When deciding what to post for today, I took a look through some of the things I have in reserve. I found a writing tip sent in a while ago and when I took a look back, I realized I'd never used it in a blog! So, without further ado, here's "Things to Keep In Mind" by craftingmom!
Things I constantly keep in mind as a writer
1. The Opening needs to grab the attention of the reader and be interesting enough to hold it. Starting the story in the middle of an action scene engages the reader immediately.
At age eighteen, he was rather short and thin. He had black hair and green eyes. He loved to run and climb.
He hit the ground. Hard. He gasped as something sharp pierced his side. Damn rocks. The air whooshed out of his lungs before he felt an arm press across his throat.
Technically, you know more about the character in the first paragraph, but do you really care? Are you anxious to know more? The second paragraph often has most readers already on edge just from the first few words, and they will continue reading to know what is happening, even if they don't know much about who the person is yet.
By jumping into the story in an active scene, a reader is more likely to become invested in the character(s) and want to know more about them.
2. Try to describe your characters and settings actively.
Non-active: Kathleen was sixteen years old and rich. She had blonde hair and bright blue eyes. She loved reading, and she usually had a book with her at all times.
Active: Kathleen's blue eyes flew open in surprise as she tripped over the edge of the ornate coffee table, the book she'd had her nose buried in flying from her hands. She landed in a thud on the oriental rug, her long blonde hair falling in her face. She cursed to herself, how many times in her sixteen years had she fallen over something because she was so engrossed in reading.
Both descriptions tell you the same thing about Kathleen—she's 16, she's a blue-eyed blonde, she loves reading, and even that her family has money. However, in the second paragraph, you learn even more about her because of her actions. You aren't told about how much she loves reading (in fact, those words are never even used), you actually SEE it because of how oblivious she is to her surroundings when she does read. The author didn't have to say "she loved to read" because you experienced it.
3. Use a thesaurus!!!
I have Thesaurus.com open on my laptop every time I'm writing. When I was younger, I carried a paperback thesaurus around. It is too easy to fall into using the same words over and over again (I still do it sometimes, but I try to catch myself): she was sad, he was happy, she was mad, he was tired. Use words that tell more.
She wasn't just sad, she was depressed, heartbroken, grief-stricken
He wasn't just happy, he was ecstatic, overjoyed, thrilled.
She wasn't just mad, he was furious, enraged, agitated
He wasn't just tired, he was exhausted, fatigued, drained.
(Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society, anyone?)
4. Be aware of repeating words.
My editor gets me for this still, and because of her diligence, I've become much more aware of when I do it. Most of the time when I'm editing other's works, I'll see things like: And then, he did ...., And then he went to...., etc. And next, he...
5. Don't rush it, and be willing to accept constructive criticism.
Sometimes it's hard because you just want to get to the 'good stuff', but building your back story is just as important. Be willing to listen to what others have to say. Sometimes what you have in your head, doesn't get onto the paper, or you assume your reader might already know it. You can't assume that. You may know what the "Hurricane Mile" is, but your reader might not. So you may have to spend some time explaining things you might not have thought about before.
6. Be willing to start over.
There are times when I've had to scrap a whole chapter. It's okay to say 'this isn't working' and throw it away, even if it's 5,000 words or more.
Dialogue makes your story more interesting and real, in my opinion. Life isn't quiet; people are always talking, even if it's in their own head. Keep your dialogue natural and fluid; write as they would speak.
So that kinda covers what I've learned over the years to help me become a little better writer. Many of them are probably pretty obvious, but they weren't always to me as I was starting out. My very early writing (in middle school and high school) was rather boring looking back on it. Over many years, I think I've become a little better and hope others enjoy the stories just that much more.