10 Things That You Can Do To Write A Better Story image

10)  Don’t take your writing too seriously:  It’s easy to get wrapped up in detail or trying to impress your fans, or worrying if your story is going to be liked or not, especially if it’s something you’re considering trying to get published.  Don’t think of it like that.  You’ll apply too much stress on yourself.  Instead, let your creativity take over and have fun with your story.  Leave whatever technical stuff you’d like to do for when you’ve actually written the story from cover to cover.  If you don’t there’s a good chance that you’ll give up, or your story might suffer, or writing your story will feel like pulling teeth.  Remember that this is something you’re doing for your own enjoyment, and not for a school project or a report that’s due at the office.

 

9) Read each chapter out loud: If you read something in your head, you’re going to end up reading it exactly how you wrote it and miss a lot of awkward or misspelled words.  By reading your chapter out loud, your ears can help you process what you’ve just written and give you more insight as to what needs to be fixed, rewritten, and rearranged.  You might feel a bit weird the first few times you try this, but once you get used to it, reading out loud can become one of your strongest writing tools.

 

8) Create your characters before you start writing their story:  Even if you don’t like to pre-plan and pre-think your story, if you create your characters ahead of time, you’ll know them from before the beginning of the story.  This will help you avoid that awkward stage where your characters start to transform into individuals halfway through your story.  So instead of them suddenly becoming ‘real’ to your readers in the middle, they can start to grow instead.  Think about it.  Unless your characters are born at the beginning of your story and the reader gets to follow them throughout their entire life, a character has to seem like they existed before the story begins.  The best part about writing fiction is making your made-up world believable.

 

7) Only write about things you know: How can you write about hunger or pain or loss, excitement, good fortune, or love if you haven’t experienced it yourself?  Chances are, if you do attempt to write without knowing, you’re going to run into one massive case of writers’ block.  Why?  Because your subconscious knows you’ve written a lie, which slams your story into a dead end.  Skip a few meals, spend some time alone on the streets, or go out to the woods for a game of manhunt or paintball.  Learn what it’s like to be without something, be on the run, and to live off of adrenaline.  This can be one of the best parts of writing if you give it a chance, and there’s a good chance that your readers, those who know what it’s like to be hungry or chased or in love, will see right through your big fat lie and lose interest in your story altogether.

 

6) Read a novel that’s similar to the one you’re writing:  Doing this provides you with two wonderful benefits.  (1) You get to research the tone, feeling and structure of a mystery, adventure, ghost story, or whatever it is you’re writing, which enables you to fine-tune your ideas and understand what it’s going to take to make your story unique and interesting. (2) Not only this, but reading a story while you’re writing one helps keep your head in check.  It’s easy to stray from one idea to the next, or from one writing style to another if you’re not paying attention.  If you’re reading a book while you write, it will help your brain retain your story’s tone and direction, not to mention help fuel you with new ideas that you may not have thought-up otherwise.

5) Don’t write on someone else’s schedule: Write on your own terms.  Don’t promise anyone anything until you’re good and ready.  For example, if you’re posting your story online, chapter-by-chapter, and you promise your readers a new chapter every week, then what are you going to do if you fall behind?  You’ll end up stressing yourself out and start feeling guilty, and your readers may become upset and even lose interest in your writing.  If you are publishing online, try to write the entire story before you start posting, or at least get ten chapters ahead.  Not all chapters take the same amount of time, and breaking promises hurts everyone.

 

4) Take frequent breaks, even if you’re on a roll: Ever wonder why it is that you can sometimes write for days on end without a problem, while on others all you can do is stare blankly at your screen?  It’s possible that you’re attempting to write your story too quickly.  Take the time to let your ideas grow.  Write them down, even start using them in your story, but don’t let yourself do it all at once.  Take a break every 45 minutes or so.  Get some fresh air, a snack, or merely stretch your fingers and let your eyes remember how to blink.  Re-read what you’ve just written and even take a few notes for future reference.  Most importantly, save some of your idea for tomorrow.  If you let your mind process the idea overnight, or even over a week or month, it will either get better, or you may even realize that using it could jeopardize your story completely.  It’s better to catch it now, while you’re still in the process of writing, rather than later when you can’t figure out what went wrong.

 

3)  Let someone else read along with your story: Find a beta reader or ask a friend to read through your chapters as you write them.  They don’t have to proofread or edit.  Just ask them what they thought.  Having a pair of fresh eyes to comment on your story before you’re done will help you weed out any inconsistencies or awkwardness or lies that you’d never be able to find on your own.  Remember that your opinion is biased.  You can’t see your words and ideas objectively, so find someone who’s not afraid to be honest with you.

 

2)  Keep notes from every chapter of your story: It can be really hard to remember what your character’s wearing today, especially if the previous chapter you wrote was written last month.  What about everything that happened in chapter three that you need to refer to over in chapter twenty-two?  If you have a few simple notes beside you, you can save yourself tons of time when trying to recall something.  For example, in chapter three, your character hitched a ride on a train after finding out he had a brother living in New York City, but when he got off the train he forgot his red backpack with all of his clothes and money inside.  Now, in chapter twenty-two, when this backpack is finally returned to him, and it’s now blue… you might not catch onto that.  I mean, who can blame you, right?  You did write that chapter almost six months ago.  Unfortunately, your reader’s managed to read from chapter three all the way to twenty-two in a single day, and suddenly he’s flipping back to make sure he’s read it right.  As a result, you’ve ruined the flow of your story and made that reader doubt your abilities–even if they never tell you so.

 

1) Don’t write something you don’t want to write: Forcing yourself to write a story will make it read like an essay.  They’re artificial and vague and have absolutely no magic in them.  If you’re not writing about something you’re passionate about or interested in, it’s going to show, so if you don’t have an idea or premise for your story, give your imagination some time to dream it up.  Then let the idea grow until you’re excited about it and can’t wait any longer to put it into words.  More importantly, don’t try to write like other authors do.  Write at your own pace, using your own style, about what you want, and when you want to write about it.  If you’re writing a story, do it for yourself and nothing or no one else.

Published December 1, 2011

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