How can one makes one’s writing better is a question I ‘m asked quite often. Is there a secret, is another. Well, sadly no, there is no secret but I’ll try, as simply as I can (so as not to bore anyone) to explain what I think you can do to improve your writing. Thanks to Annie for the prompt.
So what can you do?
Be yourself. You’re you and that’s good enough. Don’t try to sound like anyone else or sound too writery or American or funny or childlike. Just be natural.
Use the right words.
When a lot of people start writing they can tend to try to sound too writery (see above) by using the biggest words or the most complicated sentences they can find. The result is that they tend to sound as though they’re trying too hard and it will also make the prose read awkwardly. I think in general when you’re reading you shouldn’t notice the author; you should notice the story and the characters.
So use the right word. Coitus may sound impressive; sex may be better. There may even be better words than that but I think I’ll leave it there.
The English language has a huge number of words in its vocabulary – try to pick the right ones which are appropriate to your story and/or the characters in it.
There’s no need to (unless you’re working to a deadline of course). Take your time and get it right. When you start sending things out to agents and magazines and competitions remember you’ll be competing against the very best in the business.
If you write children’s fiction you are competing with people like J.K. Rowling.
If it’s horror you write, you are competing with people such as Stephen King.
And so it goes on.
My point is that you’ve all the time in the world to make your story the very best it can possibly be – you’ll have spent a heck of a lot of time writing the first draft, it’d be a shame to waste it.
Edit! Edit! Edit!
By far the most important part of the whole writing process, in my opinion. This is where what you’ve written starts to resemble a novel or story.
Read through it as though you’re a reader NOT A WRITER. Ask yourself ‘what doesn’t work?‘ and ‘How could this be better?‘ then make it better and make it work.
What I find helps enormously at this stage (around draft 3 or 4) is to read the story aloud – preferably into a recorder. I find that sentence rhythm problems and such stand out a mile. You can also usually tell what information you’ve included simply doesn’t need to be there and you’ll be able to see where you need to alter punctuation (eg if there’s a comma there and you haven’t paused – do you need it?).
Stick at it
Try not to be too down hearted if you’re rejected. Rejection is part of a writer’s life: fact. Stories (not writers) are rejected for as many reasons as you could think of, and then some. Maybe the pice doesn’t fit, maybe the editor/agent didn’t like it/recently accepted something similar. Maybe it wasn’t good enough. Whatever reason one person didn’t want to buy it, accept it and move on. You don’t know what the next might say.
The best way of increasing your chances of publication is by writing a great book. And a little research doesn’t hurt either. Find out who publishes or represents similar writing to your own and look at what they want and how they want to receive it.
There are loads of other tips and stuff on this, some of which I’ll have forgotten and some I’ve just not included. But if you read a lot (V V V important) and write a lot I’m sure you’ll stumble over them at some point. Writing is, and always should be, a never ending learning process.
As for reading – the book that’s always the first that comes to mind is On Writing, by Stephen King. Even if, like me, you’re not a huge fan of his – it is well worth a read. And at least it’s a book about writing by a writer.
I’d also recommend having a look around www.writewords.org.uk – it’s an excellent writers’ site for all abilities, with some wonderfully supportive members who are generous with their advice.
And in other news…
Thanks to everyone who’s sent me birthday wishes for Thursday. Much appreciated. Thank you!
And other, other news…
A few blogs well worth checking out:
Oh – and I should mention that I’m very pleased to have a short story appearing in the Espresso Fiction @ School mag project in Australia at some point around August. I’ll post more info when I have it.
I’ve just noticed this on Susan Hill’s Blog :
“MY CREATIVE WRITING COURSE – A SUGGESTION
There are now over 900 people signed up for this and as you know I said I should have charged £1,000 each. It`s becoming more and more obvious. But I will not exactly charge but ASK those who have signed up if they would do something in return.
I get a huge number of requests for signed books for charity auctions, books for school libraries and so on but one letter recently struck me. It came from the teacher who is also the librarian at a primary school in Essex. The school has, wonder of wonders, managed to build a new library. This is rare. Not only is it rare because it is so hard for a small school to raise enough money for this sort of project, but because so many teachers have been in thrall to the ‘computers come before books’ religious dogma. But books are irreplaceable. They do quite different things and if you don`t believe that children know that, think back to one minute past midnight on July 20th 2007.
The children at St Mary`s Primary School now have a super new library. And it is empty. Their old books are – well, old, and have been stored in boxes under desks and so are battered. They will, of course, still put them out but what the children need and would love are some new books. This is where you could come in if you felt like it. If you have subscribed to my Creative Writing Course – or indeed, even if you haven`t – and could give just one new children`s book to this new library, think how fantastic it would be when they return to school in September and found them all there – lovely shiny new books to be read and enjoyed. I leave it to you. But you can send via Amazon or via The Book Depository… buy whatever you want, suitable for children of any primary age you prefer, whether a simple starter story for the 5 years olds or a wonderful adventure for the 11 year olds, or anything in between.
Please send your book direct to
LibrarianSt Mary’s School – PrittlewellBoston AvenueSouthend on SeaEssexSS2 6JHA few clicks and a credit card payment. I am asking a number of children`s book publishers to help and sending them a box myself. Let`s see if we can fill a few shelves and instill a lifetime`s love of reading in some happy children in Southend. “
Now, I’ve not signed up for her course but I’m sure neither she nor they will mind me sending them a copy of mine.
And if there are any other children’s writers reading this, why not do the same?