. 

It’s always the key to learning. You have to try a few methods before one sticks. Some can dive in and learn to swim by splashing about until they float. Others watch carefully and copy (not the best example for writing advice, but you get my point). Others listen to the instructions and imagine them doing it before they get in the water. Or you could start in the kiddies pool with your feet tiptoeing the bottom with short stories and flash fiction.

Whether starting from scratch or looking to expand your knowledge, don’t let anyone tell you how to write.